Updated:
Original:

Fourth Annual RORC Caribbean 600

A varied fleet sailed the fourth-annual RORC Caribbean 600 in perfect conditions. The largest boat was line-honors winner Hetairos, a 141-foot Baltic ketch drawing 30 feet with her drop-keel fully extended.
Author:

A varied fleet sailed the fourth-annual RORC Caribbean 600 in perfect conditions. The largest boat was line-honors winner Hetairos, a 141-foot Baltic ketch drawing 30 feet with her drop-keel fully extended. The smallest was Bernie Evans Wong’s Mumm 36 High Tension.

The 600-mile course is an interesting one, to say the least, consisting of 10 different legs on all points of sail and in conditions varying from standard tradewinds to light and variable breezes in the lee of various islands. 

Shoal water presents another challenge. From Saba, for example, there follows a 33-mile beat to St. Barth, then a fast 8-mile reach to St. Martin, where you have to be careful on the south coast from Cole Bay to Point Basse Terre and on the north coast from Basse Terre to Rocher Creole. Here the charted depths are from leadline soundings taken in the 19th century, which have yet to be updated or corrected.

The shoals off Basse Terre are particularly worrying, as they seem to have been extending westward in the 55 years I have been sailing in the Caribbean. During the Heineken Regatta they place a temporary buoy in water deep enough to provide safe navigation for the deepest draft entrant. But in the RORC 600 there is no buoy, so deep-draft boats have to do some careful guesswork. Eyeball navigating is possible on boats drawing up to 9 feet that sail at 8-9 knots. But when you’re doing 12-14 knots on a boat drawing 15 feet or more, eyeball navigation is useless.

Before I wrote my cruising guide to the Lesser Antilles in 1966, the guide I used was Norie & Wilson’s Sailing Directions for the West Indies, which was published in 1867. This states: “When passing to leeward of the high islands of the eastern Caribbean pass within two pistol shots distance (50 yards) or seven leagues (21 miles) of shore.” 

My greatest success sailing in the lee of the high islands has been at slightly more than two pistol-shots distance—say 100 to 150 yards off. A number of times sailing north direct from Grenada to Antigua, passing 15 miles to leeward of Dominica, I have run into a hole and sat for four or five hours bouncing, rolling and slatting in a rough chop with no wind.

If you look at the tracks of all this year’s Caribbean 600 boats passing Basse Terre, you will note that all except the 180-foot schooner Adela stayed within about four miles of shore. Many complained about falling into holes, while others only a few hundred yards off continued to make progress. Some tacticians studied their AIS receivers, noted where other boats were falling into holes and then altered course to follow the boats that held their wind.

As for Adela, by passing 12 miles west of Basse Terre she dropped the 155-foot schooner Windrose of Amsterdam, with whom she had been match racing, and sailed by much of the fleet that was stuck closer to shore. Ultimately Adela finished sixth overall, which was an amazing performance considering the many grand prix boats she was racing against. For complete race results go to caribbean600.rorc.org.

Photo courtesy of RORC Caribbean 600/photoaction.com; map illustration courtesy of Kerstin Mueller/RORC

Related

03-IMG_0590

Bill Tilman’s Simple Sailing

Like an ostrich on a bad day, I’m head-down in the lazarette of Nellie, my Beneteau First 42, dealing with the propane tank. My wife taps me on the shoulder, and I rise to see a pair of foiling catamarans accelerating onto their carbon-fiber wings. As the blood drains from my ...read more

01-LEAD-210801_PM_Tokyo20_22825_5540

Olympic Sailing: Where to Now?

It’s official, not only is the United States no longer an Olympic power when it comes to sailing, it’s fast beginnings look like an also-ran—albeit an also-ran with loads of potential. What other conclusion is there to draw from the fact that for the second time in three ...read more

244526945_394104495768313_1401658800642145082_n

Return of the Annapolis Boat Show

After a hiatus in 2020, the United States Boat Show in Annapolis, Maryland returned in full force last weekend. “Pent up demand” was the name of the game for visitors and exhibitors alike. Queues to get in each morning stretched around the block, and the docks were congested ...read more

Untitled-1

Sailing Hall of Fame Inducts Class of 2021

This weekend, the National Sailing Hall of Fame has inducted eleven new members to make up the class of 2021. “The remarkable achievements of this year’s class exemplify excellence and an unwavering dedication to our sport,” said National Sailing Hall of Fame president Gus ...read more

ed3b8ae9-b65d-2941-47ec-cd0277bfcbe8

Mirabaud Voting Open to the Public

Photos from the industry's top photographers are in, and the 12th annual Mirabaud Yacht Racing Image competition is underway. An international panel of judges has selected this year's 80 finalists, which have been published online. The panel will also select the winner of the ...read more

P1320232-copy

Annapolis’ Boat Show is Back

After a year off in 2020, the United States Boat Show in Annapolis is back. From the diminutive Areys Pond Cat 14 XFC to the massive Lagoon Sixty 5, many of the SAIL’s 2022 Best Boats Nominees are on display for the public to get a firsthand look at, and SAIL’s Best Boats panel ...read more

05-Squall-in-the-ITCZ

Close-Hauled to Hawaii

The saying “Nothing goes to windward like a 747,” is one of my favorites. I actually once took a 747 upwind, retracing my earlier downwind sailing route across the Pacific. I’ve also done a fair bit of ocean sailing to windward. The 747 was a lot more comfortable. But then ...read more

01-LEAD-IMG-2106

Refurbishing Shirley Rose: Part 3

If you missed the first installment, click here. The hull and deck of Shirley Rose had been repaired, but what kind of sailboat would she be without a sturdy rig? I was told she was ready to sail, and that the owner replaced the standing rigging a few years before. Shirley Rose ...read more