by Louay Habib
The RORC Caribbean 600 sixth edition is proving irresistible to yacht racing teams from all over the world. An international fleet of over 40 yachts has now entered the race and around 50 are expected on the start line on Monday 24th February.
George David’s American RP90, Rambler returns - RORC Caribbean 600 2014
The northern hemisphere is currently experiencing some of the worst winter weather on record but well over 500 sailors are rubbing their hands together, relishing the prospect of racing around 11 Caribbean islands against highly competitive opposition.
The Caribbean is without doubt one of yacht racing's most exhilarating playgrounds as warm trade winds and Caribbean swell provide superb sailing conditions. The RORC Caribbean 600 course, starting and finishing in Antigua, is designed to provide a challenging, high speed racetrack and its popularity has grown, year on year, since 2009.
The 203ft schooner, Athos, is one of the most spectacular and innovative sailing yachts to be launched in recent years. Fully committed the RORC Caribbean 600, Athos will be back this year having recently made modifications to increase their competitive edge.
'The crew just love blue water racing,' confirmed Athos' skipper, Tony Brookes. 'Our first goal will be to safely finish the race and then we hope to do better than last year. Sadly Athos bowman, 'Cappa' Antony Hussey will not be with us following a fatal road accident last September and we will be dedicating this race to him.'
Athos will be hoping that Adela, the 182ft schooner, will return for a re-match of last year's Spirit of Tradition Class. Adela won by a handsome margin last year and claimed third overall under IRC and have expressed an interest in returning to defend their win.
George David's American RP90, Rambler, returns to the RORC Caribbean 600 racing in IRC Zero. In 2012 Rambler had a commanding lead on the water until the 214ft carbon fibre ketch, Hetairos, gunned Rambler down as they approached the bottom of the course. While on paper, Andrew Budgen's Volvo 70 canting keel, Monster Project, could take line honours and Adela and Athos may pose a threat in certain conditions, Rambler is likely to be the first boat to finish the RORC Caribbean 600:
'George David is a member of the RORC and has always supported this race,' commented Rambler Project Manager, Mick Harvey. 'It's bitterly cold in Newport, Rhode Island at the moment and the crew and George are really looking forward to getting down to Antigua for a well organised, fun and exciting race. Rambler will be returning with much of the same crew from 2012, plus Brad Jackson who will be strengthening the team.'
Hap Fauth at the helm of Bella Mente - Credit Rolex-Carlo Borlenghi - RORC Caribbean 600 2014
'Unfinished business' would be an apt description for Bella Mente's attitude towards the RORC Caribbean 600. Hap Fauth's American Mini Maxi won IRC Zero last year but getting caught in the wind shadow of Guadeloupe cost the team overall victory. This year Bella Mente will return for a second bite at the cherry but face fierce opposition just to retain their class title. Fellow American Mini Maxi, Shockwave, sailed by George Sakellaris will be taking part in their first offshore race, having beaten Bella Mente in the 2013 Rolex Mini Maxi World Championship.
Pace approaches the Fastnet Rock in the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race - Credit Rolex-Daniel Forster - RORC Caribbean 600 2014
Johnny Vincent's Pace won Class Zero in the 2013 Rolex Fastnet Race and the British TP52 will make its debut in the RORC Caribbean 600. On board will be a highly talented crew including two-time Volvo Ocean Race winner, Jules Salter, as navigator and with Rolex Fastnet Race and Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race winner, Jeremy Robinson, calling tactics:
'Most of the crew have done the race before but this will be my first time. Pace is in the Caribbean just to do this race because so many people have told me that it is a 'must do' event and it will definitely be warmer than the Fastnet!' commented Johnny Vincent.
Following her win at the Newport Bucket in Rhode Island, the 98ft Bristolian is now in Antigua for another season in the Caribbean. RORC member and Caribbean 600 co-founder, John Burnie, will be part of the crew, joined by Claude Thelier from Guadeloupe. Together they hold the Caribbean 600 multihull record, set in 2009 on theOrma 60, Region Guadeloupe (40hr 11min 5sec). Also part of the 22-strong crew will be RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine.. This will be Andrew's fifth participation in the Caribbean 600.
RORC Caribbean 600, 2011 Tonnerre de Breskens 3
Piet Vroon's Dutch Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens, won its class in 2011 and could be the boat to beat in IRC One this year. However Colin Buffin's Swan 62, Uxorious IV, has twice been class runner up and will be aiming to go one better this year.
'At this time of the year, there is no better place to race than the Caribbean. I always have preferred to race around 11 beautiful islands than around racing marks. The scenery is wonderful but it is also a unique offshore course. The route is very varied and no part of it is straight forward, with plenty of local weather effects which must also be considered during the race,' says Piet Vroon.
Bernie's Back. Grand Soleil 43, Trustmarque Quokka, has been chartered to local Antiguan, Bernie Evan-Wong - RORC Caribbean 600 2014
A very competitive class of highly experienced yachts is forming in IRC Two: Andy Middleton's First 47.7, EH01, is the scratch boat and will be competing in their fifth consecutive race. The early entries are very evenly matched for speed. J/120 El Ocaso is a proven winner in the Caribbean inshore regattas and makes its debut for the race, whilst First 40, Southern Child, and Swan 51, Northern Child, are regular competitors.. Southern Child is being chartered by the Royal Armoured Corps Yacht Club, skippered by Lt Col Paul Macro. Past RORC Commodore Peter Rutter's Grand Soleil 43, Trustmarque Quokka, has been chartered to local Antiguan, Bernie Evan-Wong, who has participated in every edition of the race and was the first to enter.
Eyes on IRC Three
Ross Applebey's Oyster 48, Scarlet Logic, has won IRC Three on the last two occasions and will be hoping to make it a hat-trick this year. Co-skippered by Tim Thubron, the vintage Oyster will have a highly experienced crew, nine of which have competed in multiple Rolex Fastnet Races and who are 'paying to play' with Sailing Logic.
Gonzalo Botin's Tales II is the first Class40 yacht to enter and more are expected. Tales II was in fine form in 2013, coming second in class in the Rolex Fastnet Race, and rounded off the year by taking the runner up position for the Transat Jacques Vabre.
Several yachts are still awaiting classification, including one of the oldest and most famous yachts to enter the RORC Caribbean 600. Dorade was designed in 1929 by Olin Stephens and won overall and line honours in the 1931 Transatlantic Race and the Fastnet that year. She went on to win the Fastnet again in 1933. She has been lovingly restored to all her glory by Matt Brooks and his wife Pam Rorke Levy who bought Dorade in 2010. After success at a number of regattas, Dorade finished off 2013 in dramatic style by winning the 2013 Transpac overall. She last won the 2,225-nautical-mile race from Los Angeles to Honolulu in 1936!