A race that continues to grow in both size and global importance, the 12th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 got underway today in Antigua. Situated at the winter time crossroads of Europe and the Americas, the race and it’s entry list read like a who’s who of yachting. With 73 boats and around 700 sailors from at least 37 nations racing, the Caribbean 600 has become one of the major middle distance races on the global calendar and the size and quality of the fleet is evidence of that.
Despite the impressive mix of both monohulls and multihulls present, both course records – currently held by Rambler 88 in the monohulls and Maserati in the multihulls – look to be safe as the conditions are atypically light and forecast to stay that way for about 24 hours before building back to a more typical 20 knots. After the start, much of the fleet got parked up behind the island of Barbuda which has wreaked havoc on the overall standings.
In the MOCRA multihull division, the same trio of MOD 70’s that did a west coast tour last summer is now back together with Argo, Powerplay and Maserati all in attendance. The light-air of the first day won’t do the full-foiling Maserati any favors, nor will the crew lists on Argo and Powerplay, which include French legends such as Franck Cammas sailing on Argo and Loick Peyron back with his mates on Powerplay.
After a close-fought battle in California Offshore Race Week and Transpac 2019, Jason Carroll’s Argo and Peter Cunningham’s Powerplay look to again be running away with the lead from Giovanni Soldini and crew on Maserati. Joining the MOD’s for the 600 is the recent Cape Town to Rio record-setter Ultim Emotion 2 (former Prince de Bretagne), who is currently trailing the three MODs by a margin.
Also of note is the new syndicate-owned Shockwave (formerly Paradox), the ORMA-inspired Irens-designed 63-footer that is arguably the fastest cruising boat on earth, but will be contested for that title by another ultra-quick ‘cruiser’ in our mate Stephen Bourne’s new Rapido 60 trimaran Ineffable.
Once the fleet gets into more steady pressure, one can expect the Askew Brothers’ and their world class crew on the VO 70 Wizard to be amongst the fastest monohulls to sail the course, though they’ll have their hands full with three other VO 70’s present as well as a couple of upstart VO 65 programs and even a Volvo 60.
With the light conditions potentially favoring a more easily-driven hull and taking some advantage away from the powerful canting-keelers, we’re cautiously pulling for our pals on the Mills 68 Prospector to make some noise, both over the line and on handicap. At the first turning mark, Prospector was the first monohull and was in front of all but the four fastest of the multihulls.
Another fascinating battle to watch will be that of the three two Cookson 50’s in the race. One of the best platforms money can buy for this type of race (and a previous winner), just two are left after Ron O’Hanley’s Cookson 50 Privateer struck an apparently un-charted rock just before the start. “Our instruments were showing us in 20ft of water off Half Moon Bay but we must have hit a rock,” commented Ron. “The rudder broke right off and with no steerage we sailed the boat offshore… ABSAR (Antigua Barbuda Search and Rescue) got to us in 30 minutes and did a really professional job – we owe them a huge thanks and will do so via a donation.”
A major bummer for the well-sailed and well-traveled Cookson 50 program, but the light conditions are perhaps playing into the hands of Joe Mele’s fixed-keel Cookson 50 Triple Lindy, who can’t hang with the canting-keel versions in a righting-moment contest but crushes in the light.
As well as all the heavy hitters in the MOCRA class and premier IRC divisions, there’s the infamous Teasing Machine, a TP 52, several Class 40’s, production racer/ cruisers and everything else under the sun in this massive fleet. Track the fleet here, or on your mobile device using the Yellowbrick app. – Ronnie Simpson.