The RORC Caribbean 600, organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club in association with Antigua Yacht Club, starts on Monday 20th February 2012.
The fourth edition of the race looks set to stage a David versus Goliath battle in just over two months with a number of superyachts keen to do battle with each other whilst circumnavigating 11 Caribbean Islands, starting and finishing in Antigua.
Those superyachts entered so far range from 35m (114ft) to 66m (216ft) and will make an impressive sight as they line up for the start. As well as racing against comparable boats, they will also have to vie with a formidable fleet of much smaller, but highly competitive racing yachts in this challenging and tactical race. These include the 2011 Rolex Fastnet Race winner Rán, the 2010 Rolex Middle Sea Race winner Lucky and Privateer, the winner of the 2009 Montego Bay Race.
Heading up the superyacht fleet is the largest yacht in the 600nm race - the six-month old, 66m (216ft) Hetairos, which recently took line honours in the Transatlantic Superyacht Regatta from Tenerife to Virgin Gorda in her inaugural race, completing the 3,069 mile crossing in 8 days 10hrs 58mins 30secs. Her classic looks and sleek green hull may be based on the early 19th century pilot cutters, but as well as being built for comfort with a stunning interior, she is an ultra-modern competitive yacht and one of the largest composite sailing yachts in the world which also boasts the largest composite standing rigging.
The recent race across the Atlantic was a good training ground for the 'fresh out of the box' superyacht, as Captain and Racing Manager, Vincent Fauquenoy explains: 'It is certainly with great pride that we secured line honours in the race (Transatlantic Maxi Yacht Cup) and we really look forward to racing competitively in the RORC Caribbean 600 in February. Hetairos performed admirably and we all enjoyed sailing her very much. It was a good training test for the boat and her crew for the RORC Caribbean 600 and the next regattas of the season.'
Team P2’s helmsmen will include one of the Caribbeans most famous sailors, Peter Holmberg - RORC Caribbean 600 2012 - Peter McNaughton
The 38m (124ft) P2 owned by businessman and philanthropist, Gerhard Andlinger will make her debut into offshore racing with a star cast on board including top Caribbean sailor, Finn Class Silver Olympic medallist and America's Cup sailor, Peter Holmberg. Other helmsman for the race include Maurice 'Mo' Kurg, also from St Thomas, US Virgin Islands and ex-New Zealand America's Cup sailor, Paul Scoffin.
'P2 is a Perini Navi/Philippe Briand-design accustomed to fast cruising and serious day racing in the superyacht fleet,' said Peter Holmberg, 'but the owner is intrigued with the adventure of the Caribbean 600 course and the challenge it presents. It will be a bit like taking a Jaguar off-road, so we will have to sail smart, and will hope to have a good result against similar type yachts.'
Team P2 Racing Manager and skipper, Jonathan Kline is looking forward to the challenge: 'Having sailed with the owners of P2 for 10 years, a circumnavigation on Perseus and now three years of racing and cruising on P2, I am very excited that we will be sailing the Caribbean 600. The long distance course, the islands as marks and the drama of trade wind sailing in sunlight and moonlight will provide a memorable life experience for the boss. We know it will be rigorous, but out of the fatigue and effort we know we will find a sense of clarity and satisfaction.'
Also competing for the Superyacht Class perpetual trophy (awarded along with a keg of rum from North Sails Caribbean) will be Peter Harrison's magnificent 35m (115ft) Farr, Sojana (GBR). Peter has been a fan of the race since its conception and he competed for the first time this year finishing second in IRC Zero and third Overall. Sojana, skippered by Marc Fitzgerald, also raced in the Transatlantic Superyacht Regatta having participated in all four editions of the race since 2007 and winning the 2010 race. Their crew for the Caribbean 600 includes one of the race founders in Antigua, John Burnie and veteran Caribbean sailor and author, Don Street.
Skipper Marc Fitzgerald says: 'I was honoured to be part of the founding team for the RORC Caribbean 600. One of our aims from the beginning was to allow and encourage participation of superyachts (ie boats over 100' LOA). This makes the event unique amongst the ocean classics such as Rolex Fastnet, Rolex Sydney-Hobart, Newport Bermuda etc, which have a 100' limit. Superyacht owners have been a bit slow on the uptake, but 2012 is looking like a cracker with the mighty Hetairos (66m!) entered; old sparring partners Sojana and P2 going head to head for the first time offshore, plus the battle of the schooners, with Adela, Windrose and others on the start line. I can't wait.'
Two yachts built on classic lines will compete in the Spirit of Tradition Class. The 55m (180ft) Adela will line up against 47m (155ft) schooner, Windrose of Amsterdam, chartered by Andrew McIrvine (past RORC Commodore) who will present the winning trophy in Antigua.
Class40 Vaquita surfing across the Atlantic - RORC Caribbean 600 2012 - Christof Petter/Martin Maier
Whilst Hetairos may be the Goliath amongst the fleet, David may certainly be the much smaller Class40 contender, Vaquita. The yacht was recently the first across the Atlantic in the RORC Racing Division of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to St Lucia. The highly competitive crew took on the giants in the ARC fleet and arrived in St Lucia a full 36 hours ahead of the nearest competition and followed just behind the 28m (91ft) maxi, Med Spirit who took line honours amongst the 217 boat fleet, a few hours shy of the fastest time ever. Vaquita is from Austria and blasted her way across the Atlantic, exceeding 23 knots at times during her surfing runs, and managed to sustain 18-20 in the fresh conditions, covering the 2,800 nautical mile course in just over 12 days; a magnificent feat for a 40-footer.
Vaquita's owner, Christof Petter, will race with two friends, supported by three professional sailors, including ex-Volvo Ocean Race skipper Andreas Hanakamp who summed up their thoughts on the Caribbean 600:
'So far we have mainly been racing against non-Class40 boats, so we are looking forward to lining up with some equal boats to figure out where we are standing. The Caribbean 600 is very attractive for us as it is a mid-winter event with the world's best and most famous racing yachts competing. Great sailing conditions accompanied by attractive social events, a good combination. We look forward to the Race as it has lots of reaching predicted, something a Class40 is best at.'
Lt Col Paul Macro from The Royal Armoured Corps Yacht Club's Offshore Racing Team have chartered a First 40.7 from Ondeck: 'We are conscious that we will be one of the smallest entries in this race, but we are determined to live up to the example set last year by the Army Offshore Team, which won Class 2 in British Soldier. Our emphasis is to encourage young soldiers and officers to take part and to provide demanding, exciting, but different sailing for soldiers. Both for those who have been RACYC Offshore squad members in the 2011 season, but also to encourage less experienced soldiers to try racing offshore.'
'Because the Army requires from its people a spirit that is similar to that required to go offshore racing. Soldiers have to work together as a team, under time pressure, when cold, wet and tired, in difficult and even dangerous conditions. This adventurous team spirit is required by a successful offshore racing crew just as it is by the crew of a tank or any other armoured vehicle,' continues Lt Col Macro who has 10 crew signed up to the challenge, all self funded by the soldiers themselves and relies on discounted charter fees and assistance of charitable welfare funds such as the Army Sports Lottery and the Berlin Infantry Brigade Memorial Fund.
'For 2012 we want to really make an impression on the race course and compete with sailing superstars on a level that would really challenge us,' says Andrew Jameson from the Lloyd's of London Yacht Club (LLYC). Chartering the RP78, Lloyd's IDEA, the crew is made up of keen amateur sailors, some who are boat owners themselves, but all are members of the Lloyd's of London Yacht Club which was formed in 1936 for underwriters working in the 'Room' at Lloyd's, as an introduction to offshore racing. The club has supported RORC races to this present day the Lloyd's club Commodore, Liz Lotz and Andrew Jameson chartered places on the Farr 65, Spirit of Minerva, in 2009 and found the RORC Caribbean 600 a great challenge and loved the race.
'Talking endlessly about the Race with other LLYC club members, we noticed a great level of interest. On the back of this we ended up taking 23 club members to Antigua to race in 2010 but unfortunately had to retire due to lack of wind that year! In 2011 LLYC were unable to enter a yacht into the race as many members of the club had commitments, but this didn't stop a few crewing on yachts such as Windrose of Amsterdam and Northern Child. For this race the wind blew and stories from the returning members re-lit fires of longing to enter the race again.'
'We would love nothing more than to get a podium position but we have the utmost respect for the teams we will be racing against and to be able to support this amazing RORC race is great. The quicker the yacht, the longer in the bar after the race!' concludes Jameson.
The RORC Caribbean 600 is fast developing a reputation as an offshore classic with perfect sailing in perfect (warm) conditions. RORC Caribbean 600 website