Game planning for 2022 Caribbean 600
Published on February 18th, 2022
When the 13th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 starts on February 21, it will once again take the fleet on a racecourse like no other. The seamanship of the 75 teams will be tested with a myriad of maneuvres around 11 Caribbean islands, along with strategy and tactics as forward planning plays a big part in scoring a top performance.
Campbell Field is racing on David Collins’ Botin IRC 52 Tala (GBR). This will be Campbell’s seventh race, including third overall on the 182ft schooner Adela and runner-up twice on IRC 52s.
“From start day to day four, currently the forecasts are looking reasonably typical for the RORC Caribbean 600,” commented Field. “Trade winds in the mid-teens, warm and sunny, interspersed with some possible squall/rain activity with some good moisture content in the air column.
“There are indications that the latter part of the race could be slightly lighter and left of average. This wind speed is within the ideal conditions for Tala, especially broad reaching and running where we can start planing and that is where the fun is!
“Generally, the 600 is a great course for Tala, with plenty of open angle reaching to stretch our legs, combined with some shorter VMG beats and runs.
“The RORC Caribbean 600 is a great course for navigators because it requires full focus over 12 legs, each with their own subtleties. This does mean few opportunities for rest, but I love the physical and mental challenges. I’ll have to keep my pencil sharp and paper dry for the race with two other closely matched 52s on the start line.”
For Brian Thompson, racing on Jason Carroll’s MOD70 Argo (USA), it will be his sixth race in multihulls, taking Line Honors on three previous occasions.
“We have been doing routing analysis for three days (February 13-16) to see how the weather is developing and it has been really interesting,” noted Thompson. “A few days ago, the GFS Model was showing a windy race and the ECMWF was showing a moderate race. Now they are coming into align and showing possibly slightly less than moderate.
“At the moment we might be looking at 12-16 knots, slightly north of east. We have had a lot of wind in the build-up to this race, but by race day we should see calm seas, relatively for the Caribbean. However, keep in mind we are looking at the weather only as far as 36 hours into the race.
“Hopefully Argo will finish the race early Tuesday evening (February 22); record pace would be around sunset on day two. Regarding record pace, I don’t think this race will see too many squalls disrupting the wind, but getting through the lee of Guadeloupe could be tricky. If Argo can round Guadeloupe before the competition, we would be in a very good position to finish first.”
To break the RORC Caribbean 600 Multihull Race Record, held by Giovanni Soldini’s Multi70 Maserati (30 hours, 49 minutes, 00 seconds), any multihull would need to finish the race before 18:19 AST on February 22.
Tom Cheney is racing on Tom Kneen’s JPK 1180 Sunrise. This will be the first race for Cheney who works with Suzy Peters on the strategy, together with Dave Swete, a three-time race winner. The trio were also on Sunrise for their overall victory in the Rolex Fastnet Race and will be racing the boat in the RORC Caribbean 600.
“The RORC Caribbean 600 is very different to the Rolex Fastnet Race,” observed Cheney. “One of the big considerations is planning the strategy for the wind shadows for the number of high volcanic islands. So, we know what to expect and the maneuvers are fairly easy to predict.
“Between myself, Suzy, and Dave we have put together a strategy, breaking the course down into twelve legs. On top of that we have broken down each leg into thirds; the transition in, the leg itself, and the exit into the next leg.”
A boat under 50ft has never claimed the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy for overall win, and Sunrise is less than 40ft long.
“We never set out to win a race overall; we simply try to race the boat to the best performance possible. But I do think that on paper this race does play quite well to our strengths, even more than the Fastnet. There is a lot of reaching in this course and Sunrise really lights up when we put the bow down.
“At the moment the forecast wind speed is trending-down for the first 48 hours when the big boats will still be racing. But there is a small chance that the breeze may go up on day three. As a smaller boat, we get more weather. The question is, will that be more or less wind? That is the make or break.”
The 2020 RORC Caribbean 600 attracted 76 teams from 21 countries and crews from six continents. When the 13th edition gets underway, the 600nm course circumnavigates 11 Caribbean Islands starting from Fort Charlotte, English Harbour, Antigua and heads north as far as St Martin and south to Guadeloupe taking in Barbuda, Nevis, St Kitts, Saba and St Barth’s.
• Multihull record (2019) – Giovanni Soldini, Maserati, Multi 70 (ITA) – 30 hours, 49 minutes, 00 seconds
• Monohull record (2018) – George David, Rambler 88, Maxi (USA) – 37 hours, 41 minutes, 45 seconds
PREVIOUS WINNERS: RORC CARIBBEAN 600 TROPHY – IRC OVERALL
2019 – David and Peter Askew, Wizard, Volvo 70 (USA)
2018 – George David, Rambler 88, Maxi (USA)
2017 – Hap Fauth, Bella Mente, JV72 (USA)
2016 – George Sakellaris, Maxi 72, Proteus (USA)
2015 – Hap Fauth, JV72, Bella Mente (USA)
2014 – George Sakellaris, RP72, Shockwave (USA)
2013 – Ron O’Hanley, Privateer, Cookson 50 (USA)
2012 – Niklas Zennström’s JV72, Rán (GBR)
2011 – George David, Rambler 100, JK 100 (USA)
2010 – Karl C L Kwok, Beau Geste, Farr 80 (HKG)
2009 – Adrian Lee, Lee Overlay Partners, Cookson 50 (IRL)