A magnificent sight as the IRC Zero and Canting Keel fleet start the 9th RORC Caribbean 600, Antigua. © RORC/Tim Wright
ST JOHN’S, Antigua -- The ninth edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 started in magnificent conditions with the largest ever offshore fleet assembled in the Caribbean enjoying sparkling conditions. A southeasterly 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.
"This fleet is awe inspiring because of the quality of the boats and you can see that by the competition at the start to get close to the cliffs. From the first gun, people were pushing hard to win the race. The RORC Caribbean 600 has grown, year after year and we just love it, it is the perfect playground for offshore racing," commented Eddie Warden Owen, RORC chief executive.
The MOD70 battle for multihull line honours has already kicked off. Lloyd Thornburg's Phaedo3 pulled away 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.
Battle of the MOD70s: Giovanni Soldini's Maserati (ITA) and Lloyd Thornburg's Phaedo3 (USA) © RORC/Tim Wright
George David's American Rambler 88 at the start of the RORC Caribbean 600 © RORC/Tim Wright
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, bearing away behind the two Maxi72s to take a commanding position on the favoured left side of the course. Meanwhile Proteus was perilously close to the line at the start and boldly sailed Bella Mente towards the cliffs. You could hear Bella Mente calling for water from the cliff top and within less than a boat length of the rocky shoreline, Proteus tacked, leaving Bella Mente no option but to tack into their dirty air.
It is likely that the two Maxi72s will be having a close quarters battle throughout the race. Proteus passed Green Island just 26 seconds ahead of Bella Mente. The two powerful yachts hoisted spinnakers, accelerating through the Caribbean swell and Proteus showed a better turn of speed opening a lead of several miles on the way to Barbuda.
Lionel Pean's French Volvo 70 SFS II © RORC/Tim Wright
Proteus, winner of the 2016 RORC Caribbean 600 and Hap Fauth's Bella Mente © RORC Tim Wright
Ed Fishwick's J/122 Redshift on El Ocaso nailed the pin end at the first start, which saw the combined IRC Two & IRC 3 classes away clear. This year with softer winds predicted, perhaps one of these yachts will win the overall prize of the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy. Redshift on El Ocaso was leading on the water at Green Island but two hours into the race, Sailing Logic's First 40, Joanna of Cowes, skippered by James Sweetman, was estimated to be leading IRC Two after time correction.
In IRC Three, Jonty Layfield's Swan 48 Sleeper X held a two mile lead on the American Swan 48, Isbjorn and was estimated to be leading on corrected time. However the entire class of nine yachts are all very close on the water.
The Class40 Division are enjoying incredibly close racing. Peter Harding's Ph-orty leads, Catherine Pourre's Eärendil 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."
Ed Fishwick's J/122 Redshift on El Ocaso nailed the pin end at the first start which saw the combined IRC Two and IRC 3 fleet © RORC/Tim Wright
Transpac 52 Heartbreaker (USA), Mike Slade's Farr 100, Leopard (GBR), George David's Rambler 88(USA) and Hap Fauth's JV 72, Bella Mente (USA) © RORC/Tim Wright
RORC Commodore, Michael Boyd 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."
Glorious schooners: Adela and Eleonora at the start of the 9th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 © RORC/Tim Wright
Second fleet to start the 600 mile RORC Caribbean 600: IRC1 & Class40 fleet made an impressive sight © RORC/ELWJ Photography
Lloyd Thornburg's MOD70 Phaedo and the Multihull fleet at the start © Rachel Fallon-Langdon / Team Phaedo