RORC Caribbean 600 starts February 09

The Royal Ocean Racing Club and Antigua Yacht Club will run the first offshore race to circumnavigate the Caribbean Islands. The new race will be called the RORC Caribbean 600.

Conceived by a group of RORC members living in the Caribbean, the race starts on 23 February 2009 off Fort Charlotte outside English Harbour, Antigua. The course takes the fleet to the north passing a mark off Barbuda, the islands of Nevis, Saba and St Barths, to circle St Martin before heading down to Guadeloupe as the most southerly point, then back up to a mark off Barbuda before returning to finish in Antigua – a total of 605 nautical miles.

RORC Commodore David Aisher is delighted to be working with Antigua Yacht Club, whose facilities are alongside the marina at Falmouth Harbour and hopes that in time, the RORC Caribbean 600 will become one of the world’s classic offshore races: “We are pleased that RORC members approached us with the idea to start the first offshore race in Caribbean waters. Preliminary discussion with likely competitors has had a very enthusiastic response. I can see this race joining the Bermuda Race (pictured), Rolex Sydney Hobart Race and Rolex Fastnet Race as one of the ‘must do’ races on the offshore circuit.”

Peter Harrison’s Farr-designed 115 foot ketch Sojana has already agreed to enter the race. Its skipper Marc Fitzgerald was one of the RORC members who conceived the idea. “This race will appeal to all types of offshore sailors, both monohull and multihull and there will be no upper size limit. The conditions in the Caribbean in February are so perfect that the race will attract a wide variety of yachts. Our aim on Sojana is to be the first to set the course record.”

Mike Slade’s ICAP Leopard will also join the race. Skipper Chris Sherlock thinks it will provide a very interesting challenge: “For a boat like ICAP Leopard, this race with over 13 legs will be the toughest of the 600 milers we have done.”

The race is to be run under RORC’s IRC rating rule. The lower size limit of yacht has yet to be set and consideration is being given to have a division run under the local CSA (Caribbean Sailing Association) rule.

A Notice of Race will be issued shortly and a detailed study of the race course is available on the RORC website – click here.