70 YACHTS - 11 ISLANDS & A SPECTACULAR MOON
The RORC Caribbean 600 Race - 2016
By John Burnie
(This complete editorial can be found at: www.yachtingmatters.com Edition 30)
The RORC Caribbean 600 Race is held annually in February and the 2016 edition marked the 8th running of the event. Starting in Antigua, the race course follows a meandering route around 11 islands in the Leeward Island Chain - taking in St Bart’s and Tintamare to the North and Guadeloupe and Les Saintes to the South. Racing 600 miles in such proximity to so many islands (and at night) is as spectacular as it is challenging.
The race since its first edition in 2009 has always attracted grand yachts and sailors of every distinction – from out and out racers to superyachts together on the starting lines with club sailors mixing it up with professionals from the Olympic, America’s Cup and Volvo arenas. What probably makes this race so unique however is that there is a Superyacht Class – and a competitive one at that! This is probably the only Classic Superyacht Offshore race in the world where the yachts start head to head and compete in a direct boat on boat competition.
In past editions we have seen titanic battles between the mighty ATHOS and ADELA, vying for their advantage over WINDROSE and the more modern designs such as SOJANA and P2. This year the star of the show was the magnificent triple mast schooner ADIX. After a number of years as an “expression of interest” ADIX finally came to the start line in 2016 in all her splendour following an eight month extended refit at the Pendennis yard. And there was a curious challenge in their entry – the Botin family who own ADIX have a broad spectrum of interest in yacht racing it seems. Gonzalo Botin is a well-known sailor on the Class 40 circuit (on his various editions of TALES) - his father on the other hand enjoys the classic beauty and strength of his great schooner. A challenge was proposed – could the Class 40 beat the 65m classic on the course – son vs father?
And the results? Well unfortunately the Class 40 is a one design - so these boats are not directly scored against each other in IRC overall – but these were the results:
TALES 2 Elapsed (and finish time) 2 days 16hrs 26min 29sec
ADIX Elapsed 2 days 19hrs 53min 05sec Corrected 3 days 11hrs 05min 27sec
I think it’s fair to say the spoils were taken by TALES 2 – ADIX scorched around the course, but about three hours slower that TALES 2 and ADIX probably yielded in terms of rating as well – an amazing performance for a 40 ft. yacht – I trust the father and son relationship remains undamaged!
The other boats in the Superyacht class this year were NIKATA, a spanking new Baltic Custom Build 115’and FARFALLA a Southern Wind 102 / 110ft fresh out the box in 2014. These two yachts performed very well in their first offshore race and we can probably expect to see these two vessels doing well at other regattas in the future.
FARFALLA has a more cruising configuration when compared to the powerful looking NIKATA. In fact NIKATA performed spectacularly well upwind and her gains in the long leg towards Guadeloupe were impressive.
The 2016 race saw winds much further south than is the norm and this created upwind legs of close to 300 miles. Normally the leg from St Bart’s to Guadeloupe is a fetch - but the upwind trend certainly suited NIKATA, allowing her to continually mix it with all the leading race yachts. A spectacular full moon enhanced this year’s race enormously - sailing fast in the twilight left all crews with an ethereal tingling of the senses.
After 600 miles racing around the Leewards, participating crews were all welcomed back to Antigua by the reception committees organised by the RORC – over 70 volunteers are on hand day and night to greet the incoming boats and supply beers and sustenance to the hardy sailors. NIKATA reigned supreme by winning the Superyacht Trophy and ADIX held well to beat FARFALLA on the ratings.
There were 70 entries in the race this year (an increase for the 8thconsecutive year) and the entrants were divided up into various classes according to type and size. An interesting fact from the RORC Caribbean - in most other offshore events the largest class by entry tends to be at the middle / lower end of the fleet. In the 600 the largest class by entry is usually in the larger rated boats. In 2016 there were no less than 26 entries in Class CZ (canting keel) and Class 0– all starting together on the same gun. This inevitably lead to a very feisty and competitive start by the vast array of sailing talent taking part on the higher rated yachts. The start line was short and the spectator crowds on the hill were treated to a grand prix beginning in the spectacularly beautiful starting area - under the Pillars of Hercules at the entrance to English Harbour.
There were two MOD 70 one design trimarans racing this year, both jousting for records and a high speed rounding of the course. And of the largest rated yachts in the world was participating – COMANCHE - owned by Jim Clarke and Kristy Hinze, also known for their other iconic yacht ATHENA.
The MOD 70’s trimarans PHAEDO and CONCISE were quick out the box and hurtled down the first leg toward Barbuda, quickly overhauling COMANCHE in hot pursuit. The boats are all capable of consistent speed of 30+ knots and in some conditions 40+ knots!
These three boats all made a very quick rounding of the 600 mile course, COMANCHE just 33 mins outside George David’s RAMBLER 100 monohull record (40 hrs 53mins 2 sec) and Lloyd Thornburg’s PHAEDO setting a new multihull record of 31hours, 59mins, 04secs.
In the Maxi 72 fleet there were four boats Hap Fauth’s BELLA MENTE, George Sakelaris’s PROTEUS (ex RAN), Dieter Shon’s MOMO and Sir Peter Ogden’s JETHOU. All four yachts had a highly competitive race, all in sight of each other most of the time. MOMO snagged a lobster pot near St Bart’s and the 40 min delay probably cost her the race. BELLA MENTE had technical problems and chose to retire. Sadly Irvine Laidlaw’s HIGHLAND FLING also retired near Guadeloupe after leading the fleet much of the race only behind COMANCHE.
One of the great pleasures in this race is arriving back in Antigua, particularly after the final testing beat back from Redonda. Early arrivals are treated to the horns blasting on the docked superyachts and crowds that line the pontoons to welcome the hardy sailors back. The army of RORC volunteers are on hand to greet every finisher with ample supplies of cold beer, courtesy of Carib. Those finishing at night are treated to the spectacular laser finish.
This is quite simply a superb regatta, superbly organised and run by RORC – Superyachts of every size and type are catered for and can easily compete – ADELA has won her class three times and was third overall in 2011 - all superyachts should seriously consider this race as it has become a “must do bucket item”.
Congratulations to Captains Matt Hardy (NIKATA), Richard Chadburn (FARFALLA) and to Executive Captain Terry Gould and Captain Paul Goss (ADIX) as well as all the participants on these great yachts.
In IRC Overall (out of 54 entries) – magnificent results for all three Superyachts.
In the other classes COMANCHE arrived home as first monohull and George Sakellaris’s PROTEUS won Class Zero as well as the coveted trophy for best corrected IRC performance – a repeat victory as he won the trophy in 2014 on his previous yacht SHOCKWAVE. In the smaller classes Ross Appleby won IRC Class Two for the third time on his SCARLET OYSTER and in IRC Class 1 Eric de Turkheim continued his winning offshore ways on the highly competitive TEASING MACHINE. (Also the first French yacht to achieve an overall podium place - 3rd)
First Monohull COMANCHE
First Multihull PHAEDO
Winner of the IRC Overall Trophy PROTEUS
John Burnie was a Co – Founder of the RORC Caribbean 600 race.
He has participated in all eight editions, including once on SOJANA in the Superyacht Class.
In 2016 he was racing tactician on La Bete (ex-Rambler 90) and was in close company with NIKATA much of the race.