Podium decided in the RORC Caribbean 600
It has been a busy 24 hours at the Antigua Yacht Club. At dawn on the fifth day of the RORC Caribbean 600, only three yachts were still at sea vying to complete the course before tonight's Prizegiving celebrations and all of the class winners are now provisionally decided. The bar at the Antigua Yacht Club has been in full swing, buzzing with stories between the crews and songs in a myriad of different languages.
Team Selene skippered by Benjamin Davitt finished yesterday morning. The Swan 80 sailed an excellent race to claim third place overall and will lift the prestigious Swan Caribbean Challenge Trophy later this evening.
Without doubt, the closest racing for this year's event was in IRC One. Colin Buffin's Swan 62 Uxorious IV was first to finish, but the team did not celebrate a class win. Buffin and his young team knew that Amanda Hartley's Swan 56 Clem was extremely close to eclipsing their corrected time. Just over three and half hours passed before Clem crossed the finish line to win the class by just 21 seconds on corrected time. There were ecstatic scenes dockside as the Spanish crew of Clem celebrated their class win. The entire crew of Uxorious IV including Colin Buffin sportingly applauded their rivals.
Amanda Hartley spoke of their win: "We had no idea until we crossed the line and turned on our phones which went crazy with people calling in from Spain. By our calculation we thought we had lost out by five minutes. We got stuck at Guadeloupe for four hours and we could only sit and watch Uxorious get away. We are obviously extremely delighted and really appreciate Colin and his team coming over to give us such a lovely welcome back to Antigua."
Jaime Torres' Puerto Rican First 40 Smile And Wave finished shortly after midnight last night to claim third in IRC One.
Scarlet Logic, co-skippered by Ross Applebey and Tim Thubron, finished the RORC Caribbean 600 shortly after 2300 last night. The Oyster 48 has been vying for the overall win for the last two days. In the end Scarlet Logic missed out, but the team had put in an incredible effort and have been rewarded with a convincing win in IRC Two. Scarlet Logic has the best corrected time in IRC One, Two and Three and as a result will be awarded the fantastic prize of a week's accommodation at the luxurious Inn at English Harbour.
"Fantastic, elated but bloody tired," admitted Tim Thubron, co-skipper of Scarlet Logic. The weather lined up nicely for us and we were aware that we were in with a chance of beating the big, well funded professional teams and that really spurred us on and made us push even harder. A lot of credit must go to the whole team, especially Ross Applebey. Scarlet was immaculately prepared and we hardly had a single breakage, however we did need to drop the main to replace a sail slide. The job was done and the main back up in eight minutes, that to me says it all."
There was joy and pain for both IRC Canting Keel and the Class40s. Ernesto Cortina's Volvo 70 Gran Jotiti finished the race in just over two days. The Spanish team is racing the ex-Telefonica Black from the last Volvo Ocean Race. Cortina spoke about his team shortly after finishing. "This has been a great experience, even though our result was badly affected by a lot of sail damage. Many of the sails are tired from thousands of miles of racing. However, the crew have been a joy to sail with and this race is helping us build for the future. Gran Jotiti's aim is to create a world class amateur Spanish offshore sailing team and we have learnt a lot through this race.
Ron O'Hanley's Cookson 50 Privateer showed exceptional pace and boat handling throughout. Unfortunately the American team failed to start correctly and accepted a 10% penalty from the race organisers resulting in Gran Jotiti being declared winner of IRC Canting Keel.
The Class40s turned into a battle royale between Christophe Coatnoan's Partouche and Christof Petter's Vaquita. The two Class40s were locked in a heroic tacking duel for the final push to the finish line, a 40-mile beat from Redonda to the finish in Antigua.
Vaquita crossed the line just after sunset beating Partouche by a slender margin, just 15 minutes in a race lasting over three days. However, Vaquita failed to start the race correctly and to the Austrian crew's disappointment, the class win was awarded to Partouche: "It was a tough race and we had a couple of moments that really slowed us down," commented Christophe Coatnoan who raced two-handed with Eric Calmard. "We picked up a fishing float after Nevis without realising and we probably lost 8 miles before we knew it was there. Later at Guadeloupe, I had to dive into the water to free Partouche from yet another fishing buoy. The race was an excellent test for our new design especially for our sails as I think we used every one of them during the race."
Vaquita's Andreas Hanakamp commented: "Obviously we are disappointed to have been penalised but we were delighted with our performance. Partouche is a brand new Finot design, while Vaquita is a 2006 Akilaria. The RORC Caribbean 600 is a testing race course and a very tough race, exactly what we needed to prepare for our main competition of the season, The Atlantic Cup later this year."
The latest competitor to finish the RORC Caribbean 600 is Bernie Evan-Wong's Mumm 36 High Tension. Falmouth Harbour exploded with noise as the smallest yacht in the race tied up right outside the Antigua Yacht Club. Thunderous blasts from megayachts, superyachts and foghorns literally shook the dock as the whole of the sailing community in Falmouth heralded the arrival of local hero Bernie and his crew.
"I said we would be here tonight but I always like to be early for appointments," joked the Antiguan dentist. "It was a hard but satisfying race and the beat from Redonda to the finish seemed to take forever. We could see Antigua but it just didn't seem to be getting any bigger, however a few miles out a massive rain squall hit and veered the wind favourably for us to speed our way to Antigua. After last year's dismasting, I think maybe someone was looking out for us!"
Tonight the RORC Caribbean 600 Prizegiving Ceremony will take place at the Antigua Yacht Club. The two yachts still racing are Igor Zaretskiy's First 40.7 Coyote II and the RACYC Offshore Racing Team - White Knight's Spirit of Venus. Both are expected to make tonight's party, which should be a momentous occasion.