RORC Caribbean 600 2019 – ‘EH01’ Round-up
What a race, as usual the RORC Caribbean 600 produced some tough but amazing racing.
We prepared well on ‘EH01’, as usual and all crew were excited to take on this fantastic race course; some for a second time around! The weather was forecast to be 15-20knots, slightly north or south of east for the whole race and this proved to be about right for the whole race except the wind speed was up perhaps in some places.
We got a good start on EH01, choosing not to get too involved with other boats and instead looked for clear airs and big lanes as we needed to get trucking. Our plan was to hold on to the lead of the fleet on the first beat before cracking sheets and reaching for the Barbuda mark. This we did and we rounded the corner of Antigua in 4th place in our class. Wind angles were good so we transitioned to the Code 0 and this really worked for us. The sail actually being a 0.5 meant we could hold it while others with more traditional 0’s couldn’t. We quickly dispatched one of the other PYR boats, ‘Quokka’, and were chasing down the lead two boats of our old nemesis Scarlet Oyster and a local J122, Liquid; skippered by Jules White who had been PYR’s First Mate on our Round Britain & Ireland Race entry! Unfortunately the cover on the Code 0 halyard decided to part ways and we had an unforced and unexpected half drop, so we have to complete the job. We contemplated swapping halyards and re-hoisting but made the decision not to and finished the leg on just the main and J2, as we rounded the mark in 3rd.
Once round the mark we hoisted the S4 and headed off downwind, sailing as close to the rhum line as we could and looking to lay the corner of Nevis as close as we dared! In fact we ended up laying it a little too well and once we dropped we made a tack to ensure we had sufficient depth given the unreliability of the charting here. By this point we had overtaken Liquid and were chasing down Scarlet, EH01 on a reach is awesome and so we felt confident we could close the gap.
Once we popped out at Saba we had cut it a little and so headed off to St Barts. We made the decision to go right which paid off and we pulled a little more out of Scarlet and gained on the rest of the fleet ahead of rounding for the downwind leg to St Martin. By the time we had done the downwind and upwind at the front and back of St Martin and made it to Tinamarre the fleet had pretty well matched each other. The reach from Tintamarre to Guadeloupe was the part we were most looking forward to, letting EH01 stretch her legs and show the fleet her pace, and boy did she deliver.
We estimate that Scarlet was approx 6 miles ahead at the beginning of the reach and by the end she was ahead by just 1/2 boat length! We had gained on the rest of the fleet too, so we were a very happy boat on the morning of the 20th; although we did have the tricky wind shadow at Guadepoupe to negotiate. We managed to get through relatively unscathed and without losing too much time although Scarlet did manage to squeeze ahead a few boat lengths.
We made some decisions on the upwind leg at the Saints and to Desarade which meant that she extended a bit more and so they turned out to be the wrong decisions, covering her off would perhaps have been a better option with hindsight. With only the reach back to the Barbuda Buoy, the downwind to Rodonda and the beat from hell to the finish left ;we set off on our last night on board with hopes of another good reach and gaining back on the 1st place boat.
Unfortunately when we rounded the mark we had not made the gains we hoped and so had to work out a plan for the downwind and upwind which turned out to be no quicker than Scarlet and possible even marginally slower. We had a large buffer over the rest of the fleet though which was nice. We hoisted the S4 after gybing round the Barbuda Inflatable and set of down hill in 25+ knots with a lumpy sea which made for tough driving. Unfortunately during a near broach, when a wave screwed us up, the S4 blew out and a necessary hasty drop and the hoist of the A5 was executed brilliantly by the crew.
The A5 also proved to be frisky so we cleared it away and poled out the jib to add some stability which let us get to Rodonda safely where we tucked in a reef and moved to the J3 for the final beat.
There is a point in life where you feel like no matter what you do you can’t move forward, welcome to the beat from Rodonda to the finish line of the C600. Our routing told us to square the box and head over to Monsterat and keep going until we could lay the finish. So obviously we ignored it somewhat, which cost us. The crew worked well and we had nailed the tacks by this point so finally won the war of attrition and finished another Caribbean 600 with a secure 2nd place in IRC2.
We then had to wait a few hours for Sleeper x to finish before we could be sure of our CSA2 2nd place too.
This is an amazing race and it showed once again why we love it so much!