Classic trade winds are predicted at the start for the 68 yachts entered for the 7th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600. 15-20 knots of easterly winds, with two metre waves, will provide some exhilarating racing for the spectacular fleet. Punching through the surf, the adrenalin levels will be high as the yachts drive to windward on the south coast of Antigua.
On the windward side of Antigua, the yachts should be cracking sheets at Green Island for an ocean-blast to Barbuda. By the second day, the wind may veer slightly to the south and decrease slightly but by the third day, the gradient wind should begin to strengthen with an increasing chance of squall activity adding to the mix. By the fourth and fifth day, there is potential for the wind to back to the north, increasing to 20 knots or more with a building sea state. One of the principle attractions of the RORC Caribbean 600 is exciting sailing and this fleet will get exactly what they came for.
The talk on the dock is all about the weather and how that will affect the performance of every team in the RORC Caribbean 600. Here are a few answers to the question – ‘When do you think you will finish?’
Carkeek 47, Black Pearl’s navigator Marc Lagesse: 'As soon as possible! Thursday morning is likely. On the long leg to Guadeloupe, if we can put up anything but the jib then we’ll be finishing a lot quicker. If we are on the jib on that leg the bigger boats will just walk away from us, but then of course, there is the big wind casino at Guadeloupe.'
First 47.7, EH01 skipper, Andy Middleton: ‘We’ll finish at exactly 6 o’clock on Thursday evening! The finish time depends on the wind angle from St Barths down to Guadeloupe and that’s our big question mark at the moment.’
Southern Wind 94, Windfall,skipper and RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine: ‘I think we’ll finish midnight on Wednesday or early hours of Thursday. From past trips in lots of different boats, we’ve always come in near dawn, whether it was the schooner or the 46ft race boat, we’ve always come in during the wee small hours. While Windfall is relatively light, she is still 52 tonnes and we won’t be able to plane like some of the race boats plus we don’t have a Code Zero. We go well in 15 knots plus and while it looks like it’s blowing at the moment, it is going to drop during the race according to the latest forecasts but also be more to the south of east which is good for us, it should be fun.’
Farr 65, Spirit of Juno, skipper Paul Jackson: ‘I think we’ll finish Thursday at half past ten and in time for a drink or two! A couple of pints – that’ll be enough for us! We want a lot of wind; if we have less than 15 knots then we’ll look very slow. We’d really like 35-40 knots of wind because we’re a round the world boat, built for the Southern Ocean and in big conditions we will look very good and everyone else will be struggling!’
Kernan 47, True, skipper Doug Baker: ‘We will finish Thursday, we hope early. The main worry is too much wind - this boat is tender, so we’d like the predicted conditions, 15-17 knots – that would be great.’
Du Toit 51 Catamaran, Quality Time, crew: ‘We will finish Wednesday night before 10 o’clock because we have free drinks at Mad Mongoose! But only if we finish before 10 o’clock! We have found our motivation but the winds are looking pretty constant across the course...we’ll see.’
Volvo 70, Monster Project’s navigator, Guy Middleton: ‘I can’t answer that! 52 hours?...it depends if the wind goes light as we’ve been hearing, then my prediction would increase...’
Swan 53, Music’s tactician Michael Giles: ‘I would say hopefully Thursday morning, very early. In our class we hope to do very well. Based on past performance, the right conditions of above 15 knots this may be a race ideally suited for us, it is our race to lose.’
Marconi Frers ketch, Vagabundo II, owner Robbie Fabre: ‘Ah, really good question! Depends, we have high hopes to finish on Thursday afternoon, in time for the prizegiving. Getting caught in the light conditions in the lee of the islands is what worries me, but so long as we have consistent trade winds then we are pretty much geared up for all the different speeds.’
JPK 10.10, Raging Bee, Eric Le Roi: ‘I hope we finish as fast as possible but it is the first time we have raced here and we are only a little boat so if it is windy then maybe three or four days.’
PY 100, Liara’s navigator, Nat Ives: ‘That’s a teasing question – all the crew are asking that. I guess hot cross buns late Wednesday. For the race, the start will be breezy from the east/north-east and then over the course of the race it drops and moves round to the southeast. Southeast isn’t a great wind direction for Guadeloupe and as its lighter it’ll make that transition a lot harder – at a critical point in the race.’
The Skippers’ Briefing for the RORC Caribbean 600 will take place on Saturday 21st February followed by the Crew Welcome Party held on the lawn of the Antigua Yacht Club.
The RORC Caribbean 600 starts at 1100 (GMT-4) on Monday 23rd February 2015.