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Navigators plot for the RORC Caribbean 600

by Louay Habib 18 Feb 2022 07:32 PST 21 February 2022
The 600nm RORC Caribbean 600 has a racecourse like no other, with a myriad of manoeuvres around 11 Caribbean islands © Arthur Daniel / RORC

Three navigators spill the beans on what lies ahead for their respective teams in the 13th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600, which starts on Monday 21 February.

The RORC Caribbean 600 has a racecourse like no other, testing the seamanship of the crews with a myriad of manoeuvres around 11 Caribbean islands, but the race is far more than a workout in the tropics. Strategy and tactics add to the mix, with forward planning playing a big part in scoring a top performance.

Campbell Field is racing on David Collins' Botin IRC 52 Tala (GBR). This will be Campbell's seventh race, including third overall on the 182ft schooner Adela and runner-up twice on IRC 52s.

"From start day to day four, currently the forecasts are looking reasonably typical for the RORC Caribbean 600," commented Campbell Field. "Trade winds in the mid-teens, warm and sunny, interspersed with some possible squall/rain activity with some good moisture content in the air column. There are indications that the latter part of the race could be slightly lighter and left of average. This wind speed is within the ideal conditions for Tala, especially broad reaching and running where we can start planing and that is where the fun is! Generally, the 600 is a great course for Tala, with plenty of open angle reaching to stretch our legs, combined with some shorter VMG beats and runs."

"The RORC Caribbean 600 is a great course for navigators because it requires full focus over 12 legs, each with their own subtleties," continues Field. "This does mean few opportunities for rest, but I love the physical and mental challenges. I'll have to keep my pencil sharp and paper dry for the race with two other closely matched 52s on the start line."

Brian Thompson will be racing on Jason Carroll's MOD70 Argo (USA), this will be Brian's sixth race in multihulls, taking Line Honours on three previous occasions.

"We have been doing routing analysis for three days (13-16 February) to see how the weather is developing and it has been really interesting," commented Brian Thompson. "A few days ago, the GFS Model was showing a windy race and the ECMWF was showing a moderate race. Now they are coming into align and showing possibly slightly less than moderate. At the moment we might be looking at 12-16 knots, slightly north of east. We have had a lot of wind in the build-up to this race, but by race day we should see calm seas, relatively for the Caribbean. However, keep in mind we are looking at the weather only as far as 36 hours into the race."

"Hopefully Argo will finish the race early Tuesday evening; record pace would be around sunset on day two. Regarding record pace, I don't think this race will see too many squalls disrupting the wind, but getting through the lee of Guadeloupe could be tricky. If Argo can round Guadeloupe before the competition, we would be in a very good position to finish first."

To break the RORC Caribbean 600 Multihull Race Record, held by Giovanni Soldini's Multi70 Maserati (30 hours, 49 minutes, 00 seconds), any multihull would need to finish the race before 18:19 AST on Tuesday 22nd February.

Tom Cheney is racing on Tom Kneen's JPK 1180 Sunrise. This will be the first race for Cheney who works with Suzy Peters on the strategy, together with Dave Swete, a three-time race winner. The trio were also on Sunrise for their overall victory in the Rolex Fastnet Race and will be racing the boat in the RORC Caribbean 600.

"The RORC Caribbean 600 is very different to the Rolex Fastnet Race," commented Tom Cheney. "One of the big considerations is planning the strategy for the wind shadows for the number of high volcanic islands. So, we know what to expect and the manoeuvres are fairly easy to predict. Between myself, Suzy and Dave we have put together a strategy, breaking the course down into twelve legs. On top of that we have broken down each leg into thirds; the transition in, the leg itself and the exit into the next leg."

A boat under 50ft has never claimed the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy for overall win, and Sunrise is less than 40ft long.

"We never set out to win a race overall, we simply try to race the boat to the best performance possible. But I do think that on paper this race does play quite well to our strengths, even more than the Fastnet. There is a lot of reaching in this course and Sunrise really lights up when we put the bow down. At the moment the forecast wind speed is trending-down for the first 48 hours when the big boats will still be racing. But there is a small chance that the breeze may go up on day three. As a smaller boat, we get more weather. The question is, will that be more or less wind? That is the make or break."

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