A record entry of 88 yachts has entered the tenth edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 which has grown both in stature and entries since the race was first contested in 2009. For the 10th anniversary, in excess of 800 sailors from six continents and over 22 nations, will compete in the thrilling race around 11 Caribbean islands. Winners from the Olympic Games, America's Cup, Volvo Ocean Race and multiple world champions have gathered in Antigua and will be competing alongside passionate corinthian sailors, both young and old.
In its 10 year history, American yachts have dominated the race, winning the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy on six occasions, setting both the current monohull and multihull records. For the 2018 race, 13 American teams will be competing including, George David's Rambler 88, George Sakellaris' Proteus, and Peter Aschenbrenner's Paradox. The trio are amongst the favourites for the top prizes. However there is strong competition from Australia, France, Great Britain, Germany and Ireland.
American Maxi Rambler 88 is back and skipper George David will be taking part in his sixth race. David has taken line honours on three occasions and with Rambler 100, won overall under IRC in 2011, setting the monohull race record (40 hours 20 minutes 2 seconds). Rambler 88 is the hot favourite to be the first monohull home this year and has world class crew in every department, including three time America's Cup winner, Brad Butterworth. Ludde Ingvall's Australian Maxi CQS will make its debut in the race after successfully taking line honours in the 2017 RORC Transatlantic Race. Philip Rann's British Maxi La Bête poses a threat to Rambler 88 and CQS. Race founder and long-standing RORC member John Burnie will be taking part in his ninth race on board La Bête.
George Sakellaris American Maxi 72 Proteus is one of the favourites for the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy, won by the yacht with the best time after IRC time correction. Should Proteus win, Sakellaris will lift the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy for an unprecedented third time. Proteus has an all-star cast, including Stu Bannatyne who is on leave from Dongfeng Race Team in the 2017-18 Volvo Ocean Race. Bannatyne has competed in eight round the world races, winning on three occasions.
“It's the warmest of the classic 600 races so always an event to look forward to,” commented Bannatyne. “The race has a lot of corners and waypoints so the whole team is usually far busier than the typical 600 mile race; especially navigators. It is a great race for crews because there are so many manoeuvres and sail changes required, good crew work really makes a difference and the guys don't mind being woken up or nudged on the rail for another change because it is always so warm.”
IRC Zero is the largest class competing this year with 24 teams. The mighty superyachts, Danneskjold and Farfalla represent the two largest yachts in the race, both in excess of 100ft (30.48m) and equipped with racing systems, as well as luxury refinements below decks. Ron O'Hanley's American Privateer and Adrian Lee's Irish Lee Overlay Partners are both previous winners. Two new boats to the race will also be among the favourites; Eric De Turckheim's French Nivelt-Muratet 54 Teasing Machine and Jens Kellinghusen's Ker 56 Varuna. British Infiniti 46 Maverick, skippered by Quentin Stewart and Stefan Jentzsch's German Carkeek 47 Black Pearl, represent the two smallest yachts in the class, but both are capable of punching above their water line length.
A record number of multihulls will be racing this year, including 2013 class winner Paradox, skippered by Peter Aschenbrenner. Designed by Nigel Irens, the 63ft American trimaran hit a top speed of 38 knots in the 2013 race. “French Tech Caraîbos will be quick in big breeze,” commented Paradox trimmer Jeff Mearing, referring to Giles Lamire's Multi50, which won class in the 2010 Route du Rhum. Both boats are capable of breaking the multihull race record (31 hours, 59 minutes, 04 seconds Lloyd Thornburg's MOD70 Phaedo3). Greg Slyngstad's Bieker 53 Fujin returns and includes Olympic gold medallist Johnathan McKee as part of the Seattle-based crew. Competing for the first time will be Jason Carroll’s American Gunboat 62 Elvis, with Irish Volvo Ocean Race winner Justin Slattery on board. The smallest yacht in the race is the modified Seacart 30 Morticia, skippered by Shaun Carroll with an all-Australian crew.
The RORC Caribbean 600 is part of the Class40 2018 Championship and a record seven pocket rockets are competing this year from France, Germany, Sweden and the United States. The Class40 race record is 2 days 16 hours 26 minutes 29 seconds, set by Gonzalo Botin's Tales II in 2016. Catherine Pourre's Eärendil returns after a terrific battle in last year's race and 2016 runner-up, Mikael Ryking's Talanta from Sweden will also be amongst the Class40 fleet. Mathias Muller von Blumencron's German Class40 Red debuts after winning the RORC Transatlantic Race and Marc Lepesqueux's Class40 Sensation will be racing under IRC.
In IRC One, Olympian Per Arne Nilsen's Norwegian Swan 66 Enigma VIII is the largest yacht. Philippe Frantz's Nivelt-Muratet 43 Albator has a mixture of highly experienced veteran and young talented Figaro and Tour Voile sailors, all from France. German Swan 56 Latona will have three generations of the von Eicken family on board and representing the Norddeutscher Regatta Verein, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary. German Andrews 56 Broader View Hamburg, winner of IRC One for the 2017 RORC Transatlantic Race will be skippered by Georg Christiansen. The smallest yacht racing in IRC One will be last year's class winner, Antiguan RP37 Taz, skippered by Bernie Evan-Wong who has competed in every edition of the race. Giles Redpath's Lombard 46 Pata Negra was third in class in last year’s race and has been chartered by a team from Dublin, with Oliver Heer as skipper.
In IRC Two, the largest yacht will be Oceanis 55 Julia, skippered by Louie Neocleous who is just 20 years old and sailing with his father Richard. Back year after year are several yachts owned by charter companies offering the golden opportunity to compete in the race. Performance Yacht Racing have three entries; Grand Soleil 43s Quokka 8, Jua Kali and Beneteau First 47.7 EH01. The three teams are expected to have a close battle within the class. Another charter boat duel will be between two First 40s. Susan Glenny's Olympia's Tigress will be sailed by Richard Preston, against Sailing Logic's Lancelot II, sailed by Trevor Drew. Pamala Baldwin's J/122 Liquid will be proudly flying the Antiguan flag, as will the Antigua Sailing Academy's First 40.7 Ortac, sailed by Amanda Mochrie.
The largest yacht racing in IRC Three will be the 50ft Bermudan Cutter Gemervescence owned by RORC Commodore Steven Anderson. Jonty and Vicki Layfield's Antiguan flagged Swan 48 Sleeper won the class last year and will be defending their title. Andrew Eddy also returns with Oyster 48 Gaia and a young crew including both his son and daughter. “My daughter is flying in from Kenya and my son has put together a group of his sailing friends, so I am going to be the grown-up on board,” laughed Eddy. “Our goal is to finish before the prize giving on Friday as we did not manage last year, so we are hoping for good winds.” RORC Transatlantic Race Class winner, Richard Palmer will once again be racing his British JPK 10.10 Jangada Two Handed. Richard has teamed up with his partner for the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race, Jeremy Waitt and Jangada is the smallest monohull racing this year.