RORC Caribbean 600: A Totally Unique Race

The 2017 RORC Caribbean 600 started in magnificent conditions with the largest ever offshore fleet assembled in the Caribbean. Close to 900 sailors from 30 different nations competed in the 9th edition of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s classic offshore race around 11 Caribbean islands, starting and finishing in Antigua. The race was affected by unusual weather conditions, with a low pressure system sending the wind direction dancing around the compass.

Epic win for Bella Mente

The All-American Maxi72 battle lived up to expectation with Hap Fauth’s Bella Mente and George Sakellaris’ Proteus enjoying an epic match race. The lead in the Maxi72s changed hands on seven occasions during the race. Bella Mente counted 85 sail changes and at one point, both yachts were over canvassed, smoking along at 30 knots in a gigantic squall. Bella Mente crossed the finish just 14 minutes ahead of Proteus to win IRC Zero and the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy for the best time after IRC correction for the fleet. It was the second time Bella Mente has won the race overall and was a sweet victory after retiring last year with keel problems.

“We are beat; there is nothing left as the whole team gave 120% or more … unbelievable!” smiled Hap Fauth. “We are just delighted to have prevailed. We had a match race for 500 miles with Proteus and that is a really well sailed boat.”

Bella Mente – Overall winner of the 2017 RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy. Photo by Tim Wright
Bella Mente – Overall winner of the 2017 RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy. Photo by Tim Wright

MOD70 Nail-Biter

Lloyd Thornburg’s American MOD70, Phaedo³ took multihull line honors for the third year in a row holding on to win the battle of the trimarans by just 12 minutes ahead of Giovanni Soldini’s Italian MOD70, Maserati. The high-speed battle saw the lead change hands four times. There was high drama at Guadeloupe with vicious squalls and heroics from Maserati’s crew diving into the water to free the boat from a fish trap.

Maserati gave us a heck of a run and it was really tough to stay ahead of a foiling boat,” commented Thornburg. “Every year, I get reminded how insane a race this is and we have turned the insanity up again this year. Hanging on reaching at 36 knots, it is just incredible.”

Phaedo³ was also the winner after MOCRA time correction with Maserati in second place and Robert Szustkowski’s HH66, R-SIX sailed by Robert Janecki in third.

Maserati and Phaedo³ at the start. Photo by Tim Wright
Maserati and Phaedo³ at the start. Photo by Tim Wright

Not one to let barnacles grown on the hulls, Phaedo³ immediately left Antigua bound for the Panama Canal and their next race from Newport Beach, California to Cabo San Lucas.


Monohull line honors for Rambler 88

George David’s American Maxi, Rambler 88 took monohull line honors for the race marking David’s third line honors win in this event.

“This year we had a full-on reach all the way from St. Barth to Guadeloupe,” commented David. “When you are at the helm and the boat is beautifully balanced and you are doing 20 knots with a poled out J1 and staysail for 150 miles, you can’t help but smile”

Rambler 88 – monohull line honors winner. Photo by Tim Wright
Rambler 88 – monohull line honors winner. Photo by Tim Wright

Rambler 88 was also the winner in IRC Canting Keel after time correction. Lionel Pean’s French Volvo 70, SFS II was second followed by Mike Slade’s British Maxi Leopard 3. Leopard was also awarded a new trophy, the RORC Caribbean Series Trophy for the IRC Rated boat with the best combined score in the RORC Transatlantic Race and RORC Caribbean 600.

Superyacht Trophy

Anders Nordquist’s Swan 115, Shamanna, taking part in its debut offshore race, was the winner of the Superyacht Class.

Magnificent Schooners

Among the spectacular entries this year were two colossal schooners: Eleonora and Adela. At 182ft (55m) and displacing 250 tons, Adela was the largest yacht in the race. Eleonora is an exact replica of the famous 1910 Herreshoff schooner Westward, displacing 213 tons with an overall length of 162ft (49.5m). Eleonora and Adela racing is a magnificent sight.

Battle Royal among the Class40s

The battle in the Class40 division was intense with three yachts taking the lead at various points along the course. Peter Harding’s Phor-ty was leading at Redonda, just ahead of Catherine Pourre’s Eärendil, and Halvard Mabire and Miranda Merron’s Campagne de France. All three yachts started the beat to the finish with a chance of victory. However, Eärendil’s main halyard broke as they hardened up and they were forced to reef and re-hoist. This left Phor-ty to take the gun and the class win by just 33 minutes. With Eärendil under-powered, Campagne de France closed the gap and overtook them to snatch second place by just under two minutes.


In IRC One, Antigua’s Bernie Evan Wong, who has competed in all nine editions of the race,   was tired but overjoyed to win the class racing his RP37, Taz.

“Unbelievable, just amazing,” said Evan Wong. “The team worked so hard, but was also a really happy bunch. I remember trying to take a rest but I couldn’t sleep because there was so much laughter on the boat. We are the smallest boat in the race and to beat all of the big boats in our class is like a dream come true.”

Antigua’s Bernie Evan Wong and Taz – winner IRC One. Photo by Tim Wright
Antigua’s Bernie Evan Wong and Taz – winner IRC One. Photo by Tim Wright

RORC Chief Executive Eddie Warden Owen congratulated the class winners. “Winning class in this race is proving more and more difficult as the quality of the competition increases each year. The weather was the biggest factor, but the persistence shown by every boat to complete this race is admirable,” he said.

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