An amazing fleet of yachts from around the globe have come together for a spectacular Caribbean rendezvous. Fort Charlotte, Antigua will be the starting and finishing point for a sensational 600-mile yacht race around 11 Caribbean islands. Since 2009, the RORC Caribbean 600 has been growing in popularity and the seventh edition boasts an astounding fleet of yachts: record breaking high performance racers, magnificent schooners, elegant classics and fast production yachts. World class sailors will be taking part, rubbing shoulders with royalty, captains of industry and passionate Corinthian amateurs.
The course meanders through the stunning central Caribbean affording amazing scenery, but the RORC Caribbean 600 is not just a joyride. Competitors can expect little sleep as the myriad of corners create many manoeuvres. The racing is electric but the high speed action in tropical heat can be exhausting. At the finish, the welcome party for the crews has become legendary. Every boat is cheered in, regardless of the hour, for a cold beer and a warm welcome.
The monohull course record for the RORC Caribbean 600 (40 hours 20 mins 02 secs) was set by George David's Rambler 100 in 2011. The quality and depth of the fleet in this year's race means that the quest for line honours will be the most dramatic in years.
The overall winner is decided by the RORC IRC rating system and the calibre of the fleet is such that this year's winner is almost impossible to predict. Teamwork, tactics, and a share of good luck will decide the winner. Over the past six editions, only one 100-footer has won the race overall: Rambler 100. High performance yachts ranging from 50-72 feet have won the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy on four occasions.
This year three projects, new to the race, will fit into that category: Bryon Ehrhart from Chicago, Illinois, will be racing Reichel Pugh 63, Lucky. Piet Vroon's newly acquired Ker 51, Tonnerre 4, from Breskens, Netherlands and British TP52 Sorcha, sailed by Peter Harrison, make up a trio of yachts that will be amongst the favourites for overall victory under the IRC rating rule.
The seventh edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 has entries from over 14 different nations and crew from many more. Throughout the fleet there is a myriad of class champions from famous yacht races around the world.
George David's brand new hi-tech 88ft Rambler is now in Antigua, hoping to lower the bar for the course record for the RORC Caribbean 600. Previous Ramblers still hold course records for: RORC Caribbean 600, The Transatlantic Race, Newport to Bermuda Race and Rolex Middle Sea Race. Amongst Rambler's international crew are numerous world champions including three well-known sailors from New Zealand: Multiple America's Cup winner, Brad Butterworth and Volvo Ocean Race winners, Stu Bannatyne and Brad Jackson.
Yachts from the USA have won the RORC Caribbean 600 overall on three occasions, more than any other nation. From Boston, Massachusetts, Ron O'Hanley's Cookson 50, Privateer, was the overall winner under IRC in 2013 and the American team is back for their fifth race, having won IRC Canting Keel last year. From Minneapolis, Minnesota, Hap Fauth will be racing his world championship winning Maxi 72, Bella Mente, the overall runner up for the race on two occasions. This year Bella Mente's crew includes Mike Sanderson, Terry Hutchinson, Ian Moore and Adrian Stead. Bella Mente will be hoping it will be third time lucky in their quest for first place.
Two American flyers will be making their RORC Caribbean 600 debuts: Doug Baker from Orange County, California will be racing Kernan 47, True, and from Houston, Texas William Coates' Ker 43, Otra Vez, will have Volvo Ocean Race sailors George Peet and Luke Molloy on board. Stefan Jentzsch's German Carkeek 47, Black Pearl, also makes its debut, with South African America's Cup navigator, Marc Lagesse, amongst the crew.
Three American classic yachts will be on the start line on February 23rd: James Grundy of Oxford, Maryland will be racing the 84 year-old Alden schooner, Summerwind. The 1938 S&S Yawl Black Watch will sailed by Joseph Robillard of Short Hills, New Jersey and Frank Eberhart from Vinalhaven, Maine will be racing for the third time with the 1970 classic, Hound.
Volvo 70 Maserati is skippered by the legendary Italian sailor from Milan, Giovanni Soldini. Maserati is designed to break records and holds the Cadiz-San Salvador, New York-San Francisco and the Cape Town-Rio de Janeiro race records. On board for the RORC Caribbean 600 will be Pierre Casiraghi, eldest son of Princess Caroline of Monaco, fourth-in-line to the Monegasque throne and a passionate sailor. Maserati's owner John Elkann will also be racing. The Grandson and heir of Giovanni Agnelli, John Elkann is the President of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles which owns the Maserati brand, as well as Ferrari, Alfa Romeo and many others.
Yachts from Great Britain make up the largest number of yachts by country for the seventh edition of the RORC Caribbean 600.
London based property developer Mike Slade's Canting Keel Maxi, Leopard, set the course record in the inaugural race and holds numerous speed and race records, including two current Transatlantic races. This year, Leopard has been chartered by UK-based businessman Chris Bake, winner of five RC44 Tour Championships. The core Leopard crew, including Australian skipper Chris Sherlock, will form a formidable partnership with Bake's Team Aqua. The all-star crew includes America's Cup winner Cameron Appleton from New Zealand and Volvo Ocean Race winner Jules Salter from Gurnard, Isle of Wight.
RORC Admiral and London surgeon, Andrew McIrvine will be taking part in his sixth race and skippers Southern Wind 94, Windfall. The vast majority of Windfall crew will be RORC members, including Dublin based RORC Commodore, Michael Boyd as navigator. Two RORC Rear Commodores will also be on board: Justin Slawson from Wimborne, Dorset and Adrian Lower from Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex. Windfall should have a fascinating battle with PY100, Liara, owned by Tony Todd from St. Peter Port, Guernsey and sailed by John Walker from Romsey, Hampshire. Liara's crew include a number of Hampshire's most experienced yachtsmen including Peter Morton and Kelvin Rawlings from Cowes, Isle of Wight and navigator, Nat Ives from Hamble-le-Rice, Hampshire.
British Volvo 70 Monster Project will be skippered by Andy Budgen from Greenock, Scotland. Monster Project took Line Honours for the Canting Keel Class last year and is a real flyer in Caribbean conditions. Monster Project is one of 10 specialist race charter yachts competing. Well over 100 passionate amateur sailors will be taking up the challenge against the professionals, racing on performance charter yachts.
Last year First 40 Lancelot II, skippered by Chris Jackson from Fareham, Hampshire, was the winner of IRC Two which contains the bounty of race charter yachts. Ross Applebey from Wallingford, Oxfordshire will skipper Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster, which has won class in the RORC Caribbean 600 on two occasions. Racing for the sixth time, Andy Middleton from Cowes, Isle of Wight will skipper First 47.7 EH01.
Antigua is the Caribbean home of two of the world's most famous schooners. Athos and Adela will continue their gentlemen's duel in the Spirit of Tradition class. The Dykstra-designed Adela is the smaller of the two magnificent yachts at 182ft and over 200 tons. The sails and systems on board Adela are advanced, but manoeuvres such as handling her giant red 1000m2 masthead spinnaker can require up to 30 crew. Athos is the largest yacht competing this year's RORC Caribbean 600. The 203ft Hoek design weighs 370 tons, her rig is over 200ft high and she can hoist over 3000m2 of sail. Adela has won the Spirit of Tradition and Superyacht Classes for the last three years, but Athos provided exhilarating competition last year, finishing less than 39 minutes behind after two and a half days at sea.
By sharp contrast with the two largest yachts racing, local dentist Bernie Evan-Wong will be racing one of the smallest, his new Reichel Pugh 37 Taz. Bernie has competed in every RORC Caribbean 600 race since it started in 2009.
The RORC Caribbean 600 race captured my imagination the first time I heard about it, exclaimed Bernie Evan-Wong.
The thought of full-on racing, night and day in tropical waters for 600 miles was a challenge and an adventure I just could not resist! If you love sailing and are a serious sailor, you have to put the RORC Caribbean 600 on your itinerary.