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Comanche-Skorpios showdown set for RORC Caribbean 600

The RORC Caribbean 600 is set to return for 2022 with a 70-boat fleet due to start the increasingly popular middle distance race on Monday, 21 February.

One of the final international racing events to take place before the covid 19 pandemic in 2020, the RORC Caribbean 600 was cancelled in 2021, but is back with a strong international fleet this year.

The 600nm course circumnavigates 11 Caribbean islands starting from Fort Charlotte, English Harbour, Antigua before heading north, as far as St Martin, and south to Guadeloupe taking in Barbuda, Nevis, St Kitts, Saba and St Barth’s.

The big battle at the front of the fleet will be between the two giant monohulls, Comanche and Skorpios – both of which were built to break ocean records and take line honours wins.

The two boats have met before in last year’s Rolex Middle Sea Race, where Comanche came out on top. Skorpios led in the early part of the race, but ultimately surrendered the lead to the smaller (only 100ft compared to Skorpios’ 125ft) maxi class yacht.

Launched in 2014, the VPLP/Verdier-designed Maxi Comanche is a well-proven yacht with many records to her name, now racing under new ownership while skippered by Mitch Booth. The team will go into the RORC Caribbean 600 after a strong start to their campaign, also winning the RORC Transatlantic Race for both line honours and IRC overall on corrected time.

Enough sail? Skorpios off the Dorset coast. The ClubSwan 125 is named after owner Rybolovlev’s famous Greek island, where Jackie Kennedy married Aristotle Onassis. Photo: Mark Lloyd / Lloyd Images

The more recently launched ClubSwan 125 Skorpios, which first hit the water just ahead of the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race is probably yet to show her true potential, with many 1000s of hours of work needed to optimise a boat of this size and complexity. The Juan K design is designed to push boundaries, as the biggest offshore racing monohull, likely the deepest draught non-lifting keel (7.4m) and the largest sailplan combination ever conceived.

The competition between these two formidable opponents at the sharp end of the fleet will be something for tracker fanatics to savour.

They are not the only 100-footers taking to the startline. A record setter in her glory days, the 100ft Maxi Leopard will join the front of the fleet. While not quite up to the performance levels of the other two, Leopard can still deliver some serious pace in the right conditions. Another 100ft-plus Swan, the 115 Shamana, will meanwhile be competing in a little more comfort.

Volvo Ocean Race fleet

Although not used in the Volvo Ocean Race (now Ocean Race) for several iterations, the Volvo 70s still prove to be impressive bits of kit and six of the offshore thoroughbred canting keelers will be on the startline for this year’s Caribbean 600. They include L4 Trifork, formerly Ericsson 4, the Juan K design that won the 2008-09 Volvo Ocean Race, which has now been carefully modified with lateral foils.

Racing alongside these Volvo Ocean Race legacy boats will be three Volvo Ocean 65s – the one design used in the 2014-15 and 2017-18 editions of the Volvo Ocean Races and set to be used alongside crewed IMOCA 60s in the upcoming 2022-23 edition of The Ocean Race.

Multihulls

It’s becoming something of a tradition to see MOD70 trimarans fighting it out around the Caribbean 600 course, which weaves a circuitous course around a variety of Caribbean islands that can provide plenty of lead changing opportunities.

Powerplay leading the RORC Transatlantic Race start, 8 January 2022. Photo James Mitchell

This year’s RORC Caribbean 600 race looks set to be no different with PowerPlay and Argo both set to be on the startline alongside the modified former MOD70 (now Multi70) Maserati. Expect a tight fought battle between these three.

They will all be up against the 80ft Maxi9-Multihull, Ultim’emotion 2, previously Sodebo, with a strong fleet of performance multihulls all looking to storm around the course.

IRC contenders

Although the very fastest boats will be fighting for line honours and hoping for the double whammy of first home and a victory on elapsed time, if the weather comes good for some of the smaller boats in the fleet, an overall victory is very much on the cards.

Handicap wins can be hard to predict as they are so weather dependent, but you’d be hard pushed to bet against Thomas Kneen’s JPK 1080 Sunrise, which won the 2021 Rolex Fastnet Race and was 2nd in the Rolex Middle Sea Race after a controversial shortened course due to weather conditions.

Sunrise heading towards the Cherbourg finish line (and victory) in the Rolex Fastnet Race 2021

Sunrise will likely be pushed all the way by another JPK 1080, Dawn Treader, who have proved impressive and will make for stiff competition. Ross Applebey’s Oyster 48 Scarlet Oyster is always competitive, having given the giant Comanche a close run for overall IRC win in the RORC Transatlantic Race earlier this year. Meanwhile the right conditions could well see a surprise win for JPK 1010, Jangada, one of only two IRC boats racing double-handed.

The faster boats in IRC Zero will be looking forward to a storming race in the Caribbean trades, and could also be in with a chance for the IRC overall if conditions go their way. The Pac52 Warrior Won was class winner in the 2021 Transpac and has a crack-crew including ocean racing legend Stu Bannatyne and will be fighting it out with another Pac52, Callisto. Direct competition for these two will come from Botin IRC 52 Tala, which took third place in the recent RORC Transatlantic Race

Another fast boat on the hunt for the win will be the ever-competitive Teasing Machine, while the Cookson 50 Privateer will be looking to add another offshore win to their long list of trophies, which includes a RORC Caribbean 600 win in 2013 (and 2nd in 2018).

You can see the full list of Caribbean 600 entire here


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