Saturday, 26 February 2011
Vela Veloce. Image copyright Tim Wright/www.PhotoAction.com
by Louay Habib
With the big showdown done and dusted between the 100ft maxis, it was a full 10 hours before the third yacht crossed the finish line of the RORC Caribbean 600 in Antigua.
Peter Harrison’s magnificent 115 ketch, Sojana, has produced a powerful performance, completing the course on Wednesday afternoon. There were happy smiles on board, especially Peter Harrison who has been an admirer of the race since conception: “Due to circumstances, we couldn’t race in the first two editions, but it was third time lucky and what a magnificent race this is. It is a fantastic way to see some of the beautiful islands in the Caribbean.” Commented Peter dockside.
Next home was Brian Benjamin’s stunning Carbon Ocean 82, Aegir. Brian typifies the characters in this sport: “We broke a few things but that was to be expected really, this is the first time that the new boat has been fully tested. It is always better to win, but I will always remember my first race with this delightful boat and the great people that were sailing on her.” Commented Benjamin after tying up.
Lloyd Thornburg’s head-turning Gunboat 66, Phaedo finished the race in the early evening. The Lamborghini-orange hull has been flashing around the course eating up the miles: "We just finished the Caribbean 600 and I’d like to thank everyone on my team, they are an awesome team. 5th to finish, that’s what I am talking about."
Soon after Phaedo, Richard Oland’s Southern Cross 52, Vela Veloce crossed the finish line. Richard and his crew hail from Canada. Last year, Vela Veloce were second overall to Beau Geste and it looks likely that they will be a bridesmaid again this year. That may seem tough, but the crew were rightly proud of their achievement. Vela Veloce’s crew are not out and out professionals bar one; two-time Volvo Ocean Race winner, Stu Bannatyne, who is preparing for his fifth lap of the planet with Team Camper: “We didn’t really make any big gains or losses around the course, we just kept chipping away and sailing the boat to the best of our ability. I am not just pleased with the result, I am delighted,” said Stu Bannatyne dockside. “Richard and all the crew showed great dedication and handled the boat well, but in fast reaching conditions, Vela Veloce was never going to get near Rambler.”
Chris Bull’s Jazz and Adrian Lee’s Lee Overlay Partners, both Cookson 50s, had a great battle on the water, but it was Jazz that pulled away in the latter part of the race to take second place in the Canting Keel Class, behind Rambler 100. Chris Bull’s crew is multi-national: British, Maltese and Australian accents were joined by the Lithuanian team from Ambersail and the crews from Oyster Catcher XXVIII and Lee Overlay Partners, who have a largely Irish contingent. There was a lively meeting of minds in the Antigua Yacht Club bar until the small hours. One of the features of the RORC Caribbean 600 is that the Antigua Yacht Club make sure that the bar is always open, no matter what time, to welcome the crews back to Antigua.
The largest yacht competing in the RORC Caribbean 600 is the 152 ft classic schooner, Windrose of Amsterdam. Boat captain, Alex Howard was joined by RORC Commodore Andrew McIrvine and CEO Eddie Warden Owen, along with several members of the RORC and the Royal Yacht Squadron: “I am a really big fan of the race,” Commented Howard. “The event is an ideal way to enjoy sailing on Windrose and other spirit of tradition yachts. The regular crew and our guests got on very well and we have all enjoyed the experience and pushed the boat hard in lively conditions. I am pleased to say the job list for repairs is very small indeed.”
Andrew McIrvine and Eddie Warden Owen both agreed that the crew had jelled together during the race, exemplified by a difficult gybe and spinnaker drop at Redonda, which was executed with some aplomb for a crew that had only been together for a few days.
Undoubtedly the star of the show on day three of the RORC Caribbean 600 was Richard Oland’s Vela Veloce. More competitors are expected to arrive in Antigua during the day.
Late Note - More arrivals in Antigua:
Tonnerre de Breskens 3
Piet Vroon's Ker 46, Tonnerre de Breskens 3 crossed the finish line just after 0800 local time on the third day of the RORC Caribbean 600. Piet's corinthian crew were tired and a bit deflated. They had been enjoying a fantastic ride all the way to Guadeloupe, when the flashing blue hull came to a complete stop. The powerful hull form had been powering around the course but they became caught on the windless southeast corner of the course. Like a hornet in a caught in a spider's web, Tonnerre struggled to get free but remained there for seven hours. "It was a difficult time," declared Piet Vroon. "All we could do was wait for the wind but we felt that our chance had gone. The rest of the time we had been enjoying some fantastic sailing but this is a much tougher race than we expected, it was quite rough, it was like driving down a road full of potholes. The sail across to Nevis was probably the most spectacular part of the race for us, powering along at great speed into the setting sun under spinnaker."
Despite parking up at Guadeloupe, Tonnerre's performance around the rest of the race track proved to be their saviour, although the rest of the class are still racing, by the afternoon it became mathematically impossible for the rest of them to beat Tonnerre on corrected time.
Tony Lawson's Class 40, Concise, completed the RORC Caribbean 600 after just under 3 days at sea. With six crew with an average age of just 22 years, they are by far the youngest team in the race. Concise retained the Concise Trophy for the third year running, much to the delight of the owner, Tony Lawson:
"Although Ned Collier Wakefield is down as the skipper, this really is a combined effort from a great bunch of very talented lads. The new boat is going well with less freeboard and a much more ergonomic cockpit and the articulated bowsprit gives the crew more options. It was important that we continued to build on our success in the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race and we were very please to see that we went even faster than in the similar conditions we experienced in the 2009 RC600. We feel we have nudged the bar slightly higher."
RORC Caribbean 600