Revving engines

The RORC's inaugural Caribbean 600 sets off on 23 February

Wednesday February 18th 2009, Author: Louay Habib, Location: United Kingdom
On 23 February, the inaugural RORC Caribbean 600 will start from English Harbour in Antigua, West Indies. Offering perhaps some of the best sailing in the world, the 605 nautical mile yacht race zigzags north as far as St Marten and as far south as Guadeloupe. It will be a tough test for the yachts, the navigators and the crews.

Organised by the Royal Ocean Racing Club in association with the Antigua Yacht Club, the race has attracted a fleet of close to 30 boats, including some of the world's most prestigious yachts.

The biggest yacht is Peter Harrison's 115ft Farr designed, Sojana, skippered by Marc Fitzgerald. Mike Slade's 100ft supermaxi, ICAP Leopard, will be looking to set a course record for a monohull and add to the 11 records the boat currently holds. The fastest boat around the track is most likely to be the ORMA 60 trimaran chartered by John Burnie, Region Guadeloupe, which should fly around the course in less than 35 hours!

However, the Gunboat 48 Cream will be tough to beat. This state-of-the-art carbon fibre catamaran is skippered by well known Olympic sailors turned cat guru Cam Lewis. The smallest yacht in the race is Bernard Evan-Wong's Mumm 36, High Tension. Evan-Wong runs a busy dental practice in Antigua but has also competed in over 20 Antigua Sailing weeks. With that sort of knowledge, he will certainly know his way around the course.

Swan's make up the biggest class: From Italy the new Swan 90, DSK, owned by Danilo Salsi is definitely not here to cruise the course and will be pushed to the limit by a top Italian race team. Wijnand Van den Boogard's Swan 51, Star Chaser, is the smallest in the Swan fleet.

Nine countries are represented from all over the world: Adrian Lee's, Cookson 50, Lee Overlay and Partners are from Ireland. This boat has serious miles under its belt, having been the 2007 Rolex Fastnet Race winner when named 'Chieftain', as well as a previous Class winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart. The Class 40 design is rapidly growing in popularity and Alex Mihran's Cutlass is expected to have a tremendous battle with Willy Bessante's Lou and Tony Lawson's Concise. Other yachts to look out for are David Aisher's Rogers 46 Yeoman XXXII and Simon Lambert's Marten 80 Nimrod.

The RORC Caribbean 600 is designed to give a challenging offshore yacht race - something that has not been available in the Caribbean before - but is very much in demand. Only one of the rounding marks is not an island; the North Sails mark, off the southwest tip of Barbuda. It should be a scenic and exciting race for every single participant.

ICAP Leopard's skipper, Chris Sherlock, commented: "There will be no boring bits as there are many corners to turn and islands to round." Chris also believes that the RORC Caribbean 600 will become very popular. "With warm sea and guaranteed trade winds, both day and night, I am sure this race will become one of the classic 'must do' races on the offshore race circuit."

Looking at the quality of the fleet and the expected champagne sailing conditions, there should be some highly charged action from the water and no doubt a fantastic party atmosphere to follow.

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