The 15th anniversary edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 starts in Antigua on 19th February, and since its launch last year, the RORC Nelson’s Cup Series provides an additional action-packed event with racing starting on 13th of February.
The RORC Nelson’s Cup Series is an ideal way to have a full racing programme of inshore and ‘round Antigua’ racing, as well as fun-filled social events in the build-up to the RORC Caribbean 600. The Series is also open to teams that are not entered for the 600-mile offshore. The latest stand-out teams to enter the RORC Nelson’s Cup Series are Wendy Schmidt’s phenomenal Botin 85 Deep Blue (USA), The Askew Brothers with their Botin 52 Wizard (USA), and James Neville’s Carkeek 45 Ino Noir (GBR). Peter and David Askew, overall winners of the 2019 RORC Caribbean 600 with Volvo 70 Wizard have recently acquired the former RORC Yacht of the Year and three-time winner of the Rolex Sydney Hobart, Ichi Ban. RORC Commodore James Neville’s Ino Noir will be defending his overall win under IRC for the Antigua 360, won on his previous boat Ino XXX.
RORC Caribbean 600 entries and interests are approaching 50 teams, with crew from all over the world relishing the prospect of superb, warm offshore racing in the Northern Hemisphere winter months. An impressive list of returning boats that have taken Line Honours, Overall, IRC, CSA and MOCRA Class wins, including: MOD70 Argo, Irens 84 Allegra, J/122 El Ocaso, Nielsen 59 Hound, JPK 1180 In Theory, Farr 100 Leopard 3, Multi70 Maserati, Lombard 46 Pata Negra, Pyewacket 70, JPK 1180 Sunrise, PAC52 Warrior Won, and MOD70 Zoulou.
Since the very first race in 2009, multihulls racing under the MOCRA Rule have always been a part of the RORC Caribbean 600. Four 70ft trimarans are expected for a dogfight for Multihull Line Honours, including Jason Carroll’s Argo (USA), which holds the race record of 29 hours 48 mins and 45 secs. The Overall Multihull winner is decided by MOCRA time correction, which has been won on many occasions by Gunboats, including last year’s winner Gunboat 68 TOSCA (USA), co-skippered by Alex Thomson.
For the 2024 edition, Adrian Keller’s Irens 84 Allegra (SUI) is among the favourites to win the MOCRA Class after time correction, following their win in the 2023 Rolex Fastnet Race. Allegra was the overall winner of the Multihull Class for the 2020 RORC Caribbean 600, but since then the Nigel Irens design has been honed to be even faster, as Allegra’s Paul Larsen explains: “Thanks to Adrian’s commitment, Allegra's racing performance improves year by year. It's a real pleasure for all of us to put this ever-sharpening knife to the test,” enthused Paul Larsen. “This particular race has already given us some fantastic memories which are the treasured jewels we carry forward in our lives. If we have the option to add more... we'll take it.”
Three of the Allegra crew have been fortunate enough to win honours in the RORC Caribbean 600 twice together; Paul Larsen, Jonny Malbon and Helena Darvelid will once again be on Allegra.
“We're always in it to win it and pushing from the second the starting sequence begins; there's always options on the table,” continued Larsen. “Even if you're stringing it all together nicely, you're never sure how things are going to play out until you get through the Guadeloupe ‘casino’. The ‘600 tests all aspects of the crew and their preparation. You need to be strong everywhere to succeed. Tactical options come up quick.”
As the MOCRA winner is decided by time correction, all of the multihulls know how they are ranking at every point on the course. “If you're in the hunt then the tension builds all the way to the end, it’s relentless,” explained Larsen “The race can be lost on the last tack to the line when everyone is exhausted. That end is so enticing for so many good reasons. Just completing that fantastic course is, on its own, an exceptional sailing endeavour. Everything about the race; the course, the winds, the warmth, the scenery, the competition, the length, combines to make it as near to perfect an offshore racing experience as can be. Winning it sprinkles a little gold dust over that whole experience. In fact, it might be the final piece of the puzzle that does actually make it...truly perfect.”
The overall winner of the RORC Caribbean 600 is destined to go to the best monohull performance after IRC time correction. Teams from the United States have dominated winning overall in 10 of the previous 14 races. The defending champion is Roy P Disney’s Pyewacket 70 (USA), which will be back on the racecourse. In the 14th edition, the turbo-charged Volvo 70 Pyewacket 70 took Monohull line Honours, as well as wining overall and in class under IRC. The hat-trick has only been achieved three times before; The Askew Brothers with VO70 Wizard (2019) and twice by George David with Rambler 88 (2018) and Rambler 100 (2011).
“Roy (Disney) was not able to make the last race so after we told him how exciting and fun it was, coupled with the fantastic shoreside activities he said; ‘We’re going next year!" explained Pyewacket 70’s Robbie Haines. “Without doubt this is one of the most exciting race we have ever participated in; the wonderful weather, the very interesting course and RORC put on a fantastic race. The Caribbean 600 has been on our bucket list for years and it certainly did not disappoint. The facilities and people of Antigua are so welcoming and happy to see us, which makes us feel right at home. We can’t wait to do this fantastic race again.”
Early entry for the RORC Caribbean 600 closes on January 22nd 2024, after which a late entry fee may apply.
Lead image: Wendy Schmidt’s Botin 85 Deep Blue (USA) © Carlo Borlenghi/ ROLEX - 2023 Maxi Yacht Rolex Cup