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As indicated by Afloat on Thursday lunchtime, the Farr 100 Leopard 3 (MON), skippered by Joost Schuijff, and with Royal Cork's Tom McWilliam on the crew has now been officially announced as the overall winner of the 2024 RORC Caribbean 600.

While 24 boats are still racing under the IRC rating rule, none of the teams still at sea can better Leopard 3’s time after IRC time correction.

The winning team on Farr 100 Leopard 3 (MON) Joost Schuijff, Chris Sherlock, Mitch Booth, Aaron Reynolds-Lovegrove, Antonio Cuervas Mons, Carlos Hernandez Robayna, Charlie Wyatt, Dennis Frederiksen, Gerard Mitchell, Gian Ahluwalia, Giles de Jager, Guillermo Altadill, Mark Bartlett, Matthew Lester, Paul Standbridge, Samuel Wright, Stephen Booth, Tom McWilliam, Will Best. Photo: Alex TurnbullThe winning team on Farr 100 Leopard 3 (MON) Joost Schuijff, Chris Sherlock, Mitch Booth, Aaron Reynolds-Lovegrove, Antonio Cuervas Mons, Carlos Hernandez Robayna, Charlie Wyatt, Dennis Frederiksen, Gerard Mitchell, Gian Ahluwalia, Giles de Jager, Guillermo Altadill, Mark Bartlett, Matthew Lester, Paul Standbridge, Samuel Wright, Stephen Booth, Tom McWilliam, Will Best. Photo: Alex Turnbull

The podium for IRC Overall for the RORC Caribbean 600 is also confirmed with Leopard 3 as the victor. Second is Niklas Zennstrom’s Carkeek 52 Rán (SWE) which has won a highly competitive IRC Zero Class by just three minutes after time correction from Peter & David Askew’s Botin 52 Wizard (USA).

Leopard 3 was one of the race founding entries, setting the original race record in 2009 and taking Monohull Line Honours again in 2013. However, in the previous eight races that Leopard 3 has competed in, this year is the first occasion that Leopard 3 has won the race overall under IRC. Leopard 3 is now 17 years old but is faster than ever due to a major refit by the new owners, including shedding 10 tons of weight and increasing sail area aloft under a brand new mast.

Leopard 3's Joost Schuijff with the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy Photo: Arthur DanielLeopard 3's Joost Schuijff with the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy Photo: Arthur Daniel

“When I woke up this morning and found out that Leopard had won overall it was quite amazing, I am very proud of the team and the boat,” commented Joost Schuijff. “It is a magnificent experience and a very special feeling. When I look at the Trophy, I see so many names of such famous boats. I am delighted for the team that the name Leopard 3 will be engraved there too. It’s all about the people and not just the race crew, but also the permanent crew and the build team – the team is super important; without the right people you cannot get the maximum performance from Leopard. Winning in Antigua is also special because myself and my family love coming here; the area is so nice and people are so friendly. To win the RORC Caribbean 600 in such a historic place for yachting is extraordinary.”

Leopard 3's Chris Sherlock Photo: Arthur DanielLeopard 3's Chris Sherlock Photo: Arthur Daniel

Chris Sherlock has been central to the Leopard team since its conception 30 years ago with the former owner Mike Slade. Sherlock was one of three of this year’s team that was on the boat for the first edition in 2009; Crew Boss Paul Standbridge and Boat Captain Gian Ahluwalia.

“It took 15 years and nine attempts to win overall, so it’s a big achievement and wonderful for the owners who have invested a lot of time and energy, and just fantastic to see that pay off,” commented Chris Sherlock. “The whole Leopard ethos started long ago and that was to bring young people into the sport and give them opportunity; it’s nice that we still have several team members that are still part of that. Over the years so many Leopard crew have gone on to do round the world races and under the new ownership that has not changed.”

Farr 100 Leopard 3 Photo: Arthur DanielFarr 100 Leopard 3 Photo: Arthur Daniel

On winning on IRC corrected time from world class opposition, Chris Sherlock commented: “The stars have all got to line up and they did for this race. First you have to finish the yacht race and the amicable preparation by the whole team is very much part of the success. Then you have to win your IRC Class, and then it is in the wind god’s hands. We know the Rán team very well; Niklas (Zennstrom) chartered Leopard for a Transatlantic Race Record and we know Rán will have done everything to beat Leopard, but this year, it was our turn. Antigua is Leopard’s spiritual home in the Caribbean and personally I was here in 1992 with Ocean Leopard. It’s great to win your home Grand Prix.”

On Friday, 23 February, Leopard 3 will be presented with the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy.

Published in Caribbean 600
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In what is being hailed as one of the most thrilling finishes in recent memory, the RORC Caribbean 600 Class40 division is set for a nail-biting finale. At 0900 AST on Thursday, 22 February, six of the 11-strong Class40s were heading towards the final island of the race, Redonda, with just 15 miles separating them from each other.

James McHugh’s Tquila has been leading the pack, rounding Redonda and increasing their lead over their nearest rivals. LHOROne (FRA) skippered by Guillaume Pirouelle has been their closest challenger throughout the race, while Jules Bonnier’s Entrepreneurs pour la Planète (FRA) is up to third.

However, the wind speed and direction to the finish line in Antigua is very unstable, and the leading three boats are expected to face a tough challenge in the final leg. The thrilling finish has left fans and spectators alike on the edge of their seats, eagerly anticipating the final outcome.

For the final leg from Redonda to the finish line, Tquila, LHOROne, and Entrepreneurs pour la Planète are likely to make up the Class40 podium, but in what order remains to be seen. With so much at stake, the race promises to be a captivating spectacle and a testament to the skill, determination, and endurance of the participating sailors.

LHOROne (FRA) skippered by Guillaume Pirouelle Photo:Tim WrightLHOROne (FRA) skippered by Guillaume Pirouelle Photo:Tim Wright

Entrepreneurs pour la Planète Photo:Tim WrightEntrepreneurs pour la Planète Photo:Tim Wright

The current weather to the west of Antigua is a light southerly breeze. There is plenty of cloud cover, which will create areas of wind to increase velocity or to suck the wind out of the sails. The Class40 showdown is expected to be decided before sunset tonight, Thursday, 22 February. All ranking positions above are provisional.

The 11-strong Class40 division at the start of the RORC Caribbean 600 Photo: Tim WrightThe 11-strong Class40 division at the start of the RORC Caribbean 600 Photo: Tim Wright

Published in Caribbean 600
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Update 12:45 Thursday, Feb 22: In previewing the RORC Caribbean 600 2024, we made the point that in its 15 years of annual staging, no boat under 50ft LOA had ever emerged as the overall winner, and the smallest top scorers have been canting-keel Cookson 50s, which rate higher than many a larger boat.

It seems the trend is going to be emphasized with the current race. The very much-up-dated 2007-vintage Farr Super-Maxi Leopard 3 (with Tom McWilliam on the crew) is long home and hosed as line honours winner, a good 15 hours ahead on the water of the hundred footer Aragon, which becomes almost invisible on CT. And as the hours tick by, other boats may be finishing, but none of them is challenging the Leopard IRC lead.

 A zippy piece of work – the formidable new Carkeek CF250 Ran was looking good, but in the end sheer size seems to be winning the day A zippy piece of work – the formidable new Carkeek CF250 Ran was looking good, but in the end sheer size seems to be winning the day

For a while Nik Zennstrom’s extremely zippy-looking Carkeek CF520 (with Cork's Justin Slattery on board - Ed) had looked to be carrying the flag for the 52 footers, but now she’s in and two hours behind Leopard on handicap, while the Askew brothers new Wizard - which is the old Matt Allen TP52 Ichi Ban – is showing on the magic calculator as a clear hour behind Ran.

WIZARD LINK TO DUBLIN?

Pausing only to reflect that the Wizard team of Charlie Enright and Dave & Pete Askew sound more like three ould fellas that you might meet in an ancient bar in The Liberties in Dublin, rather than one of international offshore racing’s hotter teams with a Fastnet overall win in their CV, we move down the listings for Irish and Irish Sea interest and find that Andrew and Sam Hall’s Lombard 46 Pata Negra of Pwllheli– with Transatlantic rower Mark Bolger of Baltimore SC on the crew - is our best hope at second on CT in IRC 1, with 110 miles still to sail and 7.0 knots on the clock.

Further back, the chartered J/122 El Ocaso (Simon Knowles, Howth YC) has had her moments in the frame in IRC 1, but currently she’s at 7th in class and down the line with 200 miles to sail with just 5.6 knots being made good.

Most of us would think of a J/122 as a larger boat, but with everything king-size in Caribbean sailing, she’s a little ’un. It’s a situation emphasized by the nature of the course, in which the final leg is 60 miles from Redondo to Antigua. If that’s the usual windward slug and night is making on and you know the big boat crews are already partying, it can seem as though Antigua is on the other side of the planet.

Tracker and results below

Published in Caribbean 600
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Royal Cork Yacht Club's Tom McWilliam was part of Joost Schuijff's crew that took monohull line honours on Wednesday (February 21st) in the 2024 RORC Caribbean 600 in an elapsed time of 02 days 01 hour 23 minutes and 18 Secs.

Leopard 3 Crew for the 600-mile race was Joost Schuijff, Chris Sherlock, Mitch Booth, Aaron Reynolds-Lovegrove, Antonio Cuervas Mons, Carlos Hernandez Robayna, Charlie Wyatt, Dennis Frederiksen, Gerard Mitchell, Gian Ahluwalia, Giles de Jager, Guillermo Altadill, Mark Bartlett, Matthew Lester, Paul Standbridge, Samuel Wright, Stephen Booth, Tom McWilliam, Will Best.

As Afloat reported, McWilliam was also part of Leopard's crew in the RORC Transatlantic Race when the yacht suffered rudder damage.

This was Leopard 3’s ninth RORC Caribbean 600 and while the canting keel Maxi has taken the gun on two previous occasions, Leopard 3 has never won the race overall under IRC for the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy. Leopard 3 has set the bar on IRC corrected time for all of the 36 boats still racing under IRC and must now wait for the overall winner to be decided. The biggest threat to Leopard for the overall title are all racing in IRC Zero that are about 100 miles from the finish in Antigua.

Leopard 3 is now 17 years old and probably faster now than she has ever been. The boat has taken Line Honours and set records all over the world, but apart from the Aegean 600, this would be Leopard’s first big win on IRC corrected time.Leopard 3 is now 17 years old and probably faster now than she has ever been. The boat has taken Line Honours and set records all over the world, but apart from the Aegean 600, this would be Leopard’s first big win on IRC corrected time  Photo: Tim Wright

“I started racing Leopard some 5-6 years ago," commented skipper Joost Schuijff. After major changes, including taking 10 tons of weight out of the boat and installing a new mast, we're seeing the rewards for all that work. However, the most important aspect is the training of the crew; it’s all about the people. The teamwork on Leopard is all important. This is my second RORC Caribbean 600 and with Leopard it can be challenging. This year we saw 30 knot squalls and with big sail area up that can be quite scary, but I really enjoy this race. Sailing in the tropics is picturesque, the scenery is really beautiful and racing against good competition is a perfect combination.”

Leopard 3 led right from the start of the RORC Caribbean 600, opening up a lead of about 30 miles on the nearest competition; Wally 107 Spirit of Malouen X (FRA). However, as Leopard 3 passed through the wind shadow of Guadeloupe the lead almost evaporated as Spirit of Malouen X appeared on the horizon.

Published in Caribbean 600
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Over 500 sailors from around the globe gathered off Fort Charlotte, Antigua, on Monday, 19th February, to participate in a stunning start to the 15th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600.

The non-stop 600nm race, which involves sailing around 11 Caribbean islands, saw 64 boats take to the start in perfect conditions.

A south-easterly breeze, gusting up to 17 knots, ensured a fast start to this Caribbean classic.

Among the Irish sailors competing, Irish crew, Tom McWilliam of Royal Cork is racing on Leopard in IRC Super Zero, and fellow Corkonian Justin Slattery is onboard Ran in IRC Zero.

Just one month after finishing the world's toughest rowing race across the Atlantic, Mark Bolger is on the crew of Andrew and Sam Hall 's Pata Negra and he is joined in Antigua by his younger sister Jane, who is based in Newport and works as a First mate on a Swan.

Peter McWhinnie's 'In Theory' Takes the Lead in IRC Two Five Hours into the Caribbean 600

The outer distance mark was very busy for the first start with four charter boats giving their guests on board the thrill of winning the pin end: Harmony 52 Sao Jorge (GBR) skippered by Anne Tyler-Morgan and First 40.7 Escapado (GBR) skippered Andy Parritt jostled for position along with Elan 450 Emily of Cowes (GBR) skippered by Richard Laver, and Katy Campbell’s Salona 45 Panacea X (CAN). Andrew & Sam Hall’s Lombard 46 Pata Negra (GBR) got a great start near the pin, as did Gavin Howe’s Sun Fast 3600 Tigris (GBR) all the way inshore.

Approximately five hours into the race, the leader on corrected time in IRC Two is Peter McWhinnie’s JPK 1080 In Theory (USA). The leader for IRC One was Richard Fromentin’s JPK 1180 Cocody (FRA). Joel Aronson’s Hylas 49 Rule One (USA) was over the line but returned to start correctly.

The IRC One & Two start shows Gavin Howe's Sunfast 3600 Tigris (GBR914R) on port tack Photo: Tim WrightThe IRC One & Two start shows Gavin Howe's Sunfast 3600 Tigris (GBR914R) on port tack Photo: Tim Wright

Peter & David Askew's Wizard Leads IRC Zero

The second start was a combination of some of the most technically advanced boats in the race, and the race to the line was just as competitive as the first start. RP42 Rikki (USA) skippered by Bruce Chafee was the closest to the line in the minute before the start. Frederic Puzin’s Ker 46 Daguet (FRA) made a bold move reaching in from an offshore position into a ball of boats but managed to find enough room to get onto Rikki’s tale and then just get the bow down for an electric start. Niklas Zennstrom’s Carkeek 52 Rán (SWE) made a good start inshore of Rikki and Daguet. Peter & David Askew’s Botin 52 Wizard (USA) also got away well. James Neville’s Carkeek 45 Ino Noir (GBR) was over the line, but returned to start correctly. Five hours into the race, leading the IRC Zero Class after time correction was Peter & David Askew’s Wizard.

In the Class40 division, Richard Palmer’s Jangada 40 (GBR) skippered by Rupert Holmes made a clean start inshore. James McHugh’s Tquila and Mathieu Jones’ Alternative Sailing - Constructions du Belon (FRA) also got away to a flyer. Five hours into the race Tquila was the clear leader in the Class40s.

The Botin 52 Wizard (USA) & Carkeek 52 Rán close to shore after the Fort Charlotte start of the 2024 RORC Caribbean 600 race.  Photo: Alex TurnbullThe Botin 52 Wizard (USA) & Carkeek 52 Rán close to shore after the Fort Charlotte start of the 2024 RORC Caribbean 600 race.  Photo: Alex Turnbull

The Class40 Start in a near-perfect south easterly breeze, gusting up to 17 knots for the  start of the 2024 RORC Caribbean 600 race Photo: Tim WrightThe Class40 Start in a near-perfect south easterly breeze, gusting up to 17 knots for the  start of the 2024 RORC Caribbean 600 race Photo: Tim Wright

Leopard 3 Takes the Lead in IRC Super Zero

Four Maxis barrelling into the pin at top speed was a breath-taking sight for the IRC Super Zero start. In the mix were Farr 70 Ocean Breeze (AUT) skippered by Johanne Schwartz and VO65 Sisi (AUT) skippered by Gerwin Jansen. Just tucked in behind the pair was Atlas Ocean Racing’s Juan K 70 Il Mostro (CAN). Farr 100 Leopard 3 (MON) skippered by Joost Schuijff and Sergio Giglio’s Southern Wind 102 Egiwave (ITA) were bow level at the start, but Leopard pulled clear and five hours into the race was the leading monohull on the water and after IRC time correction.

Farr 100 Leopard 3 and Paprec Sailing Team on Spirit of Malouen X France's Spirit of Malouen X , a Wally 107 skippered by Stephane Neve to weather Photo: Tim Wright/RORCFarr 100 Leopard 3 and Paprec Sailing Team on Spirit of Malouen X France's Spirit of Malouen X , a Wally 107 skippered by Stephane Neve to weather at the start of the Caribbean 600 Race Photo: Tim Wright 

Another view of the IRC Super Zero Farr 100 start of the Caribbean 600 Race with Leopard 3 and Paprec Sailing Team on Spirit of Malouen X Photo: Tim Wright/RORCAnother view of the IRC Super Zero Farr 100 start of the Caribbean 600 Race with Leopard 3 and Paprec Sailing Team on Spirit of Malouen X Photo: Tim Wright/RORC

Realites Planet-R Takes the Lead in Epic Multihull MOCRA Race 

The last start featured 11 multihulls, including three MOD70s vying for the race record and Multihull Line Honours. As with all of the previous starts it was rush-hour at the pin end. However, Erik Maris’ MOD70 Zoulou (FRA) started on port, blasting right over the top of the fleet like Zoulou had been shot out of a cannon. Adrian Keller’s Irens 84 Allegra (SUI) got a great start at the pin end. Alexia Barrier’s MOD7 Limosa – The Famous Project (FRA) got away to a fast start, but Jason Carroll’s MOD70 Argo (USA) was late over the line. Guy Chester’s Ocean Tribute (AUS) and Wooldridge & Davis’ Triple Jack (BVI) got a clean start. Five hours into the race, Argo was leading on the water from Limosa – Famous Project, with Zoulou in third. After MOCRA time correction, Fabrice Cahierc’s Ocean Fifty Realites Planet-R (FRA) was leading after five hours of racing.

The MOD70 Zoulou of France in full flight after the  start of the RORC Caribbean 600 Photo: Tim Wright The MOD70 Zoulou of France in full flight after the  start of the RORC Caribbean 600 Photo: Tim Wright 

No Limit and the diverse MOCRA fleet begin the non-stop 600nm race, which involves sailing around 11 Caribbean islands Photo: Arthur DanielNo Limit and the diverse MOCRA fleet begin the non-stop 600nm race, which involves sailing around 11 Caribbean islands Photo: Arthur Daniel

“It is always great to see the fleet all get away to a clear start,” commented RORC Race Director Steve Cole. “The RORC Race Team will be monitoring the fleet 24-7. All teams in the race will be greeted by the invaluable Caribbean 600 Volunteers with warm smiles and cold Carib beers. We wish all competitors a great race and look forward to seeing them all safely back in Antigua after they have finished.”

Teams in the RORC Caribbean 600 are sending in videos, pictures and messages from the race course which are posted on the live blog. The RORC Social Media Channels are also covering many aspects of the race. The RORC Caribbean 600 forms part of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's Season Points Championships, the world's largest offshore racing series.

Published in Caribbean 600
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The weather may have decided that winter is far from gone in the last couple of days, but in Dun Laoghaire this morning, the annual conference of the Irish Cruiser Racing Association at the Royal Irish YC remembers only sun-filled days, and perfect sailing breezes. And they’ll be thinking of it for the RORC Caribbean 600 in nine days’ time, and anticipating more of the same when the seasons turn.

That’s even though one of the Conference highlights is a presentation by Cian McCarthy and Sam Hunt of Kinsale about their recent Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race campaign in a sister-ship of their home-based race-topping Sun Fast 3300 Cinnamon Girl, which was entered this week for the 2024 SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race in June. Whatever weather that may bring, the Sydney-Hobart Race in the last week of December was favoured neither by fair winds nor sun-filled days.

So what was already a remarkable exercise in long-distance logistics and communication became a real challenge of crew spirit. But as has been shown in home waters, the Kinsale duo can give as good as they get in best Munster style, as seen here in Crosbie Lorimer’s two-part post-Hobart Race interviews:


MUNSTER PACE-SETTERS?

In fact, a casual observer might think that the greater Cork area is moving towards setting all the pace in the cruiser-racer sphere, for it’s no secret that by the time today’s gathering concludes, Denis Byrne of Royal Cork will have succeeded Dave Cullen of Howth as ICRA Commodore, while the meeting will include an affirmation of James Dwyer’s “Boat of the Year” title for his classic Half Tonner Swuzzlebubble from Crosshaven.

But a strong sense of Dun Laoghaire pride will rightly go into the meeting in the knowledge that last Sunday, the redoubtable team of Brian Mathews and Fintan Cairns on the Committee Boat reckoned that any capable crew should have been well able to cope with the decidedly brisk conditions on Dublin Bay.

DUBLIN BAY RISES ABOVE ADVERSE WEATHER

They put through the weekly race of the Spring Chicken Series in some style even if, in other parts of the country, the citizenry were more concerned with avoiding their neighbourhood’s airborne chimney pots and tiles.

Dave Cullen speaking for Ireland’s large and varied cruiser-racer fleets. He stands down today after the standard two years as Commodore of ICRA, but will continue as an active Committee memberDave Cullen speaking for Ireland’s large and varied cruiser-racer fleets. He stands down today after the standard two years as Commodore of ICRA, but will continue as an active Committee member

Beyond that, the good news is that today (Saturday’s) ICRA conference has attracted pre-registered numbers in significantly larger numbers than experienced for years, and is certainly way ahead when set against the post-covid turnouts. So clearly not only is the association meeting a real need, but members feel that their voice is heard at Conference, and they can usefully affect the direction and speed of the course ahead.

Yet even with fine tuning and change at various levels of policy, continuity is part of the formula. Despite two busy years in the post in which he saw the Howth-based J/99 Snapshot (Mike & Richie Evans) and the Crosshaven-based Swuzzlebubble take the “ICRA Boat of the Year” title, Commodore Cullen is by no means retiring completely, as he reverts to being a Committee member. And it’s not just in the ex officio style of traditional clubs – he’ll be a proper working member for as long as he’s willing.

Denis Byrne of Crosshaven is multi-tasking in 2024 as Commodore of ICRA, and Vice Admiral of the Royal Cork YC. Photo: Robert BatemanDenis Byrne of Crosshaven is multi-tasking in 2024 as Commodore of ICRA, and Vice Admiral of the Royal Cork YC. Photo: Robert Bateman

Coming up into the top post from the other direction, Denis Byrne has likewise been an ICRA Committee member for some time, but now - within less than three weeks - he will have been catapulted into positions of power in two major yet very different sailing organisations.

In addition to today’s elevation to the top post in ICRA, on Monday January 21st the orderly re-arranging of the senior roles in the officer board of the Royal Cork YC saw Denis Byrne take on the role of Vice Admiral in support of newly-elected Admiral Annamarie Fegan. And for those who would seek inter-links in everything, Admiral Fegan is co-skipper with husband Denis Murphy in the Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo, ICRA “Boat of the Year” in 2021.

RCYC Admiral Annamarie Fegan’s co-skippered Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo was ICRA's “Boat of the Year” in 2021.RCYC Admiral Annamarie Fegan’s co-skippered Grand Soleil 40 Nieulargo was ICRA's “Boat of the Year” in 2021

These every-which-way networks might make some folk dizzy, but that’s the way it is with sailing in Ireland, and the ICRA mix provides a growing body of knowledge of what works, and who is interested. Thus one of the topics that will surface today is a clearer and possibly broader definition of what makes for an ICRA boat. As it is purely a day racing organisation – leaving overnights to the likes of ISORA, SCORA, Wicklow SC and the RORC for the Round Ireland, and the National YC for the Dun Laoghaire-Dingle – it could encompass boats which otherwise don’t have a home, such as Michael McCann’s lone Etchells 22 Don’t Dilly Dally, which is usually in the frame in the Royal Cork’s handicap racing.

ICRA PROVIDES INSIGHT INTO THE SUCCESS OF BOAT TYPES

What’s for sure is that the incoming and outgoing Commodores between them provide much insight into how different boat types appeal. Dave Cullen became internationally known with his vintage Half Tonner Checkmate XV winning the Half Ton Classics Cup at Nieuwpoort in Belgium in 2018, but more recently he has been dealing with something more substantial in the form of the First 50 Checkmate XX, which he campaigns successfully in partnership with Nigel Biggs.

The hefty First 50 Checkmate XX (Dave Cullen & Nigel Biggs) developing full power. Young sailors see it as a special challenge to get top performance out of such a notably comfortable boat. Photo: Annraoi BlaneyThe hefty First 50 Checkmate XX (Dave Cullen & Nigel Biggs) developing full power. Young sailors see it as a special challenge to get top performance out of such a notably comfortable boat. Photo: Annraoi Blaney

Speaking to Afloat.ie this week, Dave admitted that when they moved up several steps at once into Checkmate XX, they feared the keen young sailors would reckon they’d gone too far into the Comfort Zone. But on the contrary, it emerges that skilled young sailors – particularly the helmsmen – get special satisfaction from squeezing the best possible performance out of the “floating bungalow”.

As for Denis Byrne, although there are whispers of a size upgrade, he has long been associated with the Trapper T250 Cracker. She’s a rare bird, as few enough were built before the producers went out of business. But that was not the fault of this real zinger of an Ed Dubois design descended from the Starflash, as Cracker combines remarkable performance with excellent cockpit and downstairs accommodation. And all in an overall length of just 25ft – in other words, the same LOA as a Glen OD.

Incoming ICRA Commodore Denis Byrne’s TP250 Cracker revelling in a good breeze of wind in Cork Harbour. An Ed Dubois design, she ticks many boxes for anyone seeking a versatile cruiser-racer of manageable size, as she packs it all into an overall length the same as a Glen OD. Photo: Robert BatemanIncoming ICRA Commodore Denis Byrne’s TP250 Cracker revelling in a good breeze of wind in Cork Harbour. An Ed Dubois design, she ticks many boxes for anyone seeking a versatile cruiser-racer of manageable size, as she packs it all into an overall length the same as a Glen OD. Photo: Robert Bateman

It was precisely boats like Cracker that Jim Donegan of Cork, Denis Kiely of Kinsale, and Fintan Cairns of Dun Laoghaire had in mind when they brought the Irish Cruiser Racing Association into being 22 years ago. Back in the day, despite their significant numbers these boats and owners could scarcely be heard in the cacophony of sound – or noise if you prefer – from advocates of One-Designs, dinghy sailing, Olympic racing, and Junior and Adult training. But thanks to the insight of the founding fathers, the ICRA conference is now one of the hottest tickets in town, a true gathering of kindred spirits in which one good idea builds on another.

(Above) This is what it’s all about – Cinnamon Girl showing what she can do when the going is good.

RORC CARIBBEAN 600 PROSPECTS

We begin with a request. Coverage of the recent Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race as an escape from mid-winter glooms was much enhanced by knowing which boats Irish sailors were to be found aboard, and so too will coverage of the up-coming 15th RORC Caribbean 600 on Monday February 19th, so please let us know of any Lone Rangers to be found on other boats.

We’re aware that Simon Knowles (of the J/109 Indian) and a Howth group will be racing the J/122 El Ocaso. We know too that Andrew & Sam Hall of Pwllheli will be racing their intriguing Lombard 45 Pata Negra, a boat which has brought Caribbean 600 success for Irish crews in times past.

And Pata Negra certainly gets around, but not always exactly placed as she might like to be, as this photo from last year’s Fastnet from on board Michael O’Donnell’s J/121 Darkwood shows one of those moments that don’t need words, as the owner-skipper’s expression says it all.

Magic moment. Michael O’Donnell’s J/121 Darkwood crosses ahead of the higher-rated Pata Negra while beating towards the Fastnet RockMagic moment. Michael O’Donnell’s J/121 Darkwood crosses ahead of the higher-rated Pata Negra while beating towards the Fastnet Rock

BIG BOAT RACE?

But nevertheless it’s a moot point whether or not it’s worthwhile for any boat under 50ft to take on the Caribbean 600, as this week’s listing of the overall IRC winners clearly shows that in the top winning category, the smallest boat to have done the deed is a Cookson 50

RORC CARIBBEAN 600 - IRC OVERALL WINNERS:

2023 - Roy P. Disney, Volvo 70, Pyewacket (USA)
2022 - Christopher Sheehan, Warrior Won, Pac52 (USA)
2020 - Tilmar Hansen, Outsider, TP52 (GER)
2019 - David and Peter Askew, Wizard, Volvo 70 (USA)
2018 - George David, Rambler 88, Maxi (USA)
2017 - Hap Fauth, Bella Mente, JV72 (USA)
2016 - George Sakellaris, Maxi 72, Proteus (USA)
2015 - Hap Fauth, JV72, Bella Mente (USA)
2014 - George Sakellaris, RP72, Shockwave (USA)
2013 - Ron O'Hanley, Privateer, Cookson 50 (USA)
2012 - Niklas Zennström's JV72, Rán (GBR)
2011 - George David, Rambler 100, JK 100 (USA)
2010 - Karl C L Kwok, Beau Geste, Farr 80 (HKG)
2009 - Adrian Lee, Lee Overlay Partners, Cookson 50 (IRL)

For sure, the winds of the Caribbean are warm, and so too are the seas. But at this time of the year, you can get a lot of both, which wears down any crew, and more so in smaller craft. Having zoomed among the islands with great enjoyment in a 72ft performance ketch some time ago, Sailing on Saturday is inclined to think that Big is Best in exploring those magic waters.

So we wish the best to those who are contemplating this challenge in anything smaller, while noting from that list just what an astonishingly successful boat was the Cookson 50 which started life as Ger O’Rourke’s Chieftain, and went on to become Adrian Lee’s Lee Overlay Partners.

Under the latter title, she won the inaugural RORC Caribbean 600 in 2009. But before that, as Chieftain, she won her class in the Sydney-Hobart race, and then went on to be overall winner of the 2007 Fastnet Race. These are unmatched peaks of achievement, a shining light of inspiration for cruiser-racer enthusiasts gathered today in Dun Laoghaire.

An unmatched record. As Lee Overlay Partners, this Cookson 50 was overall winner of the inaugural RORC Caribbean 600 Race in 2009, and before that - as Ger O’Rourke’s Chieftain - she was overall winner of the 2007 Fastnet Race after winning her class in the Sydney-Hobart Race.An unmatched record. As Lee Overlay Partners, this Cookson 50 was overall winner of the inaugural RORC Caribbean 600 Race in 2009, and before that - as Ger O’Rourke’s Chieftain - she was overall winner of the 2007 Fastnet Race after winning her class in the Sydney-Hobart Race

• The 2024 ICRA Conference begins at 10.30 am at the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dun Laoghaire this morning (February 10th) and is also available online (registration required). More details here

Published in W M Nixon
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Howth Yacht Club J/109 skipper Simon Knowles – the inshore and offshore campaigner of Indian in Irish waters – and noted Pwllheli father-and-son offshore team of Andrew and Sam Hall, will be ensuring that the Irish Sea is well represented with two boats in the RORC Caribbean 600 Race 2024 from Antigua on Monday 19th February.

Simon Knowles is leading a Howth team charter of the successful J/122 El Ocaso, which won her class in Antigua Week 2023. And the ever-enthusiastic Hall clan – Sam is current ISORA “Sailor of the Year” - will be racing their rather special Lombard 45 Pata Negra, designed by France’s Marc Lombard, whose reputation is currently flying high with the Lombard 34 Mistral’s impressive win of the Two-Handed Division in the 2023 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

 Andrew & Sam Hall’s Lombard 45 Pata Negra racing on a grey day in the Solent. Her design relationship to the Marc Lombard-designed Hobart Race Two-Handed winner Mistral’s boxy sections is unmistakable Andrew & Sam Hall’s Lombard 45 Pata Negra racing on a grey day in the Solent. Her design relationship to the Marc Lombard-designed Hobart Race Two-Handed winner Mistral’s boxy sections is unmistakable

Simon Knowles will be racing with a crew of many talents, as the lineup on El Ocaso includes Howth 17 owner-skipper Rima Macken, and J/109 sailors Roger and Kate Smith. Meanwhile, there’s word on the grapevine that a renowned Howth international offshore campaigning team are lining up a challenge for the 2026 Bermuda Race - believed to be the first ever Irish entry in that great American classic - but there’s much work to be done before it becomes reality.

NEW WIZARD AND OLD GREEN DRAGON IN THE HUNT

For now, we note that the Caribbean entry includes former winner Warrior Won, Chris Sheehan’s PAC52 aboard which Don Street of Glandore’s grandson Dylan Vogel sails as bowman, while Fastnet Race 2019 winners Peter & David Askew (USA) are back with a different different Wizard, for having won the Fastnet with a former Volvo 70, the newly-named Wizard is a Botin 52.

Also in the listings is the gallant old warhorse Green Dragon, once upon a time the Irish-Chinese round the world Volvo 70, and now campaigned by Austria’s Johannes Schwarz.

Published in Caribbean 600
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A fire erupted in Falmouth, Antigua's Caribbean 600 Race Harbour, resulting in the closure of a number of surrounding businesses such as restaurants and cafes. The Antigua Yacht Club (AYC) was not affected by the blaze and no injuries were recorded. Franklyn Braithwaite, the Commodore of AYC, confirmed that the AYC buildings remained unscathed.

The London-based Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC), organisers of the race, wishes for a speedy recovery for the affected businesses. They hope that the businesses will be operational by February next year when the race is scheduled to take place. The RORC confirmed that the fire does not affect the 2024 regatta schedule.

The RORC reported that entries are being received from all over the world for the upcoming 15th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600, which will include the second edition of the RORC Nelson's Cup Series.

The RORC say together with the Antigua Yacht Club, the Antigua & Barbuda Government, and their sponsors, partners, and volunteers, are working closely to host a memorable event for the 15th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600.

Published in Caribbean 600
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On the fifth day of the RORC Caribbean 600 all of the IRC Classes have been decided and plenty of teams that have finished the race are enjoying the hospitality of Antigua’s beaches, bars, and restaurants. Seven boats are still racing, with a big incentive to make tonight’s RORC Caribbean 600 Closing Party at the Antigua Yacht Club.

IRC Zero

RORC Vice Commodore Eric de Turckheim racing NMD54 Teasing Machine (FRA) has won the highly competitive class, placing second overall under IRC to Pyewacket 70. Second in IRC Zero and fourth overall was Kate & Jim Murray’s Pac52 Callisto (USA). Third in IRC Zero and fifth overall was Frederic Puzin’s Ker 46 Daguet – 3 Corum (FRA).

“The RORC Caribbean 600 is one of the most fantastic 600 mile races in the world; it’s non-stop action with plenty of wind,” commented Eric de Turckheim. “The whole RORC fleet is an amazing sight at the start with such a variety of boats in one race: Volvo 70s, Classics like Pen Duick VI and the Class40s. This year we had a fantastic battle in IRC Zero with four highly competitive boats that Teasing Machine was in contact with all the time. We finished within 30 minutes of each other; that is exciting as well as the sailing itself. Callisto sailed really well and was always a threat. Further back, because they are 46ft, was Daguet. In the last race they beat us, this year we beat them. So well done to Callisto and Daguet for making this class very hard to win.”

 Teasing Machine Crew: Eric de Turckheim, Laurent Pages, Aymeric Chappellier, Alexandre de Girval, Bertrand Castelnerac, Christian Ponthieu, Gabriele Olivo, Jerome Teillet, Paco Lepoutre, Quentin Bouchacourt, Quentin Le Nabour, Tony BrochetThe team on Eric de Turckheim's Teasing Machine after finishing the RORC Caribbean 600: Eric de Turckheim, Laurent Pages, Aymeric Chappellier, Alexandre de Girval, Bertrand Castelnerac, Christian Ponthieu, Gabriele Olivo, Jerome Teillet, Paco Lepoutre, Quentin Bouchacourt, Quentin Le Nabour, Tony Brochet Photo: James Tomlinson

Teasing Machine Crew: Eric de Turckheim, Laurent Pages, Aymeric Chappellier, Alexandre de Girval, Bertrand Castelnerac, Christian Ponthieu, Gabriele Olivo, Jerome Teillet, Paco Lepoutre, Quentin Bouchacourt, Quentin Le Nabour, Tony Broche.

IRC One

Dan Litchfield’s classic Hound (USA) put in a great last beat to the finish from Redonda to win IRC One. The Aage Nielsen 59 sloop was built in 1970, the oldest boat in the race. Laurent Courbin’s First 53 Yagiza (FRA) skippered by Phillippe Falle was second by just 24 minutes after IRC time correction. Andrew & Sam Hall’s Lombard 46 Pata Negra (GBR) was in third place, just six minutes behind Yagiza after IRC time correction. 

“We got pushed really hard by the other boats in our class and somehow we pulled it out at the end and it feels great,” commented Hound owner Dan Litchfield. “It was only when we were rounding Redonda that we thought the win was possibly for real and then we sailed right into a wind hole, but it picked up again and we were back in business. The Hound crew is the best I have ever sailed with.” 

Dan Litchfield was quick to praise two long-standing RORC members on the Hound crew. “A big thank you to Ed Cesare who did a great job as navigator and Richard du Moulin for superb preparation. The RORC Caribbean 600 is our big race of the season. Hound will be heading back to Newport Rhode Island and I know our two daughters will have missed cruising her, as we will do in the summer.”

Hound crew: Daniel Litchfield, Tom Stark, Adam Klyver, Chris Murray, David Rosow, Devin Santa, Edward Cesare, Glenn Cook, Jason Black, Lyndsey Gibbons-Neff, Nicholas Horbaczewski, Owen Johnson, Peter McGrath, Rich du Moulin, Sumner Fisher, Taylor North

The beautiful classic Hound crosses the finish line in Antigua to win IRC One Photo: Tim WrightThe beautiful classic Hound crosses the finish line in Antigua to win IRC One Photo: Tim Wright

IRC Two

Peter McWhinnie’s JPK 1080 In Theory (USA) has won IRC Two by just under two hours from J/133 Vamoose (USA) skippered by Bob Manchester. Andy Middleton’s First 47.7 EH01 (GBR) was third.

“It feels fantastic, it has been great to get around the course with a wonderful crew; I can’t thank them enough. It is an all-round crew, we all drive and trim and the work has been outstanding,” commented In Theory’s Peter McWhinnie. “It was a relief to get through the last beat as the wind got a little fluky and to make the finish was a very happy moment. One of the highlights of this race has been the close competition from other boats; we were always mixing it up with Vamoose, J Bella and EH01. There were a lot of great moments and a lot of hard sailing; it was pretty full on. The run down to Nevis from Barbuda on the first night was really beautiful. Compared to 2020, this time we passed most of the islands during day time which was nice and an incentive to come back and do it again.”

In Theory Crew: Peter McWhinnie, Com Crocker, Erin Sprague, John Slattery, Peter Fackler, Simon Karstoft Jensen.

JPK 1080 In Theory (USA) at the start of the 2023 RORC Caribbean 600 Photo : James Tomlinson JPK 1080 In Theory (USA) at the start of the 2023 RORC Caribbean 600 Photo : James Tomlinson 

Still out racing at 08:10 AST on Friday 24th February: Bluejay of Portsmouth, Escapado, Montana, Spirit of Venus, Purple Mist, Hultaj, Charisma. The magnificent seven are hoping to make the spectacular closing party. L’Esprit d’Equipe, Lifgun and Discoverer Of Hornet have already started the party!

Published in Caribbean 600
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The Royal Ocean Racing Club announced that the overall winner of the 14th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 is Roy P. Disney’s Pyewacket 70 (USA). None of the teams still racing under IRC has any realistic chance of beating Pyewacket 70 after time correction. The Pyewacket 70 team will be presented with the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy at the Prize Giving on Friday, 24th February. 

As Afloat previously reported the Pyewacket 70 crew were Ben Mitchell, Peter Isler, Tony Mutter, Brad Jackson, Brian Janney, Daryl Wislang, David Tank, Jan Majer, Mark Callahan, Matt Mialik, Robbie Kane, Rodney Daniel, Tristan Louwrens.

Team Pyewacket 70 after finishing the RORC Caribbean 600. The Pyewacket 70 crew were  Ben Mitchell, Peter Isler, Tony Mutter, Brad Jackson, Brian Janney, Daryl Wislang, David Tank, Jan Majer, Mark Callahan, Matt Mialik, Robbie Kane, Rodney Daniel, Tristan Louwrens.Photo: Arthur Daniel/RORCTeam Pyewacket 70 after finishing the RORC Caribbean 600. The Pyewacket 70 crew were  Ben Mitchell, Peter Isler, Tony Mutter, Brad Jackson, Brian Janney, Daryl Wislang, David Tank, Jan Majer, Mark Callahan, Matt Mialik, Robbie Kane, Rodney Daniel, Tristan Louwrens.Photo: Arthur Daniel

“We are super-excited about winning overall,” commented skipper Ben Mitchell. “With Pyewacket 70 we don’t go into these races necessarily thinking that a corrected time win is our goal, we go for Line Honours and potentially to set a new record. So, when a handicap win comes that is fantastic, and we are excited that we were able to achieve that.

“The Caribbean has been a popular destination for American sailors for a long time, but the hardcore Southern Californian racers do not come here that often,” continued Ben Mitchell. “When you come here you realise how beautiful this course is, with fabulous wind conditions combined with warm water and weather. It’s a fantastic race area. As we saw with Wizard and now with Pyewacket 70, the Volvo 70s are well-heeled for this course, which has plenty of windy reaching conditions.

Pyewacket 70 in the RORC Caribbean 600 Photo: Tim WrightPyewacket 70 in the RORC Caribbean 600 Photo: Tim Wright

“For me personally, I feel very fortunate,” continued Ben Mitchell. “I am very lucky to be put in the position by Roy (Pat Disney) with the support of Robbie Haines. This win is right up there with the biggest victories, and Pyewacket has had a lot of success with the programme. The RORC Caribbean 600 victory in recent years is right up there with our record in the Cabo Race. This is a great course, but it is also very tricky. In Southern California, we are more use to point-to-point distance races. The course designers were definitely using their imagination when they came up with the RORC Caribbean 600.” 

Pyewacket 70 joins an impressive list of overall winners from the United States; Warrior Won, Wizard, Rambler 88, Bella Mente, Shockwave, Privateer, and Rambler 100.

Published in Caribbean 600
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