Feb 20 2012
A Dazzling Send Off for the 4th RORC Caribbean 600
There was drama right from the start of the 4th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600. Low cloud enveloped Antigua and a massive squall caused a torrential downpour. With the wind gusting up to 20 knots, the crew were scrambling for wet weather gear. The feisty conditions caused some hair-raising action under the cliffs of Fort Charlotte outside English Harbour. However, once the squall had passed bright sunshine lit up the race course and the highly impressive fleet was a spectacular sight.
First to start were the multihulls. Olivier Vigoureux's 63ft trimaran Paradox got the best start but by contrast, Michael Butterfield's Super Rose had a very conservative beginning to their adventure. Super Rose's crew is made up of just family and friends and their single goal is to enjoy a marvellous race round 11 Caribbean Islands.
Ten minutes later Classes One, Two, Three and the Class40s were away with Ross Applebey's Scarlet Oyster having a good start. However, Northern Child was seen to return after missing the Outer Distance Mark at the start. Bernie Evan-Wong's Mumm 36, High Tension showed great local knowledge by getting inshore right under the cliffs of Fort Charlotte. High Tension has one of the lowest handicaps of the impressive fleet and may well benefit from increased wind forecast later this week. In IRC One the two Swans, Amanda Hartley's Swan 56 Clem and Colin Buffin's Swan 62, Uxorious IV enjoyed a very competitive start. No doubt these two Swans will enjoy a close battle within their class. Clem won her class in the 2009 Rolex Fastnet Race and Uxorious IV won last year's highly competitive St.Malo Race.
With 16 highly competitive yachts in IRC Zero, fireworks at the start were always going to be a possibility and the crowd of spectators at Shirley Heights were not disappointed. Niklas Zennström's JV72, Rán nailed the line with precision to the right hand side of the course. Meanwhile, Mike Cotter's RP78, Whisper gained a lift on the left hand side. As Rán hardened up, Whisper tacked for depth and the two Mini Maxis had an extremely close encounter. Sergey Borodinov's 90' Supermaxi, Med Spirit went for a very late sail change and was bare headed just four minutes before the start. The team work on board was frantic as the crew affected an efficient sail change.
Tim Fetsch's Icarus Racing got a great start midway through the line but 20 miles from Barbuda were overhauled by Peter Harding and Hannah Jenner onboard 40 Degrees.
The last start of the day was for the five yachts competing in the RORC Caribbean 600 that are 100ft and over. There was a fantastic spectacle as the 180' Adela and the 154' Windrose went toe-to-toe. The two magnificent schooners were locked in a battle for the line. Windrose managed to hold their lane to windward of Adela to win the start, but Adela's water line length advantage came into play to overhaul their grand competition. Peter Harrison's Sojana had a fantastic start. RORC member John Burnie called in from the rail of the fabulous 115' ketch: "We had a great tussle with Gerhard Andlinger's P2 during the prestart, all gentlemanly stuff but we managed to manoeuvre well and hit the line with pace, maybe just half a boat length shy, however P2 is 125' long and got a great head of speed up wind. Hetairos went right in under Shirley Heights and stayed in past Indian Creek, we heard them radio P2 to call for water as they tacked out. However, P2 maintained their course and passed well ahead of Hetairos. At Green Island, P2 were the first monohull but I believe Hetairos will catch them as they bear away after Green Island but the sloop rig on P2, is very efficient upwind. On Sojana we have managed to get through a light patch of wind just before Green Island but looking up the track, it looks like the wind is freshening."
The Royal Armoured Corp were late on parade, nearly half an hour late for the race. Their First 40.7 Spirit of Venus was not seen to come to the starting area. However, just as the fabulous five yachts over 100' began to get up to full speed, the diminutive Spirit of Venus, charged out of Falmouth Harbour with the throttle fully down. A mighty squall had ripped their mainsail, quick thinking Ondeck charter skipper, Chris Jackson came to their aid, ribbing out a replacement. Spirit of Venus started the race with just minutes to spare before being counted out. Spirit of Venus then performed the required 720 turning penalty and sped off to start the RORC Caribbean 600. The team aboard Spirit of Venus are all serving members of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment returning from Afghanistan, perhaps their military training has enabled them to stay in the RORC Caribbean 600 race.
Feb 21 2012
Rambler out in Front
George David's RP90 Rambler has a commanding lead in the battle for line honours in the RORC Caribbean 600. The American entry is over 20 miles ahead of the 214ft Ketch Hetairos, even though Rambler is less than half the size.
Rambler rounded Tintamarre just after dawn this morning to begin the 160-mile power reach south to Guadeloupe. Rambler barely stalled for speed right through the night. The American maxi cut the corner at Nevis, as better than expected breeze hurried their progress. Except for dropping below ten knots in the wind shadow of St.Martin, Rambler has been absolutely launched. Hetairos may close the gap on the reach but the superyacht is now well behind Rambler. Rambler provisionally lead IRC Zero after time correction with Niklas Zennström's JV72, Rán lying in second place. Swan 80 Selene had a good first night to take up third place on handicap.
In IRC Two, Ross Applebey's Oyster 48, Scarlet Logic is provisionally leading overall in the RORC Caribbean 600. Over night, the predicted fall in wind speed never materialized and Scarlet Logic maintained good boat speed throughout. After rounding Saba, Scarlet Logic was back on the wind and trucking along at seven knots. Smile and Wave, Jaime Torres' First 40 found ballistic pace during the night and is in second. Amanda Hartley's Swan 56, Clem did not have such a good night and has dropped back to third.
As expected, the largest yacht in the fleet, Hetairos lead the five superyachts by some margin. The 214ft carbon fibre ketch was flying last night reaching at a speed in excess of 18 knots rounding St.Kitts. By midnight Hetairos was rounding Saba and beating north. However, none of the 36 crew will have retired below. In the dead of night, the tricky slalom course through St.Barths and past St.Martin would have required all hands. Behind Hetairos two monumental duels are playing out, Sojana and P2 have enjoyed each others close company virtually from the start. Race fans may have noticed however that P2 have completely split from the usual heading after rounding Saba. The 38m Perini Navi looks to be 'banging the corner' going to the far extremity of the course. This morning P2 was on a beam reach at full speed heading to St.Barths, whilst Sojana was beating to windward. It will be interesting to see which tactical play wins out. Adela and Windrose of Amsterdam are enjoying a titanic sparring match and there is nothing between the two yachts on the water, however Adela does give Windrose a significant amount of time under IRC.
IRC One has a new provisional leader after time correction. Smile and Wave had great pace off the breeze during the night, however the beat around St.Barths should favour Spanish entry Clem. Colin Buffin's Uxorious IV elected to take a more northerly course after Saba and the Swan 62 looks to be pointing higher than rivals.
Bernie Evan Wong has just cleared the wind shadow behind St Kitts. However, shortly after sunrise, High Tension made an unusual bare-away in the lee of St.Kitts, presumably to effect some sort of repair. It was almost exactly the same spot as High Tension dismasted last year. Happily, Bernie and his team are going well and enjoying the ride.
Feb 22 2012
Day 3: Escape from Guadeloupe
Last night, the leading yachts in the RORC Caribbean 600 were approaching Guadeloupe, rising to 1,467 m (4,813 ft) above sea-level, the island produces the most significant wind shadow on the 600-mile racecourse.
The 214ft Baltic ketch Hetairos was the first yacht to Guadeloupe at sunset, powering through the crystal blue waters at 18 knots. George David's RP90 Rambler were just over a mile behind; the crew fully hiked with the big gear up, blast reaching after their monumental competitor. With no moon and substantial cloud cover, the two yachts were sparring for line honours in the pitch-black dark of night as they passed the Soufričre volcano. At first Rambler followed the leaders line but after passing Les Saintes, Hetairos tacked offshore and Rambler did not follow. The defining moment came as Rambler lost speed at La Desirade. Hetairos escaped into the open air of the Atlantic and gained 16 miles on Rambler, a lead that Hetairos is unlikely to give up. Rambler and Hetairos are expected to finish the race early this afternoon.
Handicap race leader and third on the water, Niklas Zennström's JV72 Rán made it through the wind shadow of Guadeloupe with some precision last night. The wind in this region is subject to massive changes in direction and Team Rán went through a myriad of moves and sail changes.
By midnight, Peter Harrison's 115ft ketch Sojana and Gerhard Andlinger's 124ft Perini Navi P2 arrived at Guadeloupe and came close to a complete standstill for over two hours, however P2 managed to keep going and pass Sojana: "P2 did well to read the conditions," conceded Sojana crewman, John Burnie by satellite phone. "They stayed just a little further offshore but made a big gain by remaining offshore, which is traditionally not the best route. We have some catching up to do but the long reach to Barbuda should suit Sojana more than P2 and we expect to overtake her once again."
Last night, Olivier Vigoureux's 63ft trimaran, Paradox may well have claimed a speed record for the RORC Caribbean 600. Screaming past Montserrat like a bat out of hell, the French trimaran took on a ballistic surge for half an hour, hitting close to 30 knots of boat speed.
Sad news for two yachts came to light this morning, Christof Petter's Austrian Class40, Vaquita failed to start correctly and as a result the provisional leader of the Class40 division is Christopher Coatnoan's Partouche, which is also the only Class40 racing Two-Handed.
The Class40s are taxiing for take off at the top of the course for the long reach down to Guadeloupe. These pocket rockets are capable of speeds well in excess of 20 knots and the 150-mile leg to the south will give them ideal conditions to let loose. Ron O'Hanley's Cookson 50, Privateer also failed to start correctly which is gutting for the American team on Privateer as they have sailed a great race so far.
Amanda Hartley's Swan 56, Clem has regained the lead on time correction in IRC One with Colin Buffin's Swan 62, Uxorious IV lying second. Both Swans are now on a tight reach south. Jaime Torres' First 40f, Smile and Wave should come into contention; the Puerto Rican First 40 is set to round Tintamarre later this morning.
IRC Two has Ross Applebey's Scarlet Logic leading after time correction, however Christian Reynolds' Swan 51 Northern Child is second, having made a marvelous recovery after turning back at the start and giving up over half an hour to the opposition.
Northern Child is chartered to Merkle, the American IT company, and has five employees on board with all expenses paid for by Merkle after one crew member chose the RORC Caribbean 600 as their dream vacation for winning an employee prize. Third after time correction in IRC Two is the smallest yacht in the race, Bernie Evan-Wong's Mumm 36, High Tension. Bernie and his team are currently enjoying the long reach down to Guadeloupe.
Alain Delhumeau (right) skipper of Rayon Vert with Thomas Bourget safe in the Antigua Yacht Club. Photo: RORC/Louay HabibJust after 2200 last night, Alain Delhumeau's 50ft trimaran, Rayon Vert reported in with steering problems and retired safely into Falmouth Harbour. A carbon fibre steering rod gave up in dramatic fashion near Redonda. Taking just four hours to sail 80 miles from St.Barths to Redonda, the multihull was virtually airborne exceeding 25 knots of boat speed. Alain and his crew were understandably disappointed but vowed to return next year.
Feb 22 2012
Line Honours Arrival
The 200ft superyacht Hetairos skippered by Vincent Fauquenoy, crossed the finish line in Antigua on Wednesday 22nd February 2012 completing the course in an elapsed time of 2 days 2 hours 39 minutes and 32 seconds to claim Line Honours for the 2012 RORC Caribbean 600.
Feb 23 2012
Hetairos victorious, Rán count the minutes
The 214ft superyacht Hetairos skippered by Vincent Fauquenoy, crossed the finish line in Antigua on Wednesday 22nd February 2012, completing the RORC Caribbean 600 in an elapsed time of 2 days 2 hours 39 minutes and 32 seconds to claim Line Honours. The monumental ketch was well outside the record time set by Rambler 100 last year, however the international team aboard Hetairos were all smiles as they were greeted by well-wishers and a cacophony of horns from megayachts in Falmouth Harbour.
Hetairos navigator, South African Marc Lagesse modestly admitted to being somewhat taken aback with their achievement:
"I have to say, I am genuinely surprised that we were the first yacht home. I honestly thought that we wouldn't take Line Honours before the race. Hetairos and especially her sails are not optimized for racing on a course like the '600. Also I thought that from a navigators point of view, I got a few calls not quite right. However, we did have a few decisions work out for us by chance and I would always say it is better to be lucky than good! For example, we went inshore behind Guadeloupe, to change a sail in flat water and by chance we got a big lift in there. Last year I did this race on a Class40 in a lot of wind, so I have experienced some big contrasts but I really enjoyed this race, an illustrious fleet with great people and a big atmosphere."
Hetairos were pushed hard all the way by George David's 90ft maxi, Rambler. It was not until half way through the race that Hetairos managed to pass Rambler. The all star American team put in a fantastic performance but could not match the pace of an opponent over twice their size.
George David spoke candidly shortly after the race:
"It was great to get back in the saddle for a 600-mile race after the Fastnet, and to hold out so long on that course against Hetairos required a magnificent effort. On corrected time, it was never going be easy to win. Rambler 90 was launched in 2002 and hull design and stability has improved significantly since then so it was not just the size that we were up against. However, Mick (Harvey) is a great project manager and Norm (David Petersen) is a great Boat Captain and all the guys are just so much fun to sail with."
Niklas Zennstrom's JV72, Rán was the next yacht home, less than an hour behind Rambler to claim the overall lead after time correction in the 2012 RORC Caribbean 600. Rán know that there can be no celebration yet, but Rán has set the bar very high indeed. As the remaining yachts battle it out on the course, Team Rán must wait until this fascinating race plays out. Several yachts are very much in contention to beat Rán's corrected time.
Rán's owner and principle helmsman, Niklas Zennstrom looked tired but full of joy after completing a race that he has wanted to do for some time:
"The whole of Team Rán have been looking forward to this race for a while. We have wanted to do this race since 2009. A few of the crew have done the race before, Jeremy Robinson on Leopard for example and he was able to give a lot of input before the race. But Ado (Stead) and Steve (Hayles) have not competed in the '600 before, so it has been somewhat new territory for us, which is always exciting. It is a complex course, more like a series of coastal races. However, I think the reason I was attracted to the race so much was that we enjoyed Antigua Sailing Week and the idea of an offshore race in the Caribbean was very appealing. Any 600-mile yacht race is hard but the fantastic conditions and beautifully weather makes this one even more satisfying. The close reach down to Guadeloupe from St.Barths was very memorable, fast reaching conditions in beautiful surroundings, some of the best sailing you can imagine."
Just after sunset, Olivier Vigoureux's one-off trimaran Paradox came to rest after over two days of blasting around the Caribbean. The weather-gods did not smile on the team and Region Guadeloupe's multihull record was never really in doubt, but the crew of Paradox should be delighted to claim the winner's trophy for the Multihull Class this year. Hopefully their exploits will encourage a bigger fleet of multihulls next year, spearing through the Caribbean at break neck speed is surely every multihull sailor's dream.