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With winter still clinging like a hyper-cold limpet in northern latitudes, the prospect of balmy breezes and warm seas in the tenth annual RORC Caribbean 600 in late February seemed like the perfect prospect for escape and sport writes W M Nixon. After all, Irish sailors look on it with a certain proprietorial pride, with Adrian Lee’s Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners (Royal St George YC) winning the inaugural race overall in 2009.

Sea, sun, scenery and sailing – you have all that guaranteed for starters, even if only to enjoy it vicariously in following the event on many information streams. But then, as the start time approached at 11am local time Antigua on Monday 19th February, the growing entry list indicated an increasingly high quality lineup, with many powerful big boats and a swathe of professional crew.

Yet even if names of legendary fame and achievement were going to be competing, these was still a place for club entries with the necessary amateur experience to send forth crews, either on members’ own boats, or on judiciously-selected charter boats.

The “judicious selection” came in finding boats suitable for a rather specialised cat’s cradle of a course which can include a lot of power reaching, and takes in 11 island in order to have topped the 600-mile mark when the fleet finally returns to the finish line off the southern headlands of Antigua.

rorc caribbean 600 course2The RORC Caribbean 600 – the start and finish is at the south end of Antigua

With every sign that this year’s staging of the race would experience the northeast tradewinds in stonking form, we were encouraged a week ago to predict that George David’s mighty Rambler 88 might repeat her dramatic showing of line honours and a new mono-hull record, just as she did in the Volvo Round Ireland race of 2016.

Well, Rambler 88 did that, and she did it well, knocking more than two hours off the record her predecessor Rambler 100 set in 2011. But then as the rest of the fleet battled the course, it became increasingly likely that the big silver bullet could repeat her astonishing Irish success of the treble – line honours, course record (one day 13 hours and 41 minutes in the case of the Caribbean 600), and IRC overall win.

Several of Rambler 88’s challengers seemed within an ace of it, but the final 35 miles beat from Redonda back to the race’s focal point at the south end of Antigua saw them fail one after another to make the target, until by Wednesday only American Ron O’Hanley’s keenly-campaigned Cookson 50 Privateer – with Kinsale’s Ben Fusco as mastman - was in with a realistic chance, but that also faded on the final windward slugfest.

rambler 88 winning3Trebles all round! Rambler 88 on her way to matching her Round Ireland triple success

It means that overall the Americans have dominated the podium for the top results even if Kinsale has a share of it, with Rambler a clear first, Privateer second, and the Volvo 70 Warrior (Steve & Stephen Murray Snr & Jnr) third. So why then is there a considerable element of RORC Caribbean 600 celebration this weekend on a certain peninsula on Ireland’s East Coast?

Well, the slightest delving into the more detailed class results shows that between them, the National YC in Dun Laoghaire, and Howth Yacht Club on the eastern peninsula, can come up with 1,2,3 in class places, and in an event of the calibre of the RORC Caribbean 600, those are placings which are very special indeed.

The third place (it was in Class 1) came from Irish-American Kevin McLaughlin’s J/44 Spice, skippered by his son Sean with former Irish college sailing stars Will Byrne and Chris Raymond of the National YC in a key role in the crew.

As for the second place, it was also in Class 1 and went to the interesting Marc Lombard designed IRC 46 Pata Negra, chartered by Michael Wright of Howth under the guidance of Kieran Jameson, and crewed by an almost entirely Howth YC team.

pata negra4Marc Lombard’s interesting and stylish design for Pata Negra. There wasn’t a spinnaker left intact when she finished, but she still took a good second in Class 1

And the first place was a peach. It was in Class 3, and went to Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 36 Bam! HYC, which filled the same position in the 2016 race, but has since been away on other business such as winning the east-west Single-Handed Transatlantic Race of 2017. Yet although she was the second-smallest boat in the race, the potent Bam! was by no means the lowest-rated, so she had to work for her placing in conditions which tested everyone.

For it has been something of a Demolition Derby. Of 74 monohull starters, only 40 finished. And while the ten multi-hulls recorded a better finish rate, one of their exits was the most dramatic of all – a capsize by the catamaran Fujin, fortunately without any serious outcome other than one inverted multi-hull, with her crew safely on top, near the island of Saba.

fujin capsizer5She looks better right way up – the catamaran Fujin exited the RORC Caribbbean 600 in spectacular capsize style

While the possibility of such things was always present, the traditional pre-race festivities were special for the Howth contingent, as their own ex-Pat superstar Gordon Maguire arrived in from Australia to race aboard George Sakellaris’s much-fancied Maxi 72 Proteus. That the pre-race betting on Proteus was well-founded seemed justified after the first nine hours, as she narrowly had the overall lead on corrected time coming into the turn at Saba. But then an equipment failure led to her rapid retirement, and that was one favourite down, and others to follow.

michael and gordon6Local boys made good. Michael Wright and Gordon Maguire in Antigua before the start of the RORC Caribbean 600

Last year’s overall winning navigator, Ian Moore, was aboard the German-owned Elliott 52 Outsider, a canting keel entry which certainly looked the part. But as an outsider bet she would have been a disastrous investment, as nothing seemed to be going right from the start, and she retired at the north end of the course.

By that stage, the retirals were coming thick and fast as sails and gear – and maybe crews too - failed the test. But the key Irish boats were hanging in, even if the crew on Pata Negra were going through spinnakers at such an alarming rate that by race’s end they didn’t have a single spinnaker left in the locker.

But the preponderance of miles of power reaching, and the presence of some beats which provided opportunities for sound tactical choices, enabled Pata Negra to offset her lack of downwind sails. In the two final beats – one along the much indented south coast of Guadeloupe, and the other from Redonda to the Antigua finish – it was a pleasure to watch how navigator Colm Birmingham was calling it spot on, reading the shifts to perfection and skillfully using any bit of lee in the shelter of headlands to enable Pata Negra to gain an extra fraction of speed and out-perform much larger boats around her.

pata negra crew7Pata Negra’s crew start the celebrations on their return to Antigua

kieran and sail8Once upon a time, this was a sail – Kieran Jameson with a battle memento from Pata Negra

Heaven only knows how many peninsula people were following the tracker on Thursday afternoon as Pata Negra got within ten miles of the finish, with the mid-day wind at Antigua really getting up a head of steam. And then, with 9 miles to go, her speed was shown as down at 4.3 knots, her heading straight towards the harbour…. Was she disabled and motoring?..... A great collective sigh of relief as the next position showed her back up towards 8 knots and better, fairly thrashing along to the finish and that second place, achieved despite the spinnaker eliminations.

It was all part of a choreographed and slightly emotional series of happenings put together by Brian Turvey, starting with a send-off party for the two crews in Howth YC. That had to be held on February 2nd as the Volvo/Irish Sailing/Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” and “Sailor of the Year” awards were to be held in the RDS the following weekend, Friday February 9th, and after that there was an HYC Achievers Celebration hosted by Commodore Joe McPeake on Saturday 10th February, following which it was Antigua all the way.

kieran and conor9The choreography gets under way. Kieran Jameson and Conor Fogerty at the Caribbean 600 Goodwill Party in Howth YC on February 2nd. Within a week, Conor Fogerty was to become “Sailor of the Year 2017”, and within three weeks they’d recorded a second and first in class in the RORC Caribbean 600. Photo Brian Turvey

But by the time that Achievers Party came around, Conor Fogerty had become “Sailor of the Year” the night before, so he was doubly feted in his home club, and gave a moving little speech in which he frankly admitted that when he bought the boat new in 2015, he hadn’t a clue how to make her go well, but it was the encouragement of fellow Howth members which helped him up from being an also-ran to a winner.

Such thoughts were much in everyone’s mind through Thursday night as Bam! battled up that final beat to the finish, for another of the crews at that early-February party in Howth had been the combined National YC/Malahide YC team of Bernard McGranahan and Dermot Cronin, who were going to off to Antigua to race the J/122 Noisy Oyster, but they’d had to pull out with just 115 miles to sail, a really bad moment for Team Ireland.

But the Bam! supporters concerned about that final beat were heartened by some thoughts voiced in Conor Fogerty’s video from his OSTAR win:

“There you are, out in the ocean in the night in this light little boat in a gale, climbing up the side of a big sea that seems to go on up for ever in the darkness, and then you shoot out the top and become airborne for what seems a lifetime, and you’ve time to think that there’s no way this little plastic thing is going to survive hitting that very hard bit of water way down in the bottom of the trough, and then comes the crash which surely nothing can survive….but she does, she does survive without splitting open. And then she picks herself up, and just sails on, climbing the next mini-mountain that you know is right there in the dark”.

bam redonda10Bam! and Liquid with a serious turning mark, the steep and deserted rock of Redonda. Photo RORC/Tim Wright

bam in sunshine11Nearly there. Bam! at Redonda, with just 35 miles to go – but it’s going to be a dead beat. Photo RORC/Tim Wright

Set against that, the Redonda to Antigua beat was a walk in the park. But Bam! fans fretted until their boat was safely home around 4.30 am our time yesterday morning, and then it was time to relax and savour the moment. As for the Howth crews who have done the job and given their club such credit, aboard Pata Negra they were: Michael Wright, Kieran Jameson, Darren Wright, Colm Bermingham, Johnny White, Karena Knaggs, Sam O’Byrne, Ronan Galligan, Emmet Sheridan and Richard Cullen.

Aboard Bam!, in addition to skipper Conor Fogerty there was Simon Knowles and Anthony Doyle from the 2016 win, and the other three were Rob Slater, Robert Rendell and Damian Cody.

Here it is, still February, and they’ve had a season’s sailing and success already. It certainly blows away those winter blues.

bam final beat12They’re absolutely knackered, but there’s still work to be done – the reefed Bam settles down for the final beat to Antigua. Photo: RORC/Tim Wrigh

Bam crewThe Bam! crew roll out the banner dockside in Antigua....

Published in W M Nixon

There are sailors from the National YC in Dun Laoghaire, and sailors from Howth, and they’re on the other side of the Atlantic to race against boats from many nations on a 600-mile course writes W M Nixon And yet right now they’re battling closely against each other, both within classes, and in clawing their way up the overall table.

The Michael Wright-chartered IRC 46 Pata Negra (HYC) currently lies 13th overall, and third in Class 1. The Kevin McLaughlin-owned J/44 Spice (he’s Irish-American, but his crew includes the NYC’s Will Byrne and Chris Raymond) is 16th overall, and fourth in Class 1. And between them is Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam! (HYC) in 15th overall, and leading Class 3.

It could all be happening at home. And racing the RORC Caribbean 600 is an experience similar in at least one way to the Volvo Round Ireland Race. In both latitudes, you’re on the lee side of the Atlantic when the prevailing winds are blowing. And the famed nor’east tradewinds are blowing big time right now in the Caribbean, with all the fetch of the wide Atlantic fully behind them.

rambler today1Making knots. Rambler today, making her pitch for the treble in the RORC Caribbean 600

So although the temperatures are so absurdly warm that it feels like you’re stepping into an oven when you get off the plane in Antigua, there’s still a west of Ireland power to those big blue breaking seas that you’ll meet as you sail the more exposed parts of this unique course, taking in eleven islands. And with 14 boats now retired from the original count of 74 mono-hulls, the sea is taking its toll on boats and crew.

Yet if everything holds together, the sailing is magic on the knife edge between speed and crippling damage. Designing and building a top offshore racer is a finely-judged choice between weight-saving and weakness. But when it comes to it, it’s amazing what modern boats can withstand.

As Conor Fogerty said after winning the Gipsy Moth Trophy with his Sunfast 3600 Bam! in last year’s OSTAR: “There you are, out in the ocean in the night in this light little boat in a gale, climbing up the side of a big sea that seems to go on up for ever in the darkness, and then you shoot out the top and become airborne for what seems a lifetime, and you’ve time to think that there’s no way this little plastic thing is going to survive hitting that very hard bit of water way down in the bottom of the trough, and then comes the crash which surely nothing can survive….but she does, she does survive without splitting open. And then she picks herself up, and just sails on, climbing the next mini-mountain that you know is right there in the dark”.

The fact that Bam! came through such conditions in the cold part of the Atlantic goes some way to explain how Fogerty is driving his boat – one of the smallest in the fleet – round the Caribbean 600 course with such flat-out style that he and his Howth crew currently lead Class 3 by two hours. And in a big boat race, the sheer chutzpah of the Fogerty style is putting his mark on the event, though as he still has 380 miles to race, that balancing act between successful speed and bailout breakdown has a long way to go yet.

cookson50 privateer2Ron O’Hanley’s Cookson 50 Privateer currently leads IRC

Meanwhile, at the head of the fleet George David’s mighty Rambler 88 continues her awesome progress, 115 miles still to race, but within sight of repeating his Volvo Round Ireland treble of mono-hull line honours, a new course record, and most treasured of all – the overall IRC win.

But there’s strong competition. In a big boat race, any boat that sails as though she’s bigger than she actually is must be right in there with a shout. And no boat fills this role better than the perpetually successful Cookson 50. Adrian Lee’s Cookson Lee Overlay Partners may be out of the race, but American Ron O’Hanley’s sister-ship Privateer is going indecently well, and at one stage today she was first in everything except that line honours slot so tightly held by Rambler 88, and she still lies first overall on IRC to Rambler’s second.

Race tracker here

Published in RORC

Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam! is currently showing best of the Irish still racing in the RORC Caribbbean 600 after this afternoon’s start off Antigua writes W M Nixon. The new “Sailor of the Year” is leading in Class 3 and 19th overall while reaching fast in a northwesterly direction in the fresh easterly wind towards the first mark at Barbuda.

The phrase “still racing” is of some relevance to the Irish contingent, as Adrian Lee’s Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners returned to port without crossing the starting line, while the Maxi CQS, with Cork’s David Kenefick in a key role, also appears to have turned and headed back to port.

RORC Caribbean 600 2On record pace, George David's American Maxi Rambler 88 and the IRC Zero & Superyacht fleet at the start of the RORC Caribbean 600 off Fort Charlotte in Antigua today Photo: RORC/Tim Wright

The initial beat along Antigua’s southeast coast saw quite an element of sorting-out in the fleet. And as beating is not the strongest suit for the IRC 46 Pata Negra chartered by Michael Wright of Howth, initially she was showing as well down the fleet. But now with sheets freed, the Marc Lombard design is starting to make much better knots, and is lying 4th in IRC 1.

At the head of the fleet, as expected George David’s Rambler 88 is leading the mono-hulls on the water. But she still has some work to do to get up to a performance which will match his record-making race in 2011 with Rambler 100, the boat which - in August of the same year - was to part company with her keel at the Fastnet Rock.

Race tracker: here

Published in RORC

The Afloat.ie sailor of the year Conor Fogerty is among Irish crews in a record entry of 88 yachts has entered the tenth edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 which has grown both in stature and entries since the race was first contested in 2009. Read Afloat.ie's Irish race preview by WM Nixon here

For the 10th anniversary, in excess of 800 sailors from six continents and over 22 nations, will compete in the thrilling race around 11 Caribbean islands. Winners from the Olympic Games, America's Cup, Volvo Ocean Race and multiple world champions have gathered in Antigua and will be competing alongside passionate corinthian sailors, both young and old.]

Ireland's newest sailor of the year, Howth's Conor Fogerty, in his Sunfast 3600 Bam!, returns to the West Indies with victory on his mind. He won his class in Antigua in 2016. In a recent interview with Afloat.ie, he has credited his sails for some of his success here

Start: Antigua, West Indies - Monday 19 February 2018 Course: 600nm non-stop around 11 Caribbean Islands

In its ten year history, American yachts have dominated the race, winning the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy on six occasions, setting both the current monohull and multihull records. For the 2018 race, 13 American teams will be competing including, George David's Rambler 88, George Sakellaris' Proteus, and Peter Aschenbrenner's Paradox. The trio are amongst the favourites for the top prizes. However there is strong competition from Australia, France, Great Britain, Germany and Ireland.

American Maxi Rambler 88 is back and skipper George David will be taking part in his sixth race. David has taken line honours on three occasions and with Rambler 100, won overall under IRC in 2011, setting the monohull race record (40 hours 20 minutes 2 seconds). Rambler 88 is the hot favourite to be the first monohull home this year and has world class crew in every department, including three time America's Cup winner, Brad Butterworth. Ludde Ingvall's Australian Maxi CQS will make its debut in the race after successfully taking line honours in the 2017 RORC Transatlantic Race. Philip Rann's British Maxi La Bête poses a threat to Rambler 88 and CQS. Race founder and long-standing RORC member John Burnie will be taking part in his ninth race on board La Bête.

George Sakellaris American Maxi 72 Proteus is one of the favourites for the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy, won by the yacht with the best time after IRC time correction. Should Proteus win, Sakellaris will lift the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy for an unprecedented third time. Proteus has an all-star cast, including Stu Bannatyne who is on leave from Dongfeng Race Team in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race. Bannatyne has competed in eight round the world races, winning on three occasions.

"It's the warmest of the classic 600 races so always an event to look forward to," commented Bannatyne. "The race has a lot of corners and waypoints so the whole team is usually far busier than the typical 600 mile race; especially navigators. It is a great race for crews because there are so many manoeuvres and sail changes required, good crew work really makes a difference and the guys don't mind being woken up or nudged on the rail for another change because it is always so warm."

IRC Zero is the largest class competing this year with 24 teams. The mighty superyachts, Danneskjold and Farfalla represent the two largest yachts in the race, both in excess of 100ft (30.48m) and equipped with racing systems, as well as luxury refinements below decks. Ron O'Hanley's American Privateer and Adrian Lee's Irish Lee Overlay Partners are both previous winners. Two new boats to the race will also be among the favourites; Eric De Turckheim's French Nivelt-Muratet 54 Teasing Machine and Jens Kellinghusen's Ker 56 Varuna. British Infiniti 46 Maverick, skippered by Quentin Stewart and Stefan Jentzsch's German Carkeek 47 Black Pearl, represent the two smallest yachts in the class, but both are capable of punching above their water line length.

A record number of multihulls will be racing this year, including 2013 class winner Paradox, skippered by Peter Aschenbrenner. Designed by Nigel Irens, the 63ft American trimaran hit a top speed of 38 knots in the 2013 race. "French Tech Caraîbos will be quick in big breeze," commented Paradox trimmer Jeff Mearing, referring to Giles Lamire's Multi50, which won class in the 2010 Route du Rhum. Both boats are capable of breaking the multihull race record (31 hours, 59 minutes, 04 seconds Lloyd Thornburg's MOD70 Phaedo3). Greg Slyngstad's Bieker 53 Fujin returns and includes Olympic gold medallist Johnathan McKee as part of the Seattle-based crew. Competing for the first time will be Jason Carroll's American Gunboat 62 Elvis, with Irish Volvo Ocean Race winner Justin Slattery on board. The smallest yacht in the race is the modified Seacart 30 Morticia, skippered by Shaun Carroll with an all-Australian crew.

The RORC Caribbean 600 is part of the Class40 2018 Championship and a record seven pocket rockets are competing this year from France, Germany, Sweden and the United States. The Class40 race record is 2 days 16 hours 26 minutes 29 seconds, set by Gonzalo Botin's Tales II in 2016. Catherine Pourre's Eärendil returns after a terrific battle in last year's race and 2016 runner-up, Mikael Ryking's Talanta from Sweden will also be amongst the Class40 fleet. Mathias Muller von Blumencron's German Class40 Red debuts after winning the RORC Transatlantic Race and Marc Lepesqueux's Class40 Sensation will be racing under IRC.

In IRC One, Olympian Per Arne Nilsen's Norwegian Swan 66 Enigma VIII is the largest yacht. Philippe Frantz's Nivelt-Muratet 43 Albator has a mixture of highly experienced veteran and young talented Figaro and Tour Voile sailors, all from France. German Swan 56 Latona will have three generations of the von Eicken family on board and representing the Norddeutscher Regatta Verein, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary. German Andrews 56 Broader View Hamburg, winner of IRC One for the 2017 RORC Transatlantic Race will be skippered by Georg Christiansen. The smallest yacht racing in IRC One will be last year's class winner, Antiguan RP37 Taz, skippered by Bernie Evan-Wong who has competed in every edition of the race. Giles Redpath's Lombard 46 Pata Negra was third in class in last year's race and has been chartered by a team from Dublin, with Oliver Heer as skipper.

In IRC Two, the largest yacht will be Oceanis 55 Julia, skippered by Louie Neocleous who is just 20 years old and sailing with his father Richard. Back year after year are several yachts owned by charter companies offering the golden opportunity to compete in the race. Performance Yacht Racing have three entries; Grand Soleil 43s Quokka 8, Jua Kali and Beneteau First 47.7 EH01. The three teams are expected to have a close battle within the class. Another charter boat duel will be between two First 40s. Susan Glenny's Olympia's Tigress will be sailed by Richard Preston, against Sailing Logic's Lancelot II, sailed by Trevor Drew. Pamala Baldwin's J/122 Liquid will be proudly flying the Antiguan flag, as will the Antigua Sailing Academy's First 40.7 Ortac, sailed by Amanda Mochrie.

The largest yacht racing in IRC Three will be the 50ft Bermudan Cutter Gemervescence owned by RORC Commodore Steven Anderson. Jonty and Vicki Layfield's Antiguan flagged Swan 48 Sleeper won the class last year and will be defending their title. Andrew Eddy also returns with Oyster 48 Gaia and a young crew including both his son and daughter. "My daughter is flying in from Kenya and my son has put together a group of his sailing friends, so I am going to be the grown-up on board," laughed Eddy. "Our goal is to finish before the prize giving on Friday as we did not manage last year, so we are hoping for good winds." RORC Transatlantic Race Class winner, Richard Palmer will once again be racing his British JPK 10.10 Jangada Two Handed. Richard has teamed up with his partner for the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race, Jeremy Waitt and Jangada is the smallest monohull racing this year.

The 10th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 starts on Monday 19th February from Fort Charlotte, outside Nelson's Dockyard. The first start is at 1100.

RACE MINISITE here 

FLEET TRACKER here 

PAST RESULTS: RORC CARIBBEAN 600 TROPHY - IRC OVERALL

(Best best corrected time under IRC)
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)

Published in RORC

The early finishers in the RORC Caribbean 600 have been captured on video, reviewing their races in both multihull and monohull classes.

Irish sailors finished first and fifth in this year's edition of the race that was decided yesterday. 

Organised by The Royal Ocean Racing Club in association with Antigua Yacht Club

The 80-boat fleet started in Antigua, West Indies on Monday, 20 February and sailed a non-stop Course of 600nm around 11 Caribbean Islands.


As dawn broke on Day 5 of the RORC Caribbean 600, crews who had finished the race were beginning to arrive back in Antigua. Every boat, regardless of where they were moored, was met by the RORC Caribbean 600 volunteers, armed with a celebration banner and cold beer. The restaurants and coffee shops around Falmouth Harbour were filling up with sailors, hungry for a square meal full of stories about their RORC Caribbean 600. 

Ph-orty
Class40 winner by just 33 minutes, Peter Harding's Ph-orty © RORC/Ted Martin

At Dawn on the fifth day, the leading Class40s were approaching the finish. Throughout the race, the battle in the class had been intense, with three yachts taking the lead at various points along the course. Peter Harding's Ph-orty was leading at Redonda, just ahead of Catherine Pourre's Eärendil and Halvard Mabire's Campagne de France was in third. All three yachts started the beat to finish with a chance of victory. However, Eärendil's main halyard broke as the team hardened up for the beat and they were forced to reef and re-hoist. Ph-orty extended on the beat to take the gun and the class win by just 33 minutes. With Eärendil under-powered, Campagne de France closed the gap and overtook them, just before the finish line, to snatch second place by just under two minutes.

 
In IRC One, Antigua's Bernie Evan Wong was tired but overjoyed to win the class racing his Antiguan RP37, Taz. Bernie has competed in all nine editions of the race and is proud to represent Antigua & Barbuda.

TAZ
An emotional win in IRC One for Antigua's Bernie Evan Wong and his crew on the RP37, Taz © RORC/Ted Martin
 
"Unbelievable, just amazing," smiled Bernie, full of emotion. "The team worked so hard, but was also a really happy bunch. I remember trying to take a rest but I couldn't sleep because there was so much laughter on the boat. We are the smallest boat in the race and to beat all of the big boats in our class is like a dream come true."
 
James Heald's British Swan 45, Nemesis, racing Two Handed with Ben Harris is the runner up in IRC Two, a monumental effort for the short-handed team. Giles Redpath's British Lombard 46, Pata Negra is third.
 
In IRC Two, Ed Fishwick's J/122 Redshift on El Ocaso is the winner.
 
Redshift on El Ocaso
Ed Fishwick's J/122 Redshift on El Ocaso secure overall win in IRC Two. Crew for the RORC Caribbean 600: Nick Cherry, Robert Hillier, James Holmes, Ed Males, Luke Patience, Alan Roberts, Nick Bubb and Tom Whicher © RORC
"We have competed in this race with classic trade wind conditions, but this year we had a massive variety in weather on the course from big breeze in squalls, to fickle light winds. The guys did a fantastic job and we all agreed that this was the best 600 we have ever done. The whole crew was sensational," commented skipper, Ed Fishwick.
 
"I couldn't have picked a better offshore race than the RORC Caribbean 600. It was a really cool experience, a great bunch of guys and my first offshore race," exclaimed Olympic 470 Silver medallist, Luke Patience.
 
"Day one we saw a water spout, hump back whales; it was all kicking off, just epic! It was wonderful steering a boat at night, sailing by feeling the flow underneath you. The watches just flew by, I really enjoyed the race and it was very inspiring. The difference between offshore and Olympic sailing is that this is relentless, you are at it day and night. Where the two are wildly different is that with offshore sailing you are not in control all the time, you have to give a good handover to the next watch. However both disciplines require that you never take your foot of the gas."
 
While Redshift on El Ocaso is the provisional winner for IRC Two, a battle is raging for the remaining podium places between three British yachts. Ross Applebey's Oyster 48, Scarlet Oyster is currently estimated to be in second place. Dominic Hurndall's British Grand Soleil 43, Jua Kali in third. Andy Middleton's First 47.7, EH01 is in fourth.
 
Hap Fauth's Maxi72, Bella Mente declared overall winner
2017 RORC Caribbean 600

Hap Fauth's American Maxi72, Bella Mente has been declared the overall winner of the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy. Whilst yachts are still racing, none of the fleet can beat Bella Mente's corrected time under IRC. This is the second time Bella Mente has won the race overall and was a sweet victory after retiring last year with keel problems.

Published in RORC

Afloat.ie “Sailor of the Month” for October 2016, ace navigator Ian Moore originally from Carrickfergus, is once again calling the shots aboard Hap Fauth’s Maxi 72 Bella Mente. And they’re leading the fleet in the RORC Caribbean 600 by nearly an hour on corrected time as the first 24 hours of racing draws to a close with many islands still to be rounded, and a myriad of wind changes to be negotiated writes W M Nixon.

2016 was Moore’s dream year, as among other achievements he piloted the RP 63 Lucky to a runaway win in the Transatlantic Race in July, and then he transferred to Bella Mente for Cowes Week in August and showed he was equally adept at working the inshore Solent conditions to take just about every major prize. Came October, and he guided the Cookson 50 Mascalzone Latino to the overall win in the Middle Sea Race.

Now he’s back at the screens aboard Bella Mente, and has clearly taken over where he left off, on top form. He would have been in there on Bella Mente’s start, which was a classic, calling for water right in under the cliffs as she forced the fleet - and particularly the 2016 winner Proteus – to allow her to tack onto port.

But this is one complex race, like sailing a course made from a bowl of spaghetti, so a lot of chips (if you’ll excuse a hyper-mixing of metaphors) have to fall the right way into the deep-fat fryer which is Caribbean racing, in order to stay ahead of a hungry fleet including the likes of George David’s Rambler 88.

Despite the sad sudden departure of Sean McCarter from the fray aboard the much-fancied Infiniti 46 Maverick after a crewman sustained a serious hand injury, Irish interest is strong throughout the fleet, and the one boat with an Irish sail number, Simon and Nancy DiPietro’s Kinsale YC-registered Briand 76 Lilla (a prize winner in past races), is tramping along in the top half of the fleet, well-placed for a boat which is really a cruiser-racer.

Lilla yachtLilla is flying the flag for Ireland, and doing mighty well for a boat with full cruising comfort.

Through the fleet we find such Irish luminaries as Tom McWilliam aboard Leopard, Gabrielle MacManus on Olympia’s Tigress, Wicklow’s David “Farmer” Ryan and WSC Commodorial spouse Jim Cummins on the First 40 Arthur Logic, Damian Foxall on Phaedo 3, Marcus Spillane on Bounty, Barry Hurley and James Murphy on Pata Negra, Maurice “Prof” O’Connell and Dwayne Lysaght on Louise, Timothy Goodbody, Aine Hanevy and Paul O’Donoghue on Danneskjold, Cian O’Carroll on Eleonara E, William Byrne and Chris Raymond on Spice, Mark Norman on Piccolo, Storme Delaney (I’m not making these names up) and Ciara Scott on Sunset, and James Carroll on Spice.

Between them all, we should have something to show for everyone’s efforts in a race which at its inauguration in 2009 was won overall by Adrian Lee’s Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners of the Royal St George YC. This is a boat which in a previous incarnation was Ger O’Rourke’s Cheftain of the Royal Western of Ireland yacht Club, overall winner of the 2007 Fastnet. Our 2017 squad have a lot to live up to.

Published in RORC

Sean McCarter, the Derry Clipper World race sailor who is part of the Infniti 46 Maverick crew has retired from the RORC Caribbean 600 following an injury to a crewman this morning. 

A statement from the boat an hour ago said: "Maverick diverted to Nevis to drop Steve Taylor off at the hospital after suffering an injury to his right hand. As soon as the incident occurred the team retired from the race and made best speed to Nevis. Piers has gone with Steve to the hospital in Nevis. The rest of the team are safe and well. We are on a mooring outside of Charlestown Nevis and will clear customs tomorrow morning. Our thoughts are with Steve. His next of kin have been notified."

McCarter, who has his eye on a Vendee Globe 2020 campaign, was part of the British Maverick crew skippered by Oliver Cotterell.

The latest news from the race tracker is that Ireland's former Green Dragon VOR entry is second overall and while Round Ireland Multhull record holder Phaedo 3 is first multihull they are behind last year's record pace. 

An array of Irish sailors are on different boats at this week's event and are lead by County Kerry's Damian Foxall as they compete in the ninth edition of the regatta that  started in magnificent conditions with the largest ever offshore fleet assembled in the Caribbean enjoying sparkling conditions. A south–easterly breeze, occasionally gusting up to 15 knots and a relatively calm sea state provided conditions for the perfect start with some close battles on the water yesterday.

Unlike 2016, when two Irish boats were racing, namely; Conor Fogerty's BAM from Howth Yacht Club and the Royal St. George's Lee Overlay Partners Cookson 50 skippered by Adrian Lee this year the sole Kinsale cruiser, Lilla, bears Irish sail numbers.

Navigator Ian Moore originally from Carrickfergus, is once again calling the shots aboard Hap Fauth’s Maxi 72 Bella Mente. David Ryan and Jim Cummins of Wicklow Sailing Club are on UK yacht First 40 Arthur Logic. Maurice 'Prof' O'Connell from the Royal St. George YC is racing and Royal Irish Yacht Club member Storme Delaney, who completed the ARC Rally in December, is also in action. For more Irish sailors on the race please read our update here.

RORC Commodore, Michael Boyd of the Royal Irish Yacht Club in Dublin was hoping to compete on Giles Redpath's Pata Negra, but due to business commitments had to watch the start from ashore this year. "It was almost as nerve racking to be up at Fort Charlotte as on the water, and of course we are all hurlers from the ditch telling them to get closer to the cliffs. It was a fascinating start from an amazing and historic vantage point to see these wonderful boats take off. Everything went very smoothly, which is a great tribute to our professional race management team and our volunteers. This was quite an emotional moment for me and we will of course be wishing them all well for the next few days and a safe return."

The MOD70 battle for multihull line honours has already kicked off. Lloyd Thornburg's Phaedo3 pulled away (with Foxall onboard) from Giovanni Soldini's Maserati at the upwind start but as the two cracked sheets at Green Island, Maserati deployed their foil and took up the lead. Two hours into the race, the two flying trimarans were approaching the Barbuda mark touching 18 knots of boat speed.

George David's Rambler 88 got away to a terrific start and leads the monohull fleet on the water by almost three miles on approach to Barbuda. However, three hours into the race and after IRC time correction, George Sakellaris' Proteus is estimated to be leading overall with Hap Fauth's Bella Mente second and Rambler 88 third.

IRC Canting Keel and IRC Zero produced a thrilling start. Lionel Pean's French Volvo 70 SFS II came charging in on port, baring away behind the two Maxi72s to take a commanding position on the favoured left side of the course.

The Class40 Division are enjoying incredibly close racing. Peter Harding's Ph-orty leads, Catherine Pourre's Earendil and Halvard Mabire's Campagne de France are both within one mile. The pack of Class40s have the magnificent sight of the 182ft twin-masted schooner Adela ahead of them. Cressida Robinson reporting from Carl Wilcox's Nisida: "We have had everything from 15 knots gusting up to 30 and spotted a water spout on the way to Barbuda."

Published in RORC

Next month, more than 70 yachts are expected to take part in the RORC Caribbean 600, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's stunning race around 11 Caribbean islands. American yachts have had a winning streak in this classic offshore race, winning five out of eight editions of the 600-miler, starting and finishing in Antigua.

With 16 entries, the largest number of American boats ever seen on the race course will include several serious race teams with a chance of winning the overall trophy. Past winners from the U.S. on the start line on Monday 20th February will include the current holder of the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy from 2016, George Sakellaris, Proteus, Maxi 72 (USA) as well as some of the other American overall winners: 2015: Hap Fauth, Bella Mente, JV72 (USA); 2014: George Sakellaris, RP72, Shockwave (USA); 2013: Ron O'Hanley, Privateer, Cookson 50 (USA) and 2011: George David, Rambler 100, JK 100 (USA).

Favourites, for both line honours and the overall win are likely to come from the USA, even though British contenders lead the impressive list of entries in terms of number of boats from around the globe.

The fastest boat in the race is the American trimaran, the MOD70, Phaedo³ owned and skippered by Lloyd Thornburg who grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Phaedo³ set the multihull record last year, hurtling around the course at speeds in excess of 30 knots and topping out nearer 40, crossing the finish line in an elapsed time of 31 hours, 59 minutes, 04 seconds and breaking their previous race record. Team Phaedo is back to defend their title and will be taking a tilt at their own record once again.

15 Maxi yachts have already entered the RORC Caribbean 600, including American Maxi, Rambler 88 skippered by George David from New York. In 2011, George David's Rambler 100 scorched round the track in a time of 40 hours 20 minutes 02 seconds setting the monohull race record and winning the race overall. This year, George David's Rambler 88, although smaller than his previous Rambler 100, will be hoping for the right conditions to better the race record.

Two American owned boats, that on recent results must be regarded as joint favourites, are the highly tuned and professionally sailed Maxi 72's, Proteus and Bella Mente. George Sakellaris from Massachusetts, USA has won the race twice before and will hope to be the first team to retain the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy and win the race for a third time. He will however have to beat the highly competitive world-class team on Bella Mente, skippered by Hap Fauth from Long Island, New York. Bella Mente won the race overall in 2015, however, last year the Maxi72 had to retire after suffering a major failure to her keel.

Two-time Olympian and multiple World Champion, Mark Mendleblatt from Florida, USA has won the race as part of George Sakellaris' afterguard and will be racing on Proteus this year:

"I don't know why more American boats do not participate," commented Mark Mendleblatt. "From Florida you can easily deliver the boat there on its bottom. Logistically, the race starts and finishes in Antigua and the marina, facilities and accommodation are excellent and less expensive than back home. The RORC Caribbean 600 is a fantastic race with great breeze, a lot of tactical calls, manoeuvres and sail changes. The start line is something really special; racing past a dramatic coastline, with superyachts, schooners and top ocean racers. During the race there is no respite and we are sure to have a great battle with Bella Mente. Whoever pushes the hardest will probably win. I am happy to take any role on board, but when you are at the helm with world class trimmers and crew calling the breeze in fast reaching conditions, it is the kind of racing that we all dream about."

Over 900 sailors from 24 different countries are anticipated to take part in the 2017 RORC Caribbean 600.

RORC CARIBBEAN 600 TROPHY - IRC OVERALL WINNERS
2016 - George Sakellaris, Proteus Maxi 72 (USA)
2015 - Hap Fauth, Bella Mente, JV72 (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)

Published in RORC

The World Sailing Show March edition is out now and viewable below on Afloat.ie. The show provides a monthly view of the racing world.  From non-stop around the world racers, to Olympic campaigns; from seasoned professionals, to grass roots sailors, the joint initiative between TV producers Sunset+Vine and the sport’s governing body World Sailing covers a wide range of racing activity around the world.

The March show synopsis

The America’s Cup World Series kicks off in Oman
We find out what happened at the opening event of the season. We also talk to one of the Cup world’s leading technical experts on how teams are combining the need to do well in these intense two day regattas, while also developing the advanced machines that will take them to the America’s Cup itself next year.

Bumper fleet for Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Caribbean 600
Fast becoming one of the must do events in the offshore racing calendar the promise of warm, steady trade winds and spectacular scenery has led many to imagine that this 600 mile offshore race is a walk in the park in T-shirts and shorts. Is it? We find out what happened this year and discover why the event is becoming increasingly popular and take a look at some of the impressive machines that took part. We also join experienced charter yacht skipper Andy Schell as he provides a video blog of his team’s trip around the course.

World domination – The unstoppable Kiwi combination
New Zealand sailors Peter Burling and Blair Tuke continue their run of world domination in the Olympic 49er class after winning their fourth consecutive world title. We find out what makes them tick and how they have managed to; remain unbeaten for four years, win a Moth world championships and engage in an America’s Cup campaign and lead the racing here too.

Sail Arabia The Tour
Now in its sixth year, can anybody stop offshore rock star Sidney Gavignet from scoring a hat-trick in this inshore/offshore regatta? Several believed they could.

Published in World Sailing

Howth Yacht BAM skippered by Conor Fogerty has won Class 3 in RORC's Caribbbean 600 race after a tense battle over the last 24 hours where there were only minutes to spare against some international competition in the 600–mile race around 11 islands in the West Indies.

In a top set of results for the north Dublin Club, another Howth competitor, Southern Child, skippered by Kieran Jameson, finished third in IRC 2.

24 hours ago and with 87 miles still to sail, Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam was flying after some mid race set backs. The Dublin crew was level on the water with German Swan 44 Best Buddies, skippered by Susann Wrede with the HYC crew gaining the lead in IRC Class 3 yesterday afternnoon, and continuing to be second in CSA 2 signalling some fine silverware for the Irish. Bam took line honours in an elapsed time of 3 days 11 hours 1 mins 7 secs. Bam also won the class win after IRC time correction by just over six minutes. The team on Bam are all Irish, bar Welshman Roger Smith and all live in Dublin. Bam crew member, Simon Knowles has competed in five Round Ireland Races and one Fastnet: "Conor and all the team were over the moon; we have never sailed together as a crew before, so to come here and win our class is brilliant. As the smallest boat racing in IRC and an amateur team, we knew it was going to be tough and the most important thing was just to keep going. Best Buddies kept reeling us in on the upwind legs and we were faster downwind. At Redonda we had a six mile lead but we knew they would be eroding that. It was very tense at the finish, especially as there was confusion about the location of the finish line. From a navigational point of view this is the toughest race I have done, but the race course is fabulous and you are always thinking about the next move. We celebrated when we finished, but we still have something in the tank for tonight's prize giving."

The other Howth crew on Southern Child were 25th overall in IRC, taking a third in IRC 2.

Of all the Irish sailors involved, it is RORC Commodore Michael Boyd of the RIYC who finished best in fleet, finishing 11th overall on the Grand Soleil 48 Belladonna which he is navigating for Andy McIrvine. The British yacht had an excellent fourth in class one when they got back to Antigua.

Published in RORC
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