Howth teams to compete with the world's best in the Caribbean
The challenge of a tough and competitive offshore race in the warm and idyllic racing conditions of the Caribbean has been taken up by two teams from HYC that will travel to Antigua to take part in the Royal Ocean Racing Club's 'Caribbean 600'. The 2016 race will see 66 entries start this 600-mile long offshore on the 22nd February which, due to the strong 20 knot trade winds and challenging navigation around 11 islands, is quickly becoming a classic in the RORC's calendar.
Darren Wright has put together an experienced offshore team that has chartered the First 40 Southern Child for the race. The team is made up of HYC members that raced the same boat in the 2014 Rolex Middle Sea Race, including Kieran Jameson, Frank Dillon, Rick De Neve, Jonny White, Colm Bermingham as well as owner Lucy Reynolds. Darren has added further 'offshore strength' to this campaign with the inclusion of his brother Michael along with Howth K25 Squad member Luke Malcolm and HYC's former-Commodore Brian Turvey.
One of three First 40s entered in this 600-mile offshore race, Southern Child is likely to be competing in the competitive and closely-matched IRC 2 division, while Howth's other entry, Conor Fogarty's SunFast 3600 Bam is likely to compete in the IRC 3 division and will be one of the smallest boats racing amongst the 66-boat fleet. An eclectic team of experienced offshoreracers will join Conor, including Simon Knowles, Daragh Heagney, Paddy Gregory, Roger Smith and Anthony Doyle. Conor told us "'We would hope to follow on from the success that Red Shift (another Sunfast 3600) had last year and it would be great to win in IRC 3. There is another 3600 in our class One and Only, but she trailed us by nearly 2 days in the ARC, so we will have to wait and see if she's up to speed yet."
Bam is then off to the Gill Commodore's Cup and Heineken Regatta in St.Maarten, more of a 'leisurely' event for Conor and the team, as they don't expect their CSA rating to be favourable. (CSA is the Caribbean Racing Association's version of ECHO, so Bam's introduction to the fleet will mean that she's likely to carry an initial hefty rating.)
Bam will be sailed back 2,200nm to the Azores by Conor (single handed) in preparation for the inaugural Solo Fastnet in July, where he will compete with seven other 3600's all sailing single-handed in this event for the first time. The boat is also entered into the 2-handed Volvo Round Ireland and the 2-handed ISORA season - it's going to be a busy year for Conor!
The Caribbean 600 continues to grow in prestige and has become a real jewel in the RORC's racing calendar. The Howth teams will also be jostling for overall IRC honours with the world’s best, as this year's Caribbean 600 has attracted an astounding array of the fastest and most competitive offshore racing yachts on the planet. Shipping straight to the Caribbean from the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race will be Comanche, Jim & Kristy Hinze Clark's American 100ft Supermaxi, which rightly claims to be the fastest monohull in the world for her 24-hour record run (2015 Transatlantic Race, 618.01 nm, averaging 25.75 knots).
Comanche races with as many as 29 crew, led by Kenny Read, who was on board George David's Rambler 100 to set the RORC Caribbean 600 course record in 2011 (40 hours 20 mins 02 secs). Given the right conditions, Comanche is very capable of breaking Rambler 100's record. Joining Comanche in IRC ‘canting keel division’, will be Ireland's third entry in the star studded 66 boat fleet - Adrian Lee's Cookson 50 Lee Overlay Partners. Adrian and his team are no slouches when it comes to offshore racing in warm waters, having broken the monohull speed record in the Dubai to Muscat Race in 2013 and also won the inaugural Caribbean 600 in 2009.
Other boats in that class include Bouwe Bekking's Dutch Volvo Ocean 65 Team Brunel and the magnificent Andrews 80 Donnybrook. This will be the first occasion that a Volvo Ocean One Design has taken part in the RORC Caribbean 600 and although undoubtedly slower than Comanche reaching in big breeze, Team Brunel does have the advantage of being highly manageable around the myriad of corners of the 11 islands on this course. The German canting keel Ker 56 Varuna VI has been shipped to the Caribbean to take part, making up a formidable trio of early entries for the IRC canting keel class and more yachts are expected to follow.
In 2015, the 70 foot trimaran Phaedo3 set the RORC Caribbean 600 multihull record in 33 hours, 35 minutes and 30 seconds and is back again following its completion of the RORC Transatlantic Race in November.
Phaedo3 will have hot competition for multihull ‘line honours’ with the MOD 70 Concise 10 and also the Nigel Irens 63 Paradox, which might struggle to keep up with the larger, lighter rivals, but Paradox has beaten both yachts under the MOCRA rating rule for the Rolex Fastnet Race and the Rolex Middle Sea Race.
This event will be the first 4-boat ‘offshore-showdown’ in the history of the Maxi 72 Class. Bella Mente lifted the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy in 2015, having scored the best corrected time under IRC. Bella Mente will be joined by Jethou, Momo and Proteus. All four yachts are capable of blistering pace in trade wind conditions and a high speed match race will make for thrilling racing. Joining the four Maxi 72s will be more hot competition from Irving Laidlaw's Rolex Maxi Yacht Cup champion Highland Fling XI which has the waterline length and a planing hull, capable of taking on the Maxi 72s. Overall winner of the 2015 Transatlantic Race, the RP63 Lucky will revel in the fast conditions. TP52 Sorcha and Piet Vroon's Ker 51 Tonnerre 4 had an epic battle last time out and both will be back this year. Sorcha won last year's 600-mile match race with Tonnerre 4 and placed second overall.
The RORC Caribbean 600 has always attracted the majestic classic yachts that frequent the Caribbean and this year includes the the 215ft (65m) schooner Adix. One of the largest sailing vessels built since the 1930's, Adix is a three masted schooner, the first yacht of this configuration to race with the Royal Ocean Racing Club. Weighing 370 tonnes and with a draft of over 4 metres. Also racing will be the Alfred Mylne designed 65ft sloop, the Blue Peter which was built in England in 1930 and called the Blue Peter for luck, after the 'P' flag, which all Howth racing sailors will know is used as the preparatory signal before starting a race.
Following the release of the final list of entries, RORC Chief Executive Eddie Warden commented “The impressive number of high performance yachts is a superb endorsement for the RORC Caribbean 600. No offshore race in the world commands such a level of competition as we are seeing entered for the 2016 race. The unique 600 mile race course circumnavigates 11 islands, with guaranteed trade winds and creates spectacular sailing conditions and that is the big attraction."
Former ISA President and RORC Commodore Michael Boyd will also be taking part in what will be his fifth race, navigating for RORC Admiral Andrew McIrvine on his Grand Soleil 46 Bella Donna. Micheal said of the race: “The RORC Caribbean 600 has beautiful weather and spectacular nature; whales and turtles are often sighted. At night conditions are warm with impressive meteor showers lighting up the sky. All of these elements make this a very special race. Everyone that takes part has their story from the race. Sailors come from all over the world with aspirations of winning their class, but win or lose, over the past seven editions of the race the competitors have told the RORC what a memorable experience it has been. I am sure those feelings will continue.”
The 'P' Flag will be hoisted on Fort Charlotte, high above Antigua's iconic Pillars of Hercules on Monday 22nd February 2016. Thousands of spectators will gather at Shirley Heights to watch the impressive fleet begin the 8th RORC Caribbean 600. Hundreds of thousands more will watch the race unfold via video, photographs, race reports and blogs from the boats. All of the competing yachts will be fitted with 'Yellowbrick Trackers'. You can follow the all the boats by using the the tracker and keep an eye out on the HYC Facebook page for updates from the Howth teams. It is expected that Southern Child and Bam might finish the 600 mile race on Thursday night/ Friday morning of the 25th/26th.
The race starts and finishes in Antigua and competitors expect fresh (but warm!) 15-22 knot easterly trades and big seas for the duration...