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A record fleet of 70 yachts will be competing in the eighth edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 starting from Antigua this morning. There's a sizeable Irish contingent racing and they are previewed here.

This year's race will see the most spectacular line-up of high performance boats racing anywhere in the world.

The crew list, say RORC, reads like the 'Who's Who' of elite international sailors with hundreds of round the world, Olympic and Volvo Ocean Race professionals rubbing shoulders with passionate corinthian sailors on the same 600 nmile race course around 11 Caribbean islands.


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For those reared in the simple certainties of the course in the offshore classics like the Rolex Fastnet Race and the even more clearly defined Volvo Round Ireland Race, the multi-island RORC Caribbean 600 which starts tomorrow (Monday) morning at Antigua is a strange beast writes W M Nixon.

Set against the straight-line austerity of other long-established classics such as the Newport-Bermuda and the Rolex Sydney-Hobart, its weaving course makes it seem almost fussy. But in a typical February in the Northern Hemisphere, people will happily race round as many islands as are required to make the magic 600 miles total. Just so long as it’s in those marvellous Caribbean sailing and climatic conditions which contrast so totally with what many other areas of the Northern Hemisphere are experiencing in this dank dark cold month.

RORC Caribbean 600 course
It’s a busy course – with so many islands to be ticked off, navigators could usefully employ the services of a continuity director…

Eleven islands are required to act as race marks in order to put sufficient mileage in the course. But with 77 boats – many of them noted superstars – tuned up and ready to go, it’s clear that the huge variety of legs both long and short which have to be sailed is no deterrent, and Irish interest is high both in terms of participation, and in the presence of international contenders expected for the Volvo Round Ireland Race in June.

Then too we’ve a certain proprietorial interest. The Caribbean 600 having been inaugurated as recently as 2009, it’s a modern classic. And the fact that on its first staging, it was won overall by Adrian Lee’s Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners from Dun Laoghaire, makes it extra special. For in her previous life as Ger O’Rourke’s Chieftain, the Lee ship had been overall winner in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2007, providing the rare if not unique situation that the same Irish boat won two classics in the space of just 18 months.

Six years later, the ever-green Cookson 50 is such a good all-rounder that she’s still very much in the hunt, and Lee Overlay Partners is in the listings for tomorrow’s start, the smallest boat in the six strong canting-keel division which includes such giants as Jim and Kristy Hinze Clark’s mega-powerful hundred footer Comanche.

We’ve interest throughout the race, as in addition to Lee Overlay Partners, the fleet includes two Howth Yacht Club crews. Howth sailors with the likes of Kieran Jameson on the strength have already got involved in past seasons in the Rolex Middle Sea Race with a Performance Yacht Charter’s First 40, and now with two of PWC’s boats of this proven marque on the other side of the Atlantic, there with PYC’s Lucy Johnson on Southern Child are Howth men raring to go Caribbean island-rounding. Much of the Howth team assembled by Darren Wright for the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race are re-joining the same boat, Southern Child, and their lineup incudes Kieran Jameson, Frank Dillon, Rick de Neve, Jonny White, Colm Bermingham, while new talent in the form of Michael Wright, recently-retired HYC Commodore Brian Turvey, and young Howth K25 squad member Luke Malcolm are also on the strength.

First 40 Southern Child
One of the two Howth crews will be racing the First 40 Southern Child, which they’ve already campaigned in the Rolex Middle Sea Race

Villa Touloulou

Howth Yacht Club Headquarters for the RORC 600: Villa Touloulou

Up against them to provide a spot of in-club competition is HYC’s Conor Fogerty who is doing an Atlantic circuit as a mix of racing and cruising with his new Sunfast 3600 Bam, a boat which might have been designed with RORC Caribbean 600 enjoyment in mind. Bam’s racing crew coming out from home include Simon Knowles, Daragh Heagney, Paddy Gregory, Roger Smith and Anthony Doyle. After Bam sister-ship Red Shift’s success in last year’s race, Conor Fogerty has great hopes for his stylish boats showing once tomorrow has seen the start – usually a very challenging business in itself – get cleanly away.

Conor Fogerty Sunfast 36 Bam
Conor Fogerty’s Sunfast 36 Bam from Howth is doing the RORC Caribbean 600 as part of an Atlantic odyysey

Ireland’s own RORC Commodore Michael Boyd of the RIYC, who won the Gull Salver for best-placed Irish boat in last year’s Fastnet Race with the Grand Soleil 43 Quokka 8, is helping to pass the time while waiting for delivery of his new JPK 10.80 by racing the Caribbean as navigator on Andy McIrvine’s Grand Soleil 46 Bella Donna.

As for pointers towards the Volvo Round Ireland Race in June, the two MOD 70 trimarans already signed up for it, Lloyd Thornburg’s Phaedo 3 and Concise 10 (Tony Lawson & Ned Collier Waefield) are both g0ing for the Caribbean 600.

Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD 70 Phaedo 3 is one of two sister-ships entered for the Volvo Round Ireland Race 2016 which are also doing the Caribbean 600, the other being Concise 10.

In fact it’s a very eclectic fleet, as Eric de Turckheim’s noted Commodore’s Cup contender of 2014, Teasing Machine from France, has somehow got herself to the Caribbean after being far away to cut a successful swathe through the recent Rolex Sydney-Hobart Race. And up towards the top of the fleet, the 72ft mini-maxi Momo, which was best of the bigger boats in last summer’s Fastnet, find herself up against Hap Fauth’s similarly-sized superstar Bella Mente, which had to scratch from the 2015 Fastnet Race for personal reasons after a blisteringly successful Cowes Week, but is now set to go in a race in which she is the defending champion.

Bella Mente
Back to the fray. Having been forced to scratch from the Rolex Fastnet 2015 in which she was a favourite, Hap Fauth’s 72ft mini-maxi Bella Mente is very much in the hunt in tomorrow morning’s RORC Caribbean 600, in which she is defending champion.

The 72ft mini-maxis seem to be the favoured size of boat o the most recent peformances, as Nik Zennstrom’s Ran won in 2012, George Sakellaris’s Shockwave won in 2014, and Bella Mente won in 2015. But the evergreen Cookson 50 is a good steady bet, with Lee Overlay Partners; win in 2009, and Ron O’Hanley’s with Privateer in 2013.

The RORC Caribbean 600 starting process gets under way at 1030hrs local time tomorrow morning off Antigua, and there are going to be 77 very busy crews having more than a few dry-mouth moments before they get clear away around this island’s beautiful east coast.

Published in RORC

The challenge of a tough and competitive offshore race in the warm and idyllic racing conditions of the Caribbean has been taken up by two teams from Howth Yacht Club that will travel to Antigua to take part in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's 'Caribbean 600'. The 2016 race will see 66 entries start this 600-mile long offshore on the 22nd February which, due to the strong 20 knot trade winds and challenging navigation around 11 islands, is quickly becoming a classic in the RORC's calendar.

Darren Wright has put together an experienced offshore team that has chartered the First 40 Southern Child for the race. The team is made up of HYC members that raced the same boat in the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race, including Kieran Jameson, Frank Dillon, Rick De Neve, Jonny White, Colm Bermingham as well as owner Lucy Reynolds. Darren has added further strength to this campaign with the inclusion of his brother Michael along with Howth K25 Squad member Luke Malcolm and HYC's former-Commodore Brian Turvey.

One of three First 40s entered in this 600-mile offshore race, Southern Child is likely to be competing in the competitive and closely-matched IRC 2 division, while Howth's other entry, Conor Fogarty's SunFast 3600 Bam is likely to compete in the IRC 3 division and will be one of the smallest boats racing amongst the 66-boat fleet. An eclectic team of experienced offshoreracers will join Conor, including Simon Knowles, Daragh Heagney, Paddy Gregory, Roger Smith and Anthony Doyle. Conor told us "'We would hope to follow on from the success that Red Shift (another Sunfast 3600) had last year and it would be great to win in IRC 3. There is another 3600 in our class One and Only, but she trailed us by nearly 2 days in the ARC, so we will have to wait and see if she's up to speed yet."

Bam is then off to the Gill Commodore's Cup and Heineken Regatta in St.Maarten, more of a 'leisurely' event for Conor and the team, as they don't expect their CSA rating to be great. (CSA is the Caribbean Racing Association's version of ECHO, so Bam's introduction to the fleet will mean that she's likely to carry an initial hefty rating.) Bam will be sailed back 2,200nm to the Azores by Conor (single handed) in preparation for the inaugural Solo Fastnet in July, where he will compete with seven other 3600's all sailing single-handed in this event for the first time. The boat is also entered into the 2-handed Volvo Round Ireland and the 2-handed ISORA season - it's going to be a busy year for Conor!

The Caribbean 600 continues to grow in prestige and has become a real jewel in the RORC's racing calendar. The Howth teams will also be jostling for overall IRC honours with the world’s best, as this year's Caribbean 600 has attracted an astounding array of the fastest and most competitive offshore racing yachts on the planet. Shipping straight to the Caribbean from the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race will be Comanche, Jim & Kristy Hinze Clark's American 100ft Supermaxi, which rightly claims to be the fastest monohull in the world for her 24-hour record run (2015 Transatlantic Race, 618.01 nm, averaging 25.75 knots).

Comanche races with as many as 29 crew, led by Kenny Read, who was on board George David's Rambler 100 to set the RORC Caribbean 600 course record in 2011 (40 hours 20 mins 02 secs). Given the right conditions, Comanche is very capable of breaking Rambler 100's record. Joining Comanche in IRC ‘canting keel division’, will be Ireland's third entry in the star studded 66 boat fleet - Adrian Lee's Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners. Adrian and his team are no slouches when it comes to offshore racing in warm waters, having broken the monohull speed record in the Dubai to Muscat Race in 2013 and also won the inaugural Caribbean 600 in 2009.

Other boats in that class include Bouwe Bekking's Dutch Volvo Ocean 65 Team Brunel and the magnificent Andrews 80 Donnybrook. This will be the first occasion that a Volvo Ocean One Design has taken part in the RORC Caribbean 600 and although undoubtedly slower than Comanche reaching in big breeze, Team Brunel does have the advantage of being highly manageable around the myriad of corners of the 11 islands on this course. The German canting keel Ker 56 Varuna VI has been shipped to the Caribbean to take part, making up a formidable trio of early entries for the IRC canting keel class and more yachts are expected to follow.

In 2015, the 70 foot trimaran Phaedo3 set the RORC Caribbean 600 multihull record in 33 hours, 35 minutes and 30 seconds and is back again following its completion of the RORC Transatlantic Race in November.

Phaedo3 will have hot competition for multihull ‘line honours’ with the MOD 70 Concise 10 and also the Nigel Irens 63 Paradox, which might struggle to keep up with the larger, lighter rivals, but Paradox has beaten both yachts under the MOCRA rating rule for the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Rolex Middle Sea Race.

This event will be the first 4-boat ‘offshore-showdown’ in the history of the Maxi 72 Class. Bella Mente lifted the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy in 2015, having scored the best corrected time under IRC. Bella Mente will be joined by Jethou, Momo and Proteus. All four yachts are capable of blistering pace in trade wind conditions and a high speed match race will make for thrilling racing. Joining the four Maxi 72s will be more hot competition from Irving Laidlaw's Rolex Maxi Yacht Cup champion Highland Fling XI which has the waterline length and a planing hull, capable of taking on the Maxi 72s. Overall winner of the 2015 Transatlantic Race, the RP63 Lucky will revel in the fast conditions. TP52 Sorcha and Piet Vroon's Ker 51 Tonnerre 4 had an epic battle last time out and both will be back this year. Sorcha won last year's 600-mile match race with Tonnerre 4 and placed second overall.

The RORC Caribbean 600 has always attracted the majestic classic yachts that frequent the Caribbean and this year includes the the Alfred Mylne designed 65ft sloop, the Blue Peter which was built in England in 1930 and called the Blue Peter for luck, after the 'P' flag, which all Howth racing sailors will know is used as the preparatory signal before starting a race.

Following the release of the final list of entries, RORC Chief Executive Eddie Warden commented “The impressive number of high performance yachts is a superb endorsement for the RORC Caribbean 600. No offshore race in the world commands such a level of competition as we are seeing entered for the 2016 race. The unique 600 mile race course circumnavigates 11 islands, with guaranteed trade winds and creates spectacular sailing conditions and that is the big attraction."

RORC Commodore Michael Boyd will also be taking part in what will be his fifth race, navigating for RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine on his Grand Soleil 46 Bella Donna. Micheal said of the race: “The RORC Caribbean 600 has beautiful weather and spectacular nature; whales and turtles are often sighted. At night conditions are warm with impressive meteor showers lighting up the sky. All of these elements make this a very special race. Everyone that takes part has their story from the race. Sailors come from all over the world with aspirations of winning their class, but win or lose, over the past seven editions of the race the competitors have told the RORC what a memorable experience it has been. I am sure those feelings will continue.”

The race starts and begins in Antigua and competitors expect fresh (but warm!) 15-22 knot easterly trades and big seas for the duration.

Published in RORC

#caribbean600 – 66 yachts started the 7th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 yesterday, with hundreds of race fans watching the impressive fleet from Fort Charlotte and Shirley Heights. Irish crews are racing in several boats across the fleet, details of some are here. After a classic start in 15 knots of easterly trade winds, the fleet powered past the Pillars of Hercules, heading for Green Island where they will bear away and accelerate towards Barbuda, the only mark of the 600-mile course around 11 stunning Caribbean islands.

Lloyd Thornburg's MOD 70 Phaedo3, with Michel Desjoyeaux and Brian Thompson on board, had a conservative start with Petro Jonker's cruising catamaran, Quality Time crossing the line first. Phaedo3 lit the blue touch paper at Green Island, blasting through the surf at well over 30 knots. The lime-green machine reached Barbuda in less than two hours, well ahead of record pace and eight miles ahead of Peter Aschenbrenner's Irens 63, Paradox.

In the second start, 19 yachts in IRC Two and Three started the 600-mile race. For most of the crews racing in the smaller yachts it will be three or four days before they complete the challenge. Ed Fishwick's Sunfast 3600, Redshift, skippered by Nick Cherry, got a great start at the pin-end with Ross Applebey's Oyster 48, Scarlet Oyster, judging the inner distance mark to perfection. Andy Middleton's First 47.7, EH01 and Scarlet Oyster were the first yachts in IRC Two to reach Green Island and it is likely that these two will be neck-and-neck for the duration of the race. In IRC Three, Peter Scholfield's HOD 35, Zarafa was leading on the water at Green Island. However the Two Handed team racing Louis-Marie Dussere's JPK 10.10, Raging Bee was the leader in class after time correction.

Jonathan Bamberger's Canadian J/145, Spitfire and Joseph Robillard's S&S 68, Black Watch got the best start in the 15 strong fleet racing in IRC One. However, Jose Diego-Arozamena's Farr 72, Maximizer, revelled in the upwind start to lead on the water at Green Island. Oyster 625, Lady Mariposa, sailed by Daniel Hardy had a great leg to Green Island as did James Blakemore's Swan 53, Music which was leading after time correction.

The penultimate start featured 21 yachts racing in IRC Zero and Canting Keel, arguably the best fleet of offshore sailing yachts that has ever been seen in the Caribbean. A highly competitive start saw Piet Vroon's Ker 51, Tonnerre 4, win the pin, while Ron O'Hanley's Cookson 50, Privateer took the island shore route to perfection. Farr 100, Leopard sailed by Christopher Bake, also had a great start, controlling the boats to leeward heading for the Pillars of Hercules.

Hap Fauth's Maxi 72, Bella Mente had a sensational first leg of the race, rounding Green Island first out of the IRC Zero class, but all eyes were on George David's Rambler 88, as the powerful sled turned on the after burners. George David's new speed-machine could well break his own monohull course record; at Barbuda Rambler 88 was almost five miles ahead of the ghost track of the record set by Rambler 100.

Two of the world's most magnificent schooners were the last class to start. Athos and Adela started their match race in the pre-start and there is no doubt that the battle of the titans will continue throughout the race. Athos won the pre-start in some style, chasing Adela downwind and away from the line, before rounding up onto the breeze and crossing the line over a boat length ahead of her rival. However, Adela was far better suited to the beat up to Green Island and led as the two schooners continued their rivalry towards Barbuda.

Note: Liquid, Pamala C Baldwin's J/122 and Quality Time, Petro Jonker's Du Toit 51 catamaran retired at the start following boat damage. All of the crew are well.

Published in RORC

#rorc – The 7th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 is looking like a real cracker and proving irresistible to a variety of yacht racing teams from all over the world. An international fleet of over 50 yachts has now entered the offshore blast around the Caribbean, indicating that last year's record entry of 60 yachts may be bettered. Yachts flying the flags of 13 different countries will be competing in this year's race: Antigua, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Russia, Spain, and the United States of America.

The Caribbean is, without doubt, one of yacht racing's most exhilarating playgrounds with the warm trade winds and Caribbean swell providing superb sailing conditions. The RORC Caribbean 600 course, starting and finishing in Antigua, is designed to provide a challenging, high speed racetrack and its popularity has grown, year on year, since the first event in 2009.

Five battle for Line Honours

George David's Rambler 100 set the monohull course record in 2011, scorching around the track in 40 hours, 20 minutes and 2 seconds but this year's line-up is likely to be the most competitive for line honours so far. George David's brand new 88 ft Rambler will make its 600 debut with an all-star crew containing many of Rambler's old guard plus some new, world class, sailors including multiple America's Cup winner, Brad Butterworth and Volvo Ocean Race winners, Stu Bannatyne and Brad Jackson. Also in contention for line honours is Australian yachting legend Syd Fischer racing Ragamuffin 100, which is being shipped to Antigua from Australia, and Mike Slade's British 100ft Maxi Leopard, which took monohull line honours in the first edition of the race, makes a welcome return, and two Volvo 70s will also be vying to be the first yacht to complete the course, Giovani Soldini's Italian Maserati and Andrew Budgen and Fred Schwyn's British Monster Project.

Rambler's Project Manager, Mick Harvey, was full of excitement about the race: "George David has always been a strong supporter of this race because it is such a fantastic course with great conditions, but also because George David, like me and other crew, are members of the RORC and we just love to take part in this race. This will also be the first race of the Atlantic Ocean Racing Series, which is our priority for our first season. The boat is going well. As always there are a few adjustments, but all things considered, we are very happy with the new Rambler and looking forward to Antigua. This year there is a lot of good competition for us but we will concentrate on our own game, as that is all we can influence until the race start."

Hot Prospects for the RORC Caribbean 600 IRC Overall

Ron O'Hanley's Cookson 50, Privateer, was the overall winner under IRC in 2013 and the American team is back for their fifth race. Hap Fauth's American JV72, Bella Mente, has won her class before but will be setting their sights on the overall victory that has eluded the American Maxi 72, which has been second overall for the last two editions. American Reichel Pugh 63 Lucky, sailed by Bryon Ehrhart, will be making its debut in the RORC Caribbean 600, as will British TP52, Sorcha, sailed by Campbell Field. The all carbon German flyer Carkeek 47, Black Pearl, sailed by Stefan Jentzsch, will also be making its RORC Caribbean 600 debut.

Dutch grandmaster Piet Vroon is no stranger to the RORC Caribbean 600, having won IRC One on two previous occasions but the 2015 RORC Caribbean 600 will be the first offshore race for Piet on board Ker 51, Tonnerre 4.

"It is very exciting to be racing Tonnerre 4 for the first time and against different adversaries and it will probably be harder for us," commented Piet Vroon. "Tonnerre 4 will be much the same crew as we have had in recent years and I am looking forward to racing with them. I like offshore sailing and the RORC Caribbean 600 is a prime example. The route is very varied and no part of it is straight forward, with plenty of local weather effects which must also be considered during the race and the route is an interesting one, as we race around 11 islands. From a tactical and navigational point of view, this is very demanding. If you could import the same weather conditions for this year's Fastnet that would be great!"

Racing Schooners – Adela and Athos

Adela and Athos are spectacular and graceful from the days of old but are designed with innovative features and technology that exponentially enhances their speed and power to an incredible level.

The 203ft Schooner Athos and the 182ft Schooner Adela will be taking part in their third encounter in the RORC Caribbean 600. Adela has won the Spirit of Tradition and Superyacht Classes for the last three years, but Athos provided exhilarating competition last year, finishing less than 39 minutes behind, after two and a half days at sea. Adela's helmsman Stan Pearson, who was the co-founder of the RORC Caribbean 600, believes this year's battle between Adela and Athos will be even closer.

"In the last two races, Adela has sailed the best she could and didn't leave much on the track and this year I think it will be a right old ding dong," commented Stan. "Adela is now as good as she can be and the crew work on board is fantastic, so there is not much Adela can do to improve. Athos improved enormously last year and I expect her to be even better this year. Athos is longer than Adela and assuming a regular easterly, the course has 65% on eased sheets, which should be to Athos' advantage, the course is absolutely suited for big boats such as ketches and schooners."

Corinthian Battles

Of the 10 yachts currently competing in IRC One, the cosmopolitan entry list come from six different countries. On paper, two highly diverse American yachts should be the fastest around the course: New York's Jose Diego-Arozamena has been the proud owner of Farr 73, Maximizer, for over 20 years, racing in the Mediterranean, the East Coast of the USA and the Caribbean. Maximizer should be well matched with William Coates' Ker 43, Otra Vez, from Houston Texas, which has a proven track record, winning several prominent Caribbean inshore regattas.

In IRC Two Global Yacht Racing's First 47.7, EH01, will be taking part in the race for the sixth time. EH01 Skipper, Andy Middleton believes that the class favourite will be his good friend Ross Applebey, skipper of Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster, which has won the class on two previous occasions.

"I sailed with Ross on Scarlet Oyster for the Rolex Middle Sea Race and we ended up without a rudder, lashed to a fishing boat in a full blown gale. In situations like that, you really find out who your friends are!" laughed Andy. "There are a number of race charter yachts in our class for the RORC Caribbean 600 and that really does make for a great competition between us. The course is a fantastic way to race around the central Caribbean, which is one of the most spectacular places to sail, anywhere in the world."

Under 40ft

Seven yachts of less than 40ft have already entered the race, proving that the RORC Caribbean 600 is not just for the Maxis. Local Antiguan, Bernie Evan-Wong, who has participated in every edition of the race, is back with a new boat, RP 37 Taz and a number of smaller yachts have sailed across the Atlantic to compete in the RORC Caribbean 600, including Louis-Marie Dussere's French JPK 10.10, Raging Bee, which won IRC Three and the Two-Handed Class for the 2014 RORC Season's Points Championship. Veteran RORC members Peter Hopps racing Sigma 38, Sam, and Peter Schofield racing HOD 35, Zarafa, will also be competing.

"This will be my third race but the first with Redshift and we will be a crew of six," said Nick Cherry. "It will be a tough race for us. The bigger, faster boats will get up on the plane and we will be displacing all the way around the course. However in IRC Three, we should have a chance and with so many corners, we hope to make gains because Redshift is easy to handle. Looking at all the 600 mile races, this is the course I would choose to do: plenty of fast sailing, loads of corners and lots of rocks to watch out for, so there is always something going on. I think we will have a flexible watch system as there will be plenty of sail changes and manoeuvres to nail. Compared to training in Brittany for the Figaro, with 10 degree water over your head, this race should be far more pleasant and this is the first part of our training for the Rolex Fastnet, which we will be doing Two-Handed. For the 600 we want to get round quickly, so we have plenty of time to enjoy the party afterwards."

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