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RORC Caribbean 600 - Day 4: Class winners emerge

by Louay Habib 23 Feb 09:37 PST 23 February 2024

On the fourth day of the RORC Caribbean 600, Thursday 22 February, class winners were decided for IRC Zero in the early hours, the Class40 division in the afternoon, and just before midnight the IRC One champions crossed the finish line.

IRC Zero

Niklas Zennström's Carkeek 52 Rán (SWE) won a highly contested battle in the hi-tech class. Peter & David Askew's Botin 52 Wizard (USA) was second by just three minutes and 10 seconds after IRC time correction. Third was Frederic Puzin's Ker 46 Daguet 3 (FRA), just seven minutes after IRC time correction ahead of Jon Desmond's Mills 41 Final Final (USA).

Niklas Zennström was delighted with the class win; tinged with a little frustration at just missing out on the overall win to Leopard 3 by under two hours after IRC time correction. "We did as much as we could; we sailed a really good race and Steve (Hayles) and Bouwe (Bekking) made very good calls. The end was a bit of an odd feeling. It was pitch black at Redonda with a big cloud overhead that we could not avoid. We lost all speed and watched Wizard close the gap unaffected, so hanging on to beat them was a bit of a relief."

"Once you step ashore and think about it, you ask yourself; did we sail as good as we could? Did we make any stupid mistakes? The answer is that we sailed well, but sometimes you are on the wrong side of a cloud and sometimes not; that is part of the sport. Did we have a good time? Absolutely, you have to play your strategy well and as far as luck goes, eventually that will even out.

"What we are always looking for in any race is to have really great competition, particularly boats of similar size and speed, and we had that with the Nelson's Cup and the '600. The boat has been very reliable and we have raced well as a team, so this has been a great project for the Nelson's Cup and RORC Caribbean 600 Race. If we could race again tomorrow, we probably would, that is how good this race is," concluded Zennström.

Class40

Sogestran Seafrigo LHOR One (FRA), skippered by Guillaume Pirouelle won a nail-biting thriller. Melwin Fink's Sign for Com (GER) was second and third was James McHugh's Tquila (GBR).

A fierce battle for supremacy came to a conclusion after three days and nights of boat-on-boat combat around 11 Caribbean islands. James McHugh's Manuard Mach 4 Tquila took the early lead against boats with over four years of additional design development. LHOR One, a 2023 Manuard Mach 5 showed great speed on the reach up to Barbuda after the start, as did Mathieu Jones' Manuard Mach 5 Alternative Sailing - Constructions du Belon.

Tquila held off the pack to be first to round Nevis and Saba. A tactical leg on the wind to St Barths saw Tquila and LHOR One break away from the pack, with Tquila just hanging on to pole position all the way to the Anguilla Channel. On approach to Tintamarre, LHOR One stayed further south and got into the lead and extended on the long leg to Guadeloupe.

As the wind shadow of Guadeloupe came into play, LHOR One chose to stay offshore. Tquila went all the way in and passed LHOR One. The chasing pack, still in the breeze, closed in on the leaders. On the leg to Barbuda for the second rounding, Tquila chose to stay inshore rather than the competition which went as far as 15 miles offshore looking for breeze. Tquila won that strategic battle in spades, opening up a lead of four miles.

By Redonda, Tquila was leading LHOR One by over half an hour. Jules Bonnier's Manuard Mach 3 Nestenn - Entrepreneurs pour la Planète was up to third, but nearly an hour behind Tquila. The stage was set for a shifty light airs final leg to the finish. Approaching Antigua, Tquila threw the dice; after leading the pack south of the rhumb line, Tquila went north and the chasing boats chose the shortest route to the finish. Melwin Fink's 2022 Verdier Sign for Com (GER) got into the showdown, but Tquila's move north did not pay off.

There was a final twist to the thrilling Class40 battle; Nestenn crossed the line first but was penalised for entering an exclusion zone at Montserrat. Second over the line and Class40 victory went to Sogestran Seafrigo LHOR One, with Sign for Com second and Tquila third.

"We are all from Normandy in France and very proud to have won this great race," commented LHOR One's skipper Guillaume Pirouelle. "This project is designed to give experience to Class40 sailors from Normandy and all of the crew come from either Cherbourg or Le Havre. This has been a very hard race on the mind. The course is fantastic with so many options which allows for many gains and losses throughout."

Rolex Fastnet winner Alexis Loison has competed in the race before but this was his first in a Class40. "The course tests the boats and crew at every wind angle, which is a great way to get a lot of knowledge about the boat and how to achieve the manoeuvres," commented Loison. "I think that this race and the Caribbean season in general is a great place to base a Class40 programme because you have great sailing conditions literally guaranteed for may months."

IRC One

Richard Fromentin's JPK 1180 Cocody (FRA) won the class by over four hours from Andrew & Sam Hall's Lombard 46 Pata Negra (GBR). Last year's class champion, Dan Litchfield's Nielsen 59 Hound (USA) was just over an hour behind Pata Negra after IRC time correction.

Cocody was the class winner and second overall for the RORC Transatlantic Race, but the RORC Caribbean 600 was very different as Richard Fromentin explains:

"This was a very technical race, because there were a lot of traps everywhere," commented Fromentin. "The island wind shadows and the weather conditions made the race very complex, but it was still a very beautiful race and a lot of fun."

For the first 24 hours of the race Cocody was locked in a battle with two other JPK 1180s; Sunrise powered by Zen (AUS) and Dawn Treader (GBR). "We managed to get ahead of the other two JPK 1180s and the more we got ahead, the more the weather changes went into our advantage. This was the first race for all the team, except for Jean Pierre Dick who knows the course very well and without his expertise it would have been very difficult for us to win. In many ways, this race is similar to our home in Brittany; in coastal races we have to understand the land effects just as here!"

On day five of the RORC Caribbean 600, Friday 23 February, 11 boats were still racing. At 0800 AST nearly all of the boats were east of Antigua reaching towards the Barbuda Mark. After IRC time correction and on the water the class leaders in IRC Two were Peter McWhinnie's JPK 1080 In Theory (USA) followed by Gavin Howe's Sun Fast 3600 Tigris (GBR) and Katy Campbell's Salona 45 Panacea X (CAN).

Satellite Tracking: caribbean600.rorc.org/tracking

For more information go to RORC Caribbean 600 website: caribbean600.rorc.org

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