by Louay Habib
RORC Caribbean 600 fifth edition is set to get underway on Monday 18th February 2013, in Antigua. The race attracts a wide variety of yachts from all over the world, including ocean going performance cruisers and some of the world's most magnificent yachts.
Spectacular Caribbean sunset as Northern Child races in the 2012 edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 - RORC Caribbean 600 2013
The first confirmed entry for this year's race was Joseph Mele's Swan 44, Triple Lindy. Joseph is a member of the City Island Sailing Club in New York and competed in this year's Newport to Bermuda Race. Triple Lindy is making her debut in the race but Local Antiguan dentist, Bernie Evan Wong is back with High Tension. His Mumm 36 is the smallest yacht in the race so far and the only yacht to have competed in all four previous editions: 'I just love it for the challenge. We won't be the first to finish but I know we will get a warm Antiguan welcome just like everybody else. I am looking forward to the race just as much as the first one.'
Five stunning superyachts took part in the 2012 edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 and there is every indication that at least that number will be racing next February.
The 215ft carbon fibre ketch Hetairos took overall line honours in 2012, taking just over 50 hours to complete the course and she is expected to be back in Antigua for the 2013 edition. The 203ft schooner Athos is expected to be on the start line, as is the 180ft schooner, Adela. Athos' Boat Captain, Tony Brookes said that the team are very keen to take part: 'Athos was commissioned just 18 months ago so we are still getting to know her. For the Caribbean 600 we would take a crew of 25 and with 3,000 square metres of sail area downwind, we need every one of the team for sail handling. We hope to give Adela a run for her money and enjoy some wonderful sailing.'
The majority of the RORC Caribbean 600 fleet will be made up of five separate IRC Classes, enjoying competitive racing against yachts of similar speed. Last year there was a virtual photo finish in IRC Class 1: Amanda Hartley's Swan 56, Clem was the winner by just 21 seconds on corrected time from Colin Buffin's Swan 62, Uxorious IV. In IRC Class 2 Ross Appleby's Oyster 46, Scarlet Logic had a tremendous race, winning the class and a credible fourth overall: 'We enjoyed the race so much last year that we just had to come back,' expressed Appleby. 'We have learnt a lot from last time, which we hope to put into practice and we we expect to have a very close race, especially with the Grand Soleil 43, Quokka.'
Philippe Falle will be the skipper of Quokka owned by Peter Rutter, a past RORC Commodore: 'We have a charter crew for the race but to be honest, a 600 mile race around 11 Caribbean islands is not exactly a hard sell, although we do have a couple of places still available,' said Falle. 'Some people might under estimate how hard a race this is. Racing 600 miles is always going to take it out of you and in this race, the heat is just as much a problem as the cold is in others. I expect that we will have a good chance of winning our class and if the weather plays into our hands, I don't see any reason why we can't win overall.'
Peter Harrison's magnificent 114ft ketch, Sojana will be returning to the Caribbean to take part. Sojana had a fantastic battle with Gerhard Andlinger's 125ft Perini Navi, P2 last year, as Sojana's Boat Captain, Marc Fitzgerald explains: 'It is a rare occasion when we can unleash the full power of Sojana and match-race a similar boat day after day. Although it is never possible to guarantee wind, it is highly likely that the Caribbean 600 will deliver big breeze, big seas and fantastic sailing conditions but the '600 is not just a sleigh ride. There are lots of tactical decisions to be made and the course has so many twists and turns that it is a full workout for the crew. If someone was to write a case study of the strategies for this race, it would run to many pages.'
The monohull course record of 40 hours 20 minutes and 2 seconds was set by George David's Rambler 100 in 2011. George David's Rambler 90 is a confirmed entry and will be looking to go one better after coming second to Niklas Zennström's JV72 Rán last time out. Mike Slade's Supermaxi, ICAP Leopard, previously held the record and Boat Captain, Chris Sherlock, says Leopard want it back: 'Last year, Leopard was in the shed all winter, having a major refit including a full interior, but we have lost none of our pace and given the right conditions, Leopard is very capable of beating the record set by Rambler 100. We have gathered a lot of information about the race and Mike (Slade) has made the race a top priority for the season. We are very confident that if the weather lines up for us, we could complete the course in under 40 hours.'
Several notable multihulls are expected to race, John Burnie's ORMA 60, Region Guadeloupe flew around the course in 40 hours 11 mins 5 secs in 2009 to set the multihull course record and Burnie will be back to defend that record in 2013. Lloyd Thornburg's Gunboat 66 Phaedo and Peter Aschenbrenner's 63ft trimaran, Paradox will be returning and two Maxi Trimarans; Francis Joyon's EDEC and Thomas Coville's Sodebo have expressed interest.
RORC Carribbean 600 website