Josh Hall in the Caribbean: Why we retired from the 600...

Josh Hall in the Caribbean: Why we retired from the 600...

Friday February 26 2010 Author: Josh Hall Location: Antigua and Barbuda

The RORC600 is a fabulous event and one that all of us onboard Ocean Warrior would like to race again in the future. We raced at close quarters with a complete mix of boats around seeing 11 islands in the first 30 hours alone.

Unfortunately the normally reliable trade winds that a race like this deserves were simply not in for this 2010 edition. This was no issue for the first half of the course as there was enough wind available to get round the track at a good pace. The longest leg of the race from Saint Maarten to Les Saintes (south of Guadeloupe) was in a 15-20 knot southerly based breeze that made for some tough upwind sailing, hanging on to as much sail as possible for as long as possible. Typical marginal sailing - as soon as we reefed the main we were shaking it out again as the wind oscillated up and down.

However, the forecast for the final stretch, and the rest of the race, was for exceptionally light winds of 0-7kts and the back 300 miles was clearly going to take way longer than anticipated. One of the issues that exists with these types of events is that owners and charterers allow some fairly tight timeframes to be able to complete the course. When the weather decides to be unusual and non co-operative there is an unfair clash for people who have moved financial and time-driven mountains to do the event between sitting virtually becalmed offshore a Caribbean island and sitting at an important meeting that is crucial to their business.

This dilemma arrived aboard Ocean Warrior some 30 miles south of Antigua. After some hours of denial and theorising the tough decision had to be made to retire from the race and head back in.

All four of us were hugely disappointed, but the one thing that nobody can control is the weather. Numerous other entries have subsequently been forced to retire for the same reason.

The only way that this can be avoided is for the race organisation to decide on a course based on the weather forecasts just before departure – one that fits the time frame of the people who are forced to allocate a fairly fixed amount of time to compete. To die-hard pro-sailors this is a somewhat alien consideration but one that is more and more relevant in modern offshore racing. Of course RORC have, created a classic race here and the aim is to keep the course the same regardless, which is correct. But, when there are far from normal weather conditions this does mean that there will be fleet attrition – many owners, charterers, crews and folk taking time out for the race simply have to get back home for business reasons and cannot take the risk of missed flights and connections.

Despite our own race being curtailed we came away with some incredible mind images.....here are few :

 

Mixing it up at the start line with some quite stunning and huge race yachts

Watching the Guadeloupe trimaran pouring into the start area upwind at 20 knots in a ball of spray

Sailing as high and as fast as 40 Degrees for the first uphill leg with our much previous design from the same architect (sorry Merf!)

Passing close in to Saba island with its houses perched 1000ft up the cliffs – tough place to live, no question

Match-racing with the Pogo Class40 from dawn to dusk on day 2......talk about a sail trimming work out!

Close reaching across the north coast of St Maarten with 20kts of wind, flat water, a turquoise sea and the Pogo just 5 metres astern – stunning racing and stunning scenery

Seeing the lava from Montserrat’s volcano steaming into the ocean

The sheer heat that beats down on you while you race through the day and the sheer pleasure of having a cooler filled with ice and bottled water

Sailing with great guys whose company was appreciated as much as their talents

 

So thanks Joe, Michel and Peter – let’s hope we can do it again together in 2011 and let’s hope we can get our hands on that trimaran!

 

And thanks to RORC – great event that deserves to grow in leaps and bounds .........

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