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Rapid pace continues in RORC Caribbean 600

Race record still on the cards for ICAP Leopard

Tuesday February 19th 2013, Author: James Boyd, Location: Antigua and Barbuda

On the first night, with Trade Winds gusting up to 28 knots, there has been virtually no let-up in the pace of the yachts competing in the RORC Caribbean 600.

Downwind under spinnaker, Andreas Hanakamp on board the Class40 Vaquita described the broad reach to St Kitts: "Just amazing racing, all the crew were grinning from ear to ear as we blasted downwind with the sunset lighting up the spinnaker. It was so special, we decided to have a-la-carte dinner with each crewman choosing his favourite freeze dried dish. It was beef stroganoff for me. The racing is really close. Sensation did well at the North Sails mark, sailing higher, but we got back at them after turning downwind. However, we have less righting moment than 40 Degrees, so I expect them to come back at us on the beat to St Barths, we will just try and sail as fast as we can."

And indeed, 40 Degrees has taken the lead with Vaquita back in second place.

In the Multihull class, Lloyd Thornburg's Gunboat 66 Phaedo, threw the dice at about 2200 last night by taking a more northerly route than Peter Aschenbrenner's Paradox ahead of them. However, the move did not pay off with Paradox extending her lead. Paradox is now blast reaching south and has nearly made Montserrat. The volcanic island marks the halfway point of the course. Paradox completed 300 miles in 20 hours, which is on course for the multihull record set by the ORMA 60 Region Guadeloupe in 2009.

Mike Slade's 100ft Maxi ICAP Leopard has, for now, lost sight of its imaginary prey. She is now 30 miles behind Rambler 100's position when she set her course record in 2011. However all is not lost. Before the race, Leopard's navigator, Hugh Agnew predicted that this year's wind direction would slow them on the route south to Guadeloupe, but she is still trucking along at 15 knots VMG. If she can maintain that pace, the record could still be broken.

Ron O'Hanley's Cookson 50 Privateer leads the IRC fleet overall but only just from Hap Fauth's JV72 Mini Maxi Bella Mente. At 0700, Privateer was at the very top of the course, beating into 24 knots of easterly breeze. Soon they will clear St Barths for the second time and launch downwind. Privateer has a fractional Code Zero and a Jib Top in their inventory, sails specifically for blast reaching.

In the Superyacht class Filip Balcaen's Baltic 112 Nilaya leads on the water, having successfully negotiated the Anguilla Channel and is about to unfurl her downwind sails to head south. Behind her the two goliaths of the RORC Caribbean 600 have been enjoying a moonlight match race. Geert Pepping's 208ft schooner Athos and the 180ft schooner Adela, skippered by Greg Perkins, have been virtually side by side all of the first night. However, Adela seems to have won the sparring match having kept herself to windward of Athos on the tricky beat up to St Barths. However Athos should have a distinct advantage when the two mighty schooners crack off south later today.

Bella Mente, is currently leading IRC Zero and is a strong contender for the overall prize. The reigning Mini Maxi World Champion is on a tight reach south and with conditions are faster this year, she is currently 60 miles ahead of Rán 2's position when Niklas Zennstrom's team took the overall win last year.

In IRC One Simon de Pietro's Irish Briand 76 Lilla and Colin Buffin's Swan 62 Uxorious IV are still out in front. However Lilla made just one extra tack last night on the beat to Saba, which looks to have paid off giving Lilla a slender lead on the water and also class lead, after time correction.

In IRC Two reigning class champion Oyster 48 Scarlet Logic co-skippered by Ross Applebey and Tim Thubron, have opened up a three mile lead on the approach to St Barths. The tough beat will have suited the vintage Oyster more than her close rival, Grand Soleil 43 Quokka LLYC.

In IRC Three Jonty Layfield's J/39 Sleeper, the smallest yacht in the fleet, has opened up a ten mile lead on the water and leads after time correction, but Adrian Lower's Swan 44 Selene and Valerio Bardi's Italian Swan 46 Milanto are revelling in the tough conditions. They may be astern of Sleeper, but hard upwind conditions at the top of the course may well see the two heavy displacement Swans close the gap.

Adrian Lower reported from the Swan 44 Selene: "Morale is high and Selene is in good shape, our AIS tells us we are in touch with Quokka with mates from Lloyds of London Yacht Club on board with whom I did this race last year. Quokka is a fast, well-sailed boat who just beat us in the ARC, so we are pleased to be close to them.

"There are a couple of other bigger boats still well in sight and we were close enough to enjoy the spectacle as the fleet gybed round North Sails mark off Barbuda and began the down wind leg to Nevis. We saw Adela and Athos bowling along under full sail looking magnificent as they ploughed through the fleet.

"It feels a bit lonely now that they are all pushing on, but that is what we expect as the slowest boat in the fleet. Our mission is to stay as close as we can and at the moment our boat speed is very good. For now it is something of a procession and waterline length is key. We hope to manage the next important tactical phase which will be the beat from Saba up to St.Barths. We should see something of the faster boats making their way south after rounding St Maarten. That will be a bit exciting as we shall be on reciprocal courses with a closing speed of over 30Kn, so eyes peeled then!

"Overnight retirements were received from Whisper and Haspa Hamburg, both with torn mainsails. All are well on board the boats and they are heading back to Antigua."

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