RORC Caribbean 600 underway
53 yachts were on the start line ranging from 100ft maxis, to a surprisingly large Class Z turn-out of 16, ranging from the mighty 56m Andre Hoek design Athos, to Hap Fauth's Mini Maxi Bella Mente down to the smallest boat in the fleet a J/39 via six Class40s, two Gunboat 66s and the 63ft trimaran Paradox.
"This is going to be a fast and fairly tough race," commented RORC CEO, Eddie Warden Owen, prior to the start. "All the teams are aware of the forecast and they know it is going to be breezy and how they handle those conditions will have a big impact on their performance. They will be excited but also apprehensive about the conditions. However, watching the start I have to say it was stunning, sunshine, beautiful warm water, they are all going to have a fantastic race."
First to go were the multihulls. Peter Aschenbrenner's Paradox chose to start on port and had to dip Austin Hearst's Gunboat 66 Slim. Meanwhile Lloyd Thornburg's Phaedo, with Brian Thompson among her crew, looked to have a mainsail issue with the crew battling to gain control in 25 knots of brisk trade winds. Phaedo fell behind but quickly rectified the problem and took chase.
The second start had 22 yachts barrelling towards the start line. Joseph Mele's American Swan 44 Triple Lindy got a fine start, but the bigger yachts soon passed them, notably Christian Reynolds' Swan 53 Northern Child, which went inshore to benefit from a great lift back out to lead on the beat.
Next to start were the Class40s and CSA. Peter Harding's Class40 40 Degrees was OCS and had to return to the start line. Christof Petter's Austrian Class40 Vaquita got away best at the pin end, but Marc Lepesqueux's Sensation headed inshore and tacked back to cross in front of Vaquita.
The penultimate start for the Class Zero and Canting Keel was delayed due to the race committee elected to relay the line.
Mike Slade's maxi ICAP Leopard and Hap Fauth's Bella Mente got away well, but Leopard's waterline length upwind was a telling factor as they rolled Bella Mente to leeward. Heading perilously close to the rocky cliffs, Bella Mente tacked first, releasing Leopard, which tacked right on their line. Dramatic to say the least but more drama was to come. Close behind the 100ft Maxi Liara was dismasted. The crew, all safe and well, motored Liara back to the dock.
Last to go where the Superyachts; Filip Balcaen's 112ft Baltic Nilaya was dwarfed by two mighty schooners, Athos and Adela. Nilaya had the line to herself, as Athos and Adela powered to windward on opposite tacks. They made a dramatic backdrop crashing through the waves as they made their way upwind to the turning point at Green Island off the Eastern end of Antigua with Adela crossing ahead of Athos to lead the private match race.
Photos from Tim Wright/www.photoaction.com