The Class 40 continues to pave the way as the most successful shorthanded offshore class around. The boat has proven attractive to sailors of all kinds, from successful Open 60 racers to up-and-coming stars to pure amateurs. More importantly for US fans of ocean racing, the Class 40 is the platform for the second Atlantic Cup coming this May, and if the numbers just released by ACup organizers are accurate (a solid ten entries confirmed with a few more possible), that young distance and in-port racing series is about to become the only (and maybe the first!) professional offshore racing series in the US. Check out the ACup teaser for more info, and read below for a Caribbean 600 report from Ben Poucher – one of the veterans of last year’s ACup. For a video teaser of May’s Atlantic Cup, go here.

The 2012 Caribbean circuit is a bit different than previous years for the crew of Icarus Racing. We’re used to paid flights, hotel rooms, and a paycheck at the end of the week, and that’s certainly not where how it works on Icarus. Being a Category 3 sailor (pro) under the ISAF (International killer of sailing dreams) Rules might not be all that great for boat captains, and it’s a bit of a slap in the face to be forced into professional sailing, but for years it has worked out pretty well. Fast-forward to this year and life has a lot more responsibilities. Running your own sailing project, especially a demanding one like a Class40 is anything but easy.

You can check here for some background on the salvaged and reborn Icarus, suffice to say she is quite a special boat, and we’ve had the great luck and support to be able to take her to a new level. Tim [Fetsch, co-skipper] and I delivered her down to Antigua from Charleston in early February. Forecast to be a pleasant and drama-free trip, we instead found hell. Stuck on the East side of a front with terrible seas and gales for 5 days, the total trip took 9 days. We certainly were sure she could handle big breeze and nasty waves after that one! But this was really only the start to our adventure. We were bound for the Caribbean 600.

The C-600 starts and finishes in Antigua, sending you around every island that might find its path in the way of strong tradewinds. Every watch you have new things to see, new points of sail and sail plans, new challenges, and sometimes blast reaching and beating upwind into monster waves makes you forget that you are among some of the most beautiful islands in the world. What a great race! If you have a bucket list and know somewhat how to sail, you need to go unlock that list and write this one down. Is it easy? No. But ultimately it is that much more rewarding.

Our crew for the RORC Caribbean 600 consist of ‘Team Icarus’ (Tim and me), Pat O’Connor (executive shore team manager) and a few sailing enthusiasts that have helped with supporting the USSMA sailing foundation. Our 2007 Rodger Martin performed pretty well, despite a gaping hole in our sail inventory – our reaching kite – thanks to a shipping and customs issue in Antigua; not the kind of omission that would help our renovated first-generation 40 hang with newer designs and tough competition. designs. But, no matter what, we weren’t going to let anyone outwork us, and what we found was that our boat isn’t slow, it just needs some reaching gear. We ended up finishing within 15 miles of the leaders and were glad to hear that the gen. 3 Owen Clarke design ’40 degrees’ retired without serious injury or major damage. The first two days of the race found us crossing tacks and were all within eyesight for nearly the entire 600-mile course. It was like one-design racing at its best. Don’t ever count out the gen.1 boats!!

Now we are looking forward to the upcoming and to see if our hard work might pay off for some sponsorship for the Atlantic Cup. After we finish sailing with some guests during the Heineken Regatta, Team Icarus will head to St. Thomas for Rolex, and then it’s back to Charleston for the May start to the Atlantic Cup!

For us, being involved in the Caribbean 600 was a great choice. Hundreds of people came down to the boat to talk to us and wish us luck, and the guests who came to sail were a joy to crew with. More importantly, it seems that people are really starting to understand that we, and the organizers of the Atlantic Cup, are working our asses off to bring professional, sponsor-supported sailing to the US. It’s a big risk, but these two young Americans are on a quest to win the 2012 ACup, and we hope to share that with everyone we can.

Please take a minute to ‘friend’ our program on Facebook and support our sponsors if you appreciate their support of shorthanded US sailing: Gorilla Rigging, Newport Shipyard, Maui Jim sunglasses, Kinder Industries, and Karver. Check them out, and please don’t hesitate to stop by and see us on the dock.

-Ben Poucher, Tim Fetsch, and the Icarus Racing team.