RORC Caribbean 600: The finest yacht race in the Caribbean

Ranging from the latest high performance record breakers to classic yachts from the past, the variety of yachts and sailors taking part shows that the RORC Caribbean 600 has a wide appeal and the growth in popularity, year-on-year, indicates a very healthy future for the event.

After a classic trade winds start, the wind shifted south of east and decreased on the second day, which added gravitas to the tactical decision making for many yachts as they approached the wind shadow of Guadeloupe. By day three, the trade winds were back to provide exhilarating racing for the fleet. By day four, the wind had built to over 20 knots, with gusts in excess of 30 knots and the beat to finish in Antigua from Redonda became a real test for the remaining yachts and exhausted crew.

Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD 70, Phaedo3, crossed the finish line in Antigua in an elapsed time of 1 day, 9 hours, 35 minutes and 30 seconds, breaking the multihull race record that had stood since the very first edition of the race. Phaedo3 broke the record set by Claude Thelier and John Burnie’s ORMA 60, Region Guadeloupe by 6 hours, 35 minutes and 35 seconds.

“Fast, really fast,” commented a shattered looking Lloyd Thornburg as Phaedo3 tied up in Falmouth Harbour. “Sailing with Michel Desjoyeaux has been an incredible experience. When I was driving, he pushed me out of my comfort zone and then got the guys to wind on the sails even more and the speed just kept climbing and my confidence and experience with it. Surfing at over 30 knots for hours is just an incredible experience. A big thank you to Brian Thompson for putting this all together in such a short period of time. This is right up there; a totally amazing experience!”

Hap Fauth’s American JV72, Bella Mente was declared the overall winner of the 2015 RORC Caribbean 600. Whilst several yachts were still racing, by the morning of Friday 27th February none of the remaining teams had the ability to better Bella Mente’s corrected time under IRC. It was third time lucky for Bella Mente as the Maxi 72 has finished second overall for the past two years. Bella Mente was also the winner of the highly competitive IRC Zero Class and retained the Bella Mente Trophy as the first IRC Yacht to finish that is wholly manually powered, without either variable or moveable ballast. A delighted Hap Fauth spoke about the achievement and was full of praise for the entire Belle Mente team:

“This is our third go at winning this race and three is the beauty!” said Hap Fauth. “The majority of this team have been with me for at least five years – it is an outstanding group of guys. They like each other, we have a good time together – they are all mates. Everybody puts safety first, that’s the way it should be offshore, but after that we push to the limit. This race is a series of sprints and every leg is different. You are trying to get out of the blocks at the start of each segment and as soon as you get going, you are looking to get to top speed without increasing the distance sailed in that quest for boat speed. We try to make a couple of minutes up at every corner – with 12 corners if you save three minutes a corner, then that makes a real difference to your finish time. Everybody works together, it is our big strength; the crew did a phenomenal job.”

George David’s Juan K designed Rambler 88 took Monohull Line Honours for the RORC Caribbean 600. Rambler 88 was approximately four hours short of the monohull race record, set by his previous yacht, Rambler 100, in 2011.

George David commented dockside: “Rambler 88 was ahead of the monohull race record for some time, but the wind angle on the long leg to Guadeloupe was tighter than in 2012. Rambler 88 is probably faster on every point of sail than the Rambler 100, but the weather really didn’t work for us this year. Rambler 88 is an exciting boat to race, powerful and really wet on deck. We have moved a step closer to harnessing that power and the wet conditions are easily managed with good foul weather gear! A special course and a very well organised race. The RORC should be congratulated once again for producing a great event.”

The crew of Rambler 88: George David (Owner), Rodney Ardern, Silvio Arrivabene, Stuart Bannatyne, Scott Beavis, Curtis Blewett, Brad Butterworth, Simon Daubney, Wendy David, Jan Dekker, Brian Giorgio, Nathan Hislop, Brad Jackson, Jerome Kirby, William McCarthy, Artie Means, Robert Naismith, Mark Newbrook, Dean Phipps, Andrea Visintini, Matthew Welling, Stuart Wilson. 

The 182ft twin-mast schooner Adela, dating back to 1903, won the Superyacht and Spirit of Tradition Classes and placed fifth in IRC overall; an incredible performance that skipper Greg Norwood-Perkins was rightly proud of. “An IRC weapon!” laughed Greg. “Adela competes in numerous bucket-style short course racing and it is there that we hone our boat-handling – this course demands impeccable manoeuvres from the crew. The owner is really thrilled with the performance of Adela and is full of encouragement, even though we put Adela through enormous stress loads. I am so proud of the crew, most of whom have been racing Adela now for many seasons. It takes every sinew of muscle and brain-power to sail her to the maximum, everyone has to be at the very top of their game.”

Bella Mente was the winner of IRC Zero with Peter Harrison’s TP52, Sorcha, in second place and one of the big stories of the race was Sorcha’s battle with Piet Vroon’s Ker 51, Tonnerre 4. Equally matched, the two teams battled side-by-side and were utterly exhausted after an intense match race around the 600-mile course.

Sorcha’s skipper, Campbell Field, spoke dockside: “A tough race but thoroughly enjoyable. Racing around the Caribbean in a TP52 is like attaching a 500 HP outboard to a surf board. Everything and everybody gets a full soaking, even down below there is no respite from the drenching, but this is a great crew with a fantastic spirit and we have all enjoyed the race immensely. The battle with Tonnerre was just the icing on the cake; that is some of the best racing I can remember. I think, all in all, we won’t find many areas that we could have made a lot of time up, so we have to be satisfied with our performance. If the weather had been slightly more in our favour, who knows, we might have won the race overall.” 

William Coates, Texan Ker 43, Otra Vez, was the runaway winner of IRC One, even starting half an hour late with a mainsail problem didn’t stop the determined team from claiming victory. 

“The conditions definitely suited our type of boat compared to the heavy displacement opposition in Music and Maximizer,” commented William Coates. “This is the first race for us but we are definitely coming back, the course is just awesome and the event is the best organised regatta in the Caribbean. We are delighted with the win; it is a great start to our season.”

Ross Applebey’s Oyster 48, Scarlet Oyster won IRC Two for the third time and enjoyed a fantastic battle with Andy Middleton’s First 47.7, EH01 and Lucy Reynolds’ Swan 51, Northern Child. Scarlet Oyster crossed the finish line just 81 seconds in front of EH01 and the three skippers, who are great friends, put aside their bon ami to push their teams to the maximum in search of class glory. EH01 came second and Northern Child third, by just under one minute on corrected time, after three and a half days of hard racing.

“Both EH01 and Northern Child have bought new sails and put up one hell of a fight,” commented Ross Applebey. “We are all race charter yachts and I believe that sailors sign up with us because they know that they will be racing safely but also competitively. All of the Scarlet Oyster crew are experienced offshore sailors and this was a hard fought victory. Just completing the course is a challenge but winning against good competition is a big part of the satisfaction.”

IRC Three produced the closest contest of any class with four yachts taking the lead at various stages of the race. By Thursday night, the wind had picked up to 20 knots, gusting 30. The beat to the finish from Redonda was exceptionally hard with the crews having to grunt up for the final push to the finish line. Yuri Fadeev’s Russian crew on the First 40.7, Intuition was leading the fleet on the water at Redonda but lost a sail over the side which cost them an hour to retrieve in the rough seas. Louis-Marie Dussere’s JPK 10.10, Raging Bee was sailing Two Handed and finished third in class. After the race, the highly experienced French skipper exclaimed, “The standard of the competition and conditions were more difficult than any Fastnet.” 

Peter Scholfield’s HOD 35, Zarafa crewed by young servicemen from the King’s Royal Hussars and Queen’s Royal Lancers were very much in contention, but it was Ed Fishwick’s Sunfast 36, Redshift that pulled away in the wind shadow of Guadeloupe to take the class title.

Nick Cherry, Redshift tactician commented: “We are delighted to have won in such a competitive class against boats like Zarafa and Raging Bee. We were pushing each other along and it was great competition. The highlight of the race for us was the reach back from Desirade, screaming along under the A3, that was amazing. I’ve done this race twice before but none of the others onboard had. We’re all really good mates but hadn’t raced together like this before so we had a great time and a lot of laughs onboard. The race is pretty special – it’s a great place and the course was designed for sailors, pushing the boats and crews. We’ll definitely be back again.” 

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