As many sailing locations around the world were in the grip of winter. The
second edition of the RORC Caribbean 600, hosted by the Antigua Yacht Club,
attracted crews from over 20 countries worldwide. The Antiguan Government
recognised the importance of the event. Honourable John Maginley, Minister
of Tourism, and the Honourable Howard Lovell, Minister of Finance for
Antigua and Barbuda, were present at the welcome party sponsored by Lee
Clear blue skies and crystal clear ocean typify the Caribbean and the
competitors in the RORC Caribbean 600 were treated to some superb champagne
sailing conditions, as they started the only offshore race in these waters.
At the start, there wasn't a foul weather jacket in sight as the fleet
sailed upwind into a warm easterly breeze of 12-15 knots.
Huge swathes of spectators gathered on Shirley Heights and Fort Charlotte to
witness the start of the RORC Caribbean 600. The first boats crossed the
start line for the 605 mile race on 22nd February at 12:30 local time, to
start an adventure that would take them around 14 Caribbean islands, in what
is regarded as probably the finest sailor's play ground.
The RORC Racing Manager, Ian Loffhagen, got all classes away without
incident and the big boat start was extremely competitive with several boats
timing their approach close to perfection.
As the sun set over the Caribbean, the competitors in the RORC Caribbean 600
were preparing for their first night at sea. The leading boats had rounded
the North Sails mark off Barbuda and were power reaching west towards the
sunset under spinnaker. Region Guadeloupe was in pole position, setting an
incredible pace as navigator Nick Lykiardopulo reported. "We are blasting
through the water to Nevis, the speedo has barely dropped below 22 knots
since we left Barbuda."
Karl Kwok's Farr 80, Beau Geste, was launched, screaming along at over 20
knots and behind them skirmishes had developed throughout the fleet. Danilo
Salsi's Swan 90 and Jim Grundy's Riechel Pugh 75, Bella Pita, were in a
close quarters confrontation. Richard Oland's Southern Cross 52, Vela Veloce
was in a fight with two Cookson 50s, the reigning RORC Caribbean 600
champion, Lee Overlay Partners and Ron O'Hanley's Privateer and the three
Farr 65's chartered by Ondeck were having their own private battle.
by Louay Habib