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Zoulou triumph by 11 seconds in the RORC Caribbean 600

by Louay Habib 22 Feb 2023 07:01 GMT 21 February 2023
Erik Maris' MOD70 Zoulou (FRA) finished the RORC Caribbean 600 just 11 seconds ahead of Giovanni Soldini's Multi70 Maserati in a nail-biting finish in Antigua - Elapsed time: 01 day 06 hrs 55 mins 34 secs © Arthur Daniel / RORC

After over 30 hours of racing at speeds approaching 40 knots, MOD70 Zoulou sailed by Erik Maris (FRA) won Multihull Line Honours in the 2023 RORC Caribbean 600 by just 11 seconds. Zoulou completed the 600-mile race in just under 31 hours.

Giovanni Soldini's Maserati Multi70 (ITA) endured the pain of coming second after another photo-finish; Maserati was also second last year by just two minutes from Jason Carroll's record-breaking MOD 70 Argo.

Zoulou Crew: Erik Maris, Ned Collier Wakefield, Thierry Fouchier, Loick Peyron, Bruno Jeanjean, Bruno Mourniac, Thomas Le Breton.

"That was an incredible race with such a close finish," commented Zoulou's Erik Maris. "We were ahead until midnight on the first day but we lost Maserati when they were very fast on their foils going down to Guadeloupe. Maserati sailed really well on the second day but on the penultimate leg (Barbuda to Redonda), they lost themselves under a cloud, just as Zoulou had done in the RORC Transatlantic Race. We came back together and the lead changed many times on the leg to Redonda. The last leg was really tough as the wind speed and direction was very unstable, but we managed to pass them on the one that counts. It was as close as it gets; an incredible finish and great fun. I decided to get into the MOD70 Class to do all the RORC races, that was the plan and we intend to do the Rolex Fastnet Race later this year."

Zoulou's tactician is Thomas Le Breton who has competed in the Laser, Finn, AC45, SailGP and the GC32 Circuit, but this was Le Breton's first RORC Caribbean 600. Le Breton described the strategy and the tactics for the last leg from Redonda to the finish.

"At Redonda, Maserati was ahead of us with 30 miles upwind to the finish. We had two or three squalls and Ned Collier Wakefield knows the race very well and knew all the tricks for this last leg. We decided to play the shifts in the rain and wind to the north. We lost contact with Maserati which went to the south. At the end we ended up together and finally we were in a match race for the last five miles. We managed to pass Maserati just before the line by just 11 seconds, it was a very good fight. Maybe what helped us was our experience in the GC32 where we are used to making decisions at high speed. This race has super-nice weather and we had good fun on board, and to race against a good team with a tight finish, this has been a very good regatta," commented Le Breton dockside.

Maserati Multi70 took the lead for the first time from Zoulou after rounding Saba at around midnight on day one of the race. Using their foils Maserati extended their lead, touching 40 knots of boat speed on the long leg down to Guadeloupe. Having built-up a 13 mile lead, Maserati then got caught under a cloud and lost the breeze after passing the penultimate mark of the course at Barbuda. Zoulou then came into Maserati with the pressure to catch up to stage the grandstand finish.

"The whole race was interesting and crazy, not just the finish," commented Giovanni Soldini. "We arrived at the finish together and with our foils we are slower to tack in lighter winds. We made an error in the last tack; we went too early and that is the story, but it was a very nice race all the way. We pushed a lot and really enjoyed a beautiful rivalry with Zoulou. This time they have won, but it is no problem, next time it will be Maserati!"

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