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Hyde Sails 2017 Dinghy Show

Class acts for the classic RORC Caribbean 600

by Louay Habib 10 Jan 18:00 GMT 19 February 2018
Pamala Baldwin's Antiguan Liquid (left) is one of three J/122s in the race © Paul Wyeth /

With just over a month before the start of the 10th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600, over 60 yachts have officially entered the Caribbean classic. Superyachts, maxis, multihulls and a vast array of racing and cruising yachts will be taking on the beautiful, yet challenging race around 11 Caribbean islands.

Whilst the RORC Caribbean 600 boasts some of the fastest racing yachts in the world, over half the fleet is under 50 feet (15.24m). Split into four IRC rating bands, the international fleet will be battling for class honours and the overall prize, the RORC Caribbean 600 Trophy.

Two of the smallest yachts racing in IRC Zero are all-carbon flyers with highly experienced crews. Quentin Stewart's foiling Infiniti 46 Maverick won IRC Zero in the 2016 RORC Transatlantic Race, however, the RORC Caribbean 600 is unfinished business as in last year's race the team retired with an injured crew member.

Stefan Jentzsch's Carkeek 47 Black Pearl was the fastest yacht under 50ft in the 2017 edition and has a highly talented crew, including America's Cup and 52 Super Series navigator, Marc Lagesse:

"The RORC Caribbean 600 is the first regatta that Stefan (Jentzsch) puts on the calendar; it's such a great race," commented Lagesse. "We will be looking forward to lining up with Maverick, which should be a handful now they have been racing the boat for some time. We would be happy with downwind and upwind angles, either in light or strong wind, but when reaching, Maverick will deploy their foil and we will be vulnerable. This will be my sixth race, so I have made enough mistakes to learn where gains can be made and losses avoided, and believe me there are plenty of opportunities on this course!"

In IRC Two, last year's winner and sixth overall, El Ocaso is looking for a charter and is one of three J/122s entered this year, alongside Pamala Baldwin's Antiguan Liquid and Bernard McGranaghan's French Noisy Oyster.

"It's exciting, exhilarating, exhausting and filled with the spirit of adventure. We are brave-hearts with a mission - to dig deep and give it our best. We learn to expect the unexpected. We bond and make lifelong friends and cherish priceless memories," says Pamala Baldwin, owner of J/122 Liquid.

Two Antiguan yachts scored memorable victories in 2017, Bernie Evan-Wong's RP37 Taz was the winner of IRC One and Jonty and Vicki Layfield's Swan 48 Sleeper X was the winner of IRC Three.

Sleeper X will be one of the oldest yachts competing and is a true classic, but there is more than meets the eye to the 1973 Olin Stephens design. Under her former name Jacobite, she won three back-to-back Swan European titles and was class winner at the Swan Worlds.

"We have had a number of Swans, but this one is special," commented Jonty Layfield. "Despite her age Sleeper is in really good condition and we love to cruise as well as race. Winning class last year was fantastic and we would love to repeat that. We were also ninth overall and it would be amazing if any of the smaller yachts could break into the top five this year. The core Sleeper crew has been racing together for over 20 years and we also have talented young Antiguan sailors on board, which is a great mix and it is really rewarding to help young talent develop."

Two all-women teams will be competing in the 10th edition of the RORC Caribbean 600. Miramar Sailing's Grand Soleil 46.3 Phoenix, skippered by Pippa Turton will have a crew of nine, and Girls for Sail's Beneteau First 40.7 Hot Stuff, skippered by Sophie O'Neill returns having finished last year's race during the prize giving after over five days at sea.

"We pushed really hard to make it in time for the party and it was one of the best evenings. I love racing with the RORC because they really put on well managed and enjoyable racing," commented O'Neill. "I was delighted to hear that there will be another all-female team in this year's race. I am sure we will want to meet up beforehand to get to know each other and share a few drinks afterwards, but during the race, it will be very competitive."

The 2018 RORC Caribbean 600 starts from Antigua on Monday 19th February. Further details are on the race website.

Current entry list