Caribbean 600 preview: no super-maxis but plenty of battles

Yachting World

This year’s RORC Caribbean 600 should feature a number of tight battles across a range for classes with four Volvo 70s and two MOD70s set to fight for monohull and multihull line honours

Over 70 teams from 16 different nations are expected for the the 2023 RORC Caribbean 600 the 14th edition of the event, which will, start on Monday 20th February.

The Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Caribbean 600 is one of the great ‘600 mile’ ocean race challenges, along with such epics as the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race.

The Caribbean 600’s tropical setting might lull you into the false belief that this race t is not such a hardcore event as other offshore classics, but that would be misleading. The Caribbean 600 features a tortuous course between islands, that requires crews to work with currents, beat into tradewinds and coax their boats through wind shadows in the lee of islands on one of the most interesting offshore courses to be found anywhere in the world.

The 600nm course circumnavigates 11 Caribbean islands starting from Fort Charlotte, English Harbour, Antigua and heads north as far as St Martin and south to Guadeloupe taking in Barbuda, Nevis, St Kitts, Saba and St Barth’s.

Unlike previous years, the 2023 Caribbean 600 will not see any super-maxis competing. Last year we were treated to a battle between Comanche and Skorpios but with the former in Australia and the latter currently out of the water in Europe neither will be on the startline. Regular entrant, Rambler 88 is also not set to take the startline having competed in the Rolex Sydney Hobart race in Australia in late December 2022.

This means the line honours win is likely to go to one of the four Volvo 70s set to take to the startline in the IRC Zero fleet.

Maserati powering towards A Caribbean 600 finish. Photo: Arthur Daniel/RORC

Multihull battle

Two 70ft racing trimarans are readying for a multihull showdown; Giovanni Soldini’s foiling

 Multi70 returns having missed out in 2022 to Jason Carroll’s Argo for Multihull Line Honours by just two minutes.

Argo is in the Pacific and not taking part this year, but MOD70 Zoulou with Erik Maris at the helm will provide formidable opposition to the Italian stallion.

Six Multihulls are expected to be in action, including Gunboat 60 Tosca co-skippered by Ken Howery & Alex Thomson, as well as Christian Guyader’s ORC 50 Guyader Saveol skippered by Gwen Chapalain.

IRC Super Zero

IRC Super-Zero promises to be a thrilling six-gun shoot-out for round the world canting-keel raceboats, including four Volvo 70s: American skipper Roy P. Disney racing Pyewacket, The Polish National Foundation’s I Love Poland, HYPR Ocean Racing skippered by Seamus Fitz Patrick, and a RORC team racing Green Dragon skippered by Johannes Schwarz.

Two VO65s will also be in the IRC Super Zero mix: The Lithuanian team on Ambersail and an Austrian entry on Sisi  skippered by Gerwin Jansen.

IRC Zero and IRC One

The largest class for the RORC Caribbean 600 is IRC Zero with 13 entries. Fireworks are expected from seven carbon-fibre 50-footers in the class: Eric de Turckheim’s NMD 54 Teasing Machine, Botin 56 Black Pearl sailed by Stefan Jentsch, Niklas Zennstrom’s CF520 Rán, Henry de Bokay’s Elliott 52 Rafale, Kate & Jim Murray Pac52 Callisto, Infiniti 52 Tulikettu skippered by Arto Linnervuo and the ClubSwan 50 Balthasar sailed by Louis Balcean.

Smaller yachts capable of punching well above their weight include the HH42 Ino XXX skippered by RORC Commodore James Neville, and Frederic Puzin’s Ker 46 Daguet 3 – Corum. The largest boats expected to be racing in IRC Zero include Todd Stuart’s Swan 82 White Rhino and Marie Tabarly’s 73ft ketch Pen Duick VI.

Racing in IRC One will be local hero Bernie Evan-Wong’s RP37 Taz. Bernie has never missed a RORC Caribbean 600 and will be competing as skipper for the 14th occasion. Taz will have strong competition from fellow Caribbean entry; J/121 Whistler skippered by Peter Lewis.

Experienced British entries in IRC One include Andrew & Sam Hall’s Lombard 46 Pata Negra and Global Yacht Racing’s First 47.7 EH01, skippered by Andy Middleton. Laurent Courbin’s First 53 Yagiza will be taking part in its debut race with race-veteran Philippe Falle as skipper. Lionel Regnier’s 58ft Briand sloop L’Esprit d’Equipe is also entered. Winner of the 1985 Whitbread Round the World Race, the winning skipper Lionel Pean will be on board for the RORC Caribbean 600.

The Class 40 fleet is a hotbed of design innovation. Photo: Rolex/Carlo Borlenghi

Class40

A dozen or more Class40s will be racing in the RORC Caribbean 600, including three of the latest designs skippered by Italian entries. The Class40 fleet has seen significant growth in recent years and is at the forefront of offshore shorthanded racing development.

Ambrogio Beccaria, winner of the 2022 Normandy Channel Race and second in the Route du Rhum, will be racing the Guelfi-designed Alla Grande – Pirelli. One of the latest designs from the drawing board of Sam Manuard, the Mach 40.5 IBSA, will be raced by Alberto Bona. Fellow Italian skipper Andrea Fornaro, class winner for the 2022 Round Ireland Race, will be racing the VPLP-designed Influence. The Verdier-designed Class40 BHB won the 2022 RORC Caribbean 600 and the boat returns now under skipper Paul Brandel.

Third in 2022, Olivier Delrieu returns with his Mach40 Vicitan. Another returning winning boat is the Botin-designed Tales II which won the RORC Caribbean 600 in 2016. Tales II returns under the skipper Jean-Baptiste Daramy. Axel Trehin, winner of the 2021 Normandy Channel Race will be racing his Raison-designed Project Rescue Ocean.

From the United States, two Mach40.3s will be making their RORC Caribbean 600 debuts, including Greg Leonard’s Kite, second in the 2022 Sevenstar Round Britain & Ireland Race. Martin Roesch competed on the Mills 68 Prospector last year, but this will be his first race with his Mach40.3 Velocity.


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