A great fleet of yachts from from brand new carbon racers to two giant schooners will race the Caribbean 600 this month

The RORC Caribbean 600 race, which begins on 23 February, will have a fleet of up to 60 yachts from brand new carbon racers to two giant schooners. The fleet hails from 13 different countries and will attract some of the world’s fastest yachts.

Among the yachts entered are George David’s brand new Rambler 88, making her racing debut after launching late last year. She will be raced by an all-star crew including America’s Cup veteran Brad Butterworth and Volvo Ocean Race winners Stu Bannatyne and Brad Jackson.

Also in contention for line honours is Australian yachting legend Syd Fischer racing Ragamuffin 100, which is being shipped to Antigua from Australia, and Mike Slade’s 100ft maxi, Leopard. Two Volvo 70s are also in the line-up: Giovani Soldini’s Maserati and Andy Budgen’s and Fred Schwyn’s Monster Project.

The fleet will include Ron O’Hanley’s Cookson 50, Privateer – the American team is back for its fifth race. Hap Fauth’s American JV72, Bella Mente, has won her class before but will be setting their sights on the overall victory that has eluded the American mini maxi.

Another yacht making its debut will be the carbon Carkeek 47, Black Pearl, sailed by German sailor Stefan Jentzsch. Meanwhile well-known Dutch grandmaster Piet Vroon returns to the race on a Ker 51, Tonnerre 4.

“It is very exciting to be racing Tonnerre 4 for the first time and against different adversaries and it will probably be harder for us,” commented Vroon. “Tonnerre 4 will be much the same crew as we have had in recent years and I am looking forward to racing with them.

“I like offshore sailing and the RORC Caribbean 600 is a prime example. The route is very varied and no part of it is straight forward, with plenty of local weather effects which must also be considered during the race and the route is an interesting one, as we race around 11 islands. From a tactical and navigational point of view, this is very demanding.”

In a complete contrast to the yachts above, will be two giant schooners, the 182ft Adela and the 203ft Athos. The two had a very close contest last year and Adela’s helmsman, Stan Pearson, who was the co-founder of the RORC Caribbean 600, believes this year’s battle between the two will be even tighter.

“In the last two races, Adela has sailed the best she could and didn’t leave much on the track and this year I think it will be a right old ding dong,” commented Pearson.

“Adela is now as good as she can be and the crew work on board is fantastic, so there is not much Adela can do to improve. Athos improved enormously last year and I expect her to be even better this year. Athos is longer than Adela and assuming a regular easterly, the course has 65 per cent on eased sheets, which should be to Athos’ advantage, the course is absolutely suited for big boats such as ketches and schooners.”

On the smaller scale, there will be seven yachts of less than 40ft. Antiguan sailor Bernie Evan-Wong has participated in every edition of the race and is back with a new boat, RP 37 Taz.

British Figaro sailor Nick Cherry will be sailing on Ed Fishwick’s Sunfast 3600, Redshift and says:

“This will be my third race but the first with Redshift and we will be a crew of six. It will be a tough race for us. The bigger, faster boats will get up on the plane and we will be displacing all the way around the course. However in IRC Three, we should have a chance and with so many corners, we hope to make gains because Redshift is easy to handle.

“Looking at all the 600 mile races, this is the course I would choose to do: plenty of fast sailing, loads of corners and lots of rocks to watch out for, so there is always something going on.”

The monohull course record, set by George David’s Rambler 100, stands at 40 hours, 20 minutes and 2 seconds.