Tim Wright / www.photoaction.com

RORC Caribbean 600 underway

Bella Mente leads the charge

Monday February 24th 2014, Author: James Boyd, Location: Antigua and Barbuda

The RORC Caribbean 600 set sail from Antigua today. Two hours into the race and the entire fleet had passed Green Island and was cracking sheets for the sleigh ride north to Barbuda with Hap Fauth's JV72 Bella Mente leading the charge at 18 knots.

Nine boats were in the first start of the race for the CSA, Multihull and Class40es and virtually the entire fleet chose to start at the outer distance mark. Gonzalo Botin's Class40 Tales II, with navigator Nacho Postigo on board, got away first followed by Canadian solo round the world sailor Derek Hatfield's VO60, Spirit of Adventure.

With 18 yachts, IRC Two and Three was the biggest start of the race. Bernie Evan Wong's Trustmarque Quokka 8 and the Lt Col Paul Macro led Royal Armoured Corps Yacht Club crew on Southern Child, had a close battle for the line, resulting in Quokka being OCS and having to return to the line. Lancelot II, EH01 and Ballytrim were also on the front row of the starting grid.

In IRC One, Piet Vroon's Ker 46 Tonnerre de Breskens III, and Colin Buffin's Swan 62 Uxorious IV were both in an aggressive mood in the pre-start, but it was David Southwell's Morris 486 Kismet, which made a perfect timed run to lead the class at the start.

Even before the start the expected battle of the Mini Maxis was on with Shockwave hunting Bella Mente. The two Mini Maxis, plus George David's RP90 Rambler, all hit the start line at speed with the Botin 65 Caro to leeward.

The last start of the day produced the hair-raising sight of two enormous schooners match racing each other in the last few minutes to the start, bearing down towards the Pillars of Hercules at full speed, only a boat length apart. The 182ft Adela called for water from 203ft Athos, which duly obliged, putting in a smart tack, and all 300 tons of her went through the wind. The 200 ton Adela smoked through the line with height and pace to win the start.

RORC CEO, Eddie Warden Owen was on the start line watching avidly: "This was amazing to watch, just incredible. The way they all have been pushing for the line. Especially Athos and Adela; with only a minute to go to the start, they were only a boat length apart. It is so impressive to see these two beautiful boats in these conditions: 18-20 knots of wind, big seas, crashing through the waves - it's spectacular."

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