Heating up in Antigua
Final preparations are under way for the second edition of the RORC Caribbean 600. With just five days left before the start, the crew and organisers of the race are making ready for the only offshore race in some of the best sailing grounds, anywhere in the world.
Competing boats are arriving at the Antigua Yacht Club, nestled in Falmouth Harbour. Outside the safe haven, the Trade Winds and Atlantic swell are as constant as ever. They will provide the competitors with fast sailing conditions as the fleet, rips up the course around the central Caribbean.
Whilst the RORC Caribbean 600 is a proper Category 3 offshore race however T-shirts and shorts will be the dress code for hundreds of sailors, in a highly diverse international fleet.
Last night, the ORMA 60, speed machine, Region Guadeloupe arrived in Antigua and the ocean going trimaran will be looking to better the multi-hull record they set last year, as John Burnie explains:
"We have virtually the same crew as last year and we have sailed the boat here from Curacao, about 1000 miles south west of Antigua, so this time we have a bit more experience. We have set ourselves a target of finishing the race by midnight Tuesday and I believe that we can improve on our record run last year and although it will be tough, an elapsed time of 36 hours is achievable."
Whilst Region Guadeloupe is favourite to be first home, Karl Kowk's high-tech 80ft carbon fibre flyer, Beau Geste should not be far behind and will be looking to better ICAP Leopard's monohull record of 44 hours 5 minutes 14 seconds.
There is a wealth of high performance boats competing, including last year's overall winner, Adrian Lee's Cookson 50, Lee Overlay Partners. From Boston Massachusetts, Ron O'Hanley's Cookson 50, Privateer is relishing the rare opportunity of taking on a sistership and Richard Oland's Velo Veloce will be pushing them both all the way. Vela Veloce, a 52 ft Reichel Pugh design, has a stellar crew including; Hawaii's Andrew Lewis, New Zealander Stu Bannatyne and Canadian Richard Clarke, they will all be on board providing some world class experience.
A three way battle for the Class 40 Concise trophy will be between 40 Degrees, Ocean Warrior and Lou. The race track is ideal for the class; virtually 90% of the race course is off the breeze, a point of sail that this rapidly growing class of open boat excels in.
The Owen Clark designed, 40 Degrees, is crewed by Miranda Merron who commented dockside; "It's a great race course and if we get fast reaching conditions, it will be a lot of fun but not just for the Class 40s but for all of the boats. The race course has many twists and turns and land effects, providing a very tactical element to some great sailing."
Rubbing shoulders with the professional sailors and campaigns are amateur enthusiasts from all over the world. Chris Jackson, skipper of First 40.7, Lancelot has an all Norwegian crew. Whilst the majority of the crew will be arriving by air, Lars Torgesen, took a little longer to get here.
"I sailed here from The Canaries in an Albin 30 which is really designed for coastal sailing back home in Scandinavia. The crew for Lancelot are looking forward to this race, we all enjoy sailing and the RORC Caribbean 600 is a fantastic opportunity to experience the best."
A skipper's briefing will be held on Saturday 20th February with a welcome party afterwards sponsored by Lee Overlay Partners. Honoured guests from the Government of Antigua and Barbuda are Harold Lovell, Finance Minister, John McGinley Minister of Tourism and Winston Williams, Minister of Sport.