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Gordon Maguire out of Caribbean 600 after Nine Hours Battling for the Lead

20th February 2018
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The Maxi 72 Proteus – with Gordon Maguire aboard, she was leading IRC Corrected in the RORC Caribbean 600 when she had to retire with damage after nine hours of racing The Maxi 72 Proteus – with Gordon Maguire aboard, she was leading IRC Corrected in the RORC Caribbean 600 when she had to retire with damage after nine hours of racing

Ex-Pat Irish sailing superstar Gordon Maguire may have long since taken out Australian citizenship and built his hugely successful professional career mainly in Australia writes W M Nixon. But when his former clubmates from the strong Howth contingent met up with him in Antigua before the start of the RORC Caribbean 600 2018, and found that he was doing the race on George Sakellaris’s previous winner, the Maxi 72 Proteus, they promptly made him an honorary member of their team.

It was a selection which went brilliantly for the first nine hours of the race. Sydney-Hobart Race overall winner Maguire was on top form, with former Caribbean winner Proteus going like a rocket, and when they came to harden onto the wind at Saba at 20:00 hrs local time last night for the 30-mile slugfest to St Barthelemy, Proteus was leading IRC overall on corrected time.

michael and gordon2Michael Wright of Howth and Sydney-Hobart winner Gordon Maguire at the pre-Caribbean 600 reception in Antigua. Photo HYC

Alas, it was over within minutes, with serious equipment failure on Proteus which fortunately didn’t result in any injuries, but now they’re limping back to Antigua. Meanwhile, those who are left in a race whose destructive powers have seen many retirals, and the capisize of one of the multi-hulls, are enduring the inter-island upwind slugfests in order to better enjoy the mad offwind romps, and record speeds are becoming the norm.

George David’s Rambler 88 is now well into the mono-hull lead on the water, and has overtaken the pace set by the previous record-holder, his Rambler 100 of 2011. They’re into the southern part of the course, and doing 20 knots and better, but will soon have to take account of the wind shadow in the lee of Guadeloupe where many a Caribbean 600 campaign in times past has gone astray.

Of the Irish contingent, Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 3600 Bam! continues to put in an excellent showing, particularly considering that she’s one of the smallest boats in what is currently a big boat race. With the northeast wind showing its expected tendency to back slightly, Fogerty has very decidedly taken the left-hand option on the tough beat from Saba to St Barthelemy, and is continuing to hold his positions well, showing as second in IRC 3 and second in CSA 2.

bam before start3The sun doesn’t always shine in the Caribbean – Conor Fogerty’s Bam, one of the smallest boats in the race, in pre-start mode before the Caribbbean 600 2018. Photo HYC

Michael Wright’s IRC 46 Pata Negra, the other Howth boat, has taken a more conservative approach to the Saba-St Bart’s beat, and it doesn’t seem to have done them any harm at all. On the contrary, by holding towards the middle, this boat which is supposedly not at her best to windward is third in IRC 1 and is now closing up on St Bart’s on port tack.

In line astern of Pata Negra by seven miles is Irish-American Kevin McLaughlin’s J/44 Spice, aboard which Will Byrne and Chris Raymond of the National YC are crewing. At a stage of the race which suits good all-rounders like a J/44, they’re doing mighty well indeed – Spice lies second in IRC 1.

Another Irish interest, the Elliott 52 Outsider aboard which 2017 race winner Ian Moore is navigating, has been posing a problem for race followers, as her Position Tracker has only been working very intermittently. But at the moment she seems to be rounding the north end of Saint Martin and is shown as fourth overall in CSA, with the prospect in sight of freeing sheets for the quick dash south to Guadeloupe.

After less than a day of racing, the fleet is already exceptionally widely spread out along the course. Leading mono-hull Rambler 88 – currently leading overall on IRC Corrected as well – has 350 miles to the finish, and on current speeds could beat the course record by three hours.

Last of the IRC boats still racing, the Swan 48 Dantes, has 450 miles still to sail. If she finishes, by the time she gets there it will be the end of the week. This offshore racing – it’s a tough old sport.

Race tracker here

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