The 2017 RORC Caribbean 600 started in magnificent conditions with the largest ever offshore fleet assembled in the Caribbean enjoying sparkling conditions. Close to 900 sailors from 30 different nations competed in the 9th edition of the Royal Ocean Racing Club's classic offshore race. Olympic medallists, America's Cup winners and round the world sailors competed alongside passionate corinthians on the same 600 mile race course around 11 Caribbean islands, starting and finishing in Antigua. The 2017 edition will be remembered for highly competitive racing throughout the fleet, with American yachts winning the major prizes. The race was affected by unusual weather conditions, with a low pressure system sending the wind direction spinning through 360º of the compass.
Epic win for Bella Mente
The All-American Maxi72 battle in the RORC Caribbean 600 lived up to expectation with Hap Fauth's Bella Mente and George Sakellaris' Proteus enjoying an epic match race. The lead in the Maxi72s changed hands on seven occasions during the race. Bella Mente counted 85 sail changes and at one point, both yachts were over canvassed, smoking along at 30 knots in a gigantic squall. Bella Mente crossed the finish line just 14 minutes ahead of Proteus to win IRC Zero and the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy for the best time after IRC correction for the fleet. It was the second time Bella Mente has won the race overall and was a sweet victory after retiring last year with keel problems.
Hap Fauth's JV72, Bella Mente (USA), Overall winner of the 2017 RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy © RORC/Ted Martin
"We are beat; there is nothing left as the whole team gave 120% or more...unbelievable!" smiled Hap Fauth. "We are just delighted to have prevailed. We had a match race for 500 miles with Proteus and that is a really well sailed boat. It was really, really good sailing. This is an iconic race that you cannot miss at all and Bella Mente will be back for the 10th edition."
Hector Velarde's Andrews 70 Runaway, representing Peru was third in IRC Zero behind Bella Mente and Proteus.
Maserati and Phaedo3 at the start © RORC/Tim Wright/Photoaction.com
Lloyd Thornburg's American MOD70, Phaedo3 took Multihull Line Honours for the third year in a row. Phaedo3 held on to win the battle of the trimarans, just 12 minutes ahead of Giovanni Soldini's Italian MOD70, Maserati. The high-speed battle saw the lead change hands four times. There was high drama at Guadeloupe with vicious squalls and heroics from Maserati's crew diving into the water to free the boat from a fish trap.
"Maserati gave us a heck of a run and it was really tough to stay ahead of a foiling boat," commented Lloyd Thornburg. "Every year, I get reminded how insane a race this is and we have turned the insanity up again this year. Hanging on reaching at 36 knots, it is just incredible. All of our team had to dig so deep and we love Antigua and had an amazing reception."
Phaedo3 was also the winner after MOCRA time correction with Maserati in second place and Robert Szustkowski's HH66, R-SIX sailed by Robert Janecki in third.
Rambler 88 takes Monohull Line Honours
Monohull line honours for George David's Maxi, Rambler 88 (USA) © RORC/ELWJ Photography
George David's American Maxi, Rambler 88 took Monohull Line Honours for the race. It was George David's third line honours win in the RORC Caribbean 600. However, the record set by his previous boat, Rambler 100 in 2011 remains intact for another year.
"This year we had a full-on reach all the way from St. Barth to Guadeloupe," commented George David. "When you are at the helm and the boat is beautifully balanced and you are doing 20 knots with a poled out J1 and staysail for 150 miles, you can't help but smile. It is great to have taken line honours again, but we have only won this race overall one time. We will come back because it is such a great place to be; everything about the race is nice."
Rambler 88 was also the winner in IRC Canting Keel after time correction. Lionel Pean's French Volvo 70, SFS II was second and Mike Slade's British Maxi Leopard 3, skippered by Chris Sherlock was third. Leopard 3 was also awarded a new trophy, the RORC Caribbean Series Trophy for the IRC Rated boat with the best combined score in the RORC Transatlantic Race and RORC Caribbean 600.
Shamanna, Swan 115 © RORC/Tim Wright Photoaction.com
Anders Nordquist's Swan 115, Shamanna, taking part in its debut offshore race, was the winner of the Superyacht Class.
"On the way down to Guadeloupe we had almost 20 knots of wind so we were really happy to experience the conditions that the boat was built for. The crew have been racing together since 2012 and they are a fantastic team. We know each other very well and the communication and atmosphere is great. It was an excellent race," said Anders Nordquist.
The majestic schooners, Eleonora and Adela were a wonderful sight at the start of the RORC Caribbean 600 © RORC/Tim Wright/Photoaction.com
Among the spectacular entries this year were two colossal schooners; Eleonora and Adela. Adela dates back to 1903 and at 182ft (55 metres) she is the largest yacht competing in the race, displacing 250 tons. Eleonora is an exact replica of the famous 1910 Herreshoff schooner Westward. Since her launch in 2000 she has followed Westward's heritage of racing. Displacing 213 tons with an overall length of 162ft (49.5 metres), Eleonora and Adela racing is a magnificent sight.
Battle Royal in the Class40s
Peter Harding's Class40, Phor-ty © RORC/Tim Wright/Photoaction.com
Throughout the race the battle in the Class40 division was intense with three yachts taking the lead at various points along the course. Peter Harding's Phor-ty was leading at Redonda, just ahead of Catherine Pourre's Eärendil and Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron's Campagne de France was in third. All three yachts started the beat to finish with a chance of victory. However, Eärendil's main halyard broke as the team hardened up for the beat and they were forced to reef and re-hoist. Phor-ty extended on the beat to take the gun and the class win by just 33 minutes. With Eärendil under-powered, Campagne de France closed the gap and overtook them just before the finish line to snatch second place by just under two minutes.
Bernie's Proudest Moment - IRC One
Bernie Evan-Wong's Reichel Pugh 37, Taz wins IRC One © RORC/Tim Wright/Photoaction.com
In IRC One, Antigua's Bernie Evan Wong was tired but overjoyed to win the class racing his Antiguan RP37, Taz. Bernie has competed in all nine editions of the race and is proud to represent Antigua & Barbuda.
"Unbelievable, just amazing," smiled Bernie, full of emotion. "The team worked so hard, but was also a really happy bunch. I remember trying to take a rest but I couldn't sleep because there was so much laughter on the boat. We are the smallest boat in the race and to beat all of the big boats in our class is like a dream come true."
James Heald's British Swan 45, Nemesis, racing Two Handed with Ben Harris was the runner up in IRC One; a monumental effort for the short-handed team. Giles Redpath's British Lombard 46, Pata Negra was third.
British Success in IRC Two
Ed Fishwick's Redshift on El Ocaso © RORC/Tim Wright/Photoaction.com
Ed Fishwick's J/122 Redshift on El Ocaso enjoyed an epic battle in IRC Two with two other British yachts. Redshift on El Ocaso won the class after time correction from reigning class champion, Ross Applebey's British Oyster 48, Scarlet Oyster. Ross Applebey managed to just pip Dominic Hurndall's British Grand Soleil 43, Jua Kali by venturing out of the current and into Cades Reef on the last leg to the finish.
"We have competed in this race with classic trade wind conditions, but this year we had a massive variety in weather on the course from big breeze in squalls, to fickle light winds. The guys did a fantastic job and we all agreed that this was the best '600 we have ever done. The whole crew was sensational," commented skipper, Ed Fishwick.
Sleeper and The Blue Peter celebrate in Antigua - IRC Three
Jonty and Vicki Layfield's Swan 48, Sleeper X win IRC Three © RORC/Tim Wright/Photoaction.com
Jonty and Vicki Layfield's Swan 48, Sleeper X led for most of the race on corrected time to win the class with a crew containing Antiguan sailors such as notable Antigua Yacht Club coach, Shawn Malone and the youngest competitor in the race, 16 year old Antiguan Vincent Anfi.
"That was probably the hardest race I have ever done," explained Jonty Layfield. "I could not be more happy with the crew. They showed great tenacity to keep going, even in the very light winds and they were fully focused and motivated."
Mathew Barker's 1930 sloop, The Blue Peter was runner up in IRC Three, but Mathew was delighted to pick up the award for the Classic Class.
"I have sailed thousands of miles in The Blue Peter and that was without doubt the toughest race I have competed in. The Blue Peter is a heavy displacement yacht and to keep her going through light winds takes a huge amount of concentration and all of the crew kept their energy levels up. I am sure we will be back to race again, hopefully with the big breeze that the boat just loves."
Nikola Popov's First 40.7, Blue Magic won the battle for third with Peter Hopps Sigma 38, Sam. Blue Magic was just 17 minutes ahead of Sam after well over four days at sea.
"Congratulations to all of the winners in the RORC Caribbean 600. Winning class in this race is proving more and more difficult as the quality of the competition increases each year. The weather was the biggest factor this year, but the persistence shown by every boat to complete this race is admirable. However, competitors enjoyed some of the best sailing conditions imaginable once the front had gone through. The combination of a challenging race, sunshine and warm water in beautiful surroundings makes this a totally unique offshore race," commented RORC Chief Executive, Eddie Warden Owen.