If you’re going to watch the start of a yacht race, as opposed to being on one of the boats, there isn’t a much better place than Antigua’s Block House for the start of the Royal Ocean Racing Club’s Caribbean 600.
In nine years the Caribbean 600 has soared to become one of the premier middle-distance ocean races in the world, up there with the Fastnet, the Sydney Hobart, and the Middle Sea Race. It has an excellent fleet slithering over, under, around and through something like 11 islands in the sunny, breezy Caribbean.
This year a record 77 boats from 20 countries with about 850 crew have started. The 185-ft schooner Adela is the big boat this year, with the classic 162-ft schooner Eleonora not far behind.
Among the headline yachts are Mike Slade’s much-traveled Farr 100 Leopard of London, George David’s Rambler 88, the latest in his series of Ramblers, Hap Fauth’s JV72 Bella Mente, and last year’s overall winner, George Sakellaris’ Maxi 72 Proteus. Slade is a Brit while the other three are Yanks.
The fastest yachts in the fleet are the MOD70 trimarans Phaedo3 and Maserati, the former owned by Lloyd Thornburg, sometimes of Newport Beach, where he keeps his Gunboat 66 Phaedo. Phaedo3 and Maserati duked it out in the TransAtlantic Race and the Around Antigua Race, with Phaedo winning both times. Both MOD70s will soon be headed to California to get ready for July’s Los Angeles-to-Honolulu Transpac.
Last year Phaedo3 set the course record in a blistering 31 hours and 52 minutes. Skipper Brian Thompson and Thornburg had the trimaran hitting the high 30s. The monohull record of 40 hours and 20 minutes was set by George David’s Rambler 100 way back in 2011.
There are some West Coast sailors competing in the 600 this year. Tom Corkett, Craig Chamberlain and some other Southern California sailors have entered Runaway, the Andrews 70 originally known as Cheval. Jim Gregory of the Pt. Richmond-based Schumacher 50 Morpheus, which is currently in Barcelona, will be racing on the Swan 60 Bounty. And Seattle is being represented by Greg Slyngstad’s Bieker 53 cat Fujin.
The fleet is full of interesting sailors, not the least of whom is Michael Butterfield of the BuzzCat 46 Dazzla. The Brit, who also owns a boatyard in St. Martin, is still hardcore racing at 85 years young.
The view of the start off the Pillars of Hercules from the Block House is fantastic because for all intents and purposes it’s an aerial view. It’s easy to see who played the start smart and who didn’t. Starts off the Pillars of Hercules are interesting because boats want to go all the way into the rocky shore, but if they do, they’re coming out on port into a flock of boats on starboard. Brown shorts!
The race commentary by the West Indians at Block House is absolutely top-notch for belly laughs. Many of them work on entered boats and thus have favorites. "Half a boat, half a boat, half a boat, now two!" one will shout. "This is the last time Eleonora is going to see Adela, ha, ha, ha!" hollers another. It’s 10 West Indians critiquing yacht racing tactics and talking smack all at once.
No worries if you missed the 600 this year, because next year a fleet of 100 boats is expected. In part, this is because a lot of boats are expected to go TransAtlantic because the RORC event will be co-sponsored by the Costa Smeralda YC, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. We’ll be here again, and hope you will be, too.
If you’re ever lucky enough to sample the laid-back cruising life south of the border, it won’t be long before you realize how privileged your leisurely lifestyle is compared to that of typical Mexican families ashore. That realization is a big reason that so many Mexico cruisers get involved with community projects and fundraisers — the biggest of which is the annual Zihuatanejo Sailfest, which raised a whopping $1,700,000 pesos last week ($83,000 USD), which will directly support educational initiatives for the region’s most disadvantaged youngsters.
Latitude 38 played a role in the humble beginnings of Sailfest, but it quickly evolved into a well-organized weeklong event with strong participation from sailors, land-based expats and community members. These days, the roster of activities includes a boat parade, yacht race, concerts, raffles and auctions and an artisan street fair — each with a fundraising component.
"The cruisers really put the ‘Sail’ into Sailfest this year," says longtime Z-Fest organizer Lorenzo Marbut, "hosting more than 600 donating guests on sailing trips. Local musicians donated their talents to perform sunset concerts at sea." This year, Sailfest sailing events alone generated roughly $15,000 USD.
If you’re unfamiliar with the amazing work done by the Z-Fest-funded Por Los Ninos nonprofit, we urge you to check it out here. This year that organization completed its most ambitious project yet: construction of the new Colegio de Bachilleres high school (built in partnership with the city government and Zihua’s business community). The new facility is the first new high school built in Zihuatanejo in 20 years.
This Jimmy Warfield Etchells, owned by two board members of Stockton Sailing Club, looks as if it was knocked over in one of the storms that have been pummeling California, but actually what happened is that someone drove off with the hoist still attached to the boat’s lifting harness.