Does ocean racing get much more beautiful and exciting than you see in the photo above of Tony Lawson’s Concise 10 trying to track down Lloyd Thornburg’s MOD70 sistership Phaedo3 in the Caribbean 600? We don’t think so. Not with great tropical sailing conditions, boat speeds nearing 40 knots, and the two boats within sight of each other the entire time — and both eventually smashing Phaedo3’s course record from last year. The green machine’s elapsed time of six seconds less than 32 hours means she averaged 18.7 knots. Concise 10 was a mere 10 minutes back.
It’s not to be forgotten that all but five of the boats in the 69-boat Carib 600 fleet are monohulls, and some of them are the finest racing machines in the world. With most of the boats still on a course that winds through 10 Caribbean islands from St. Martin to Guadeloupe, Jim and Kristy Hinze Clark’s VLPL Verdier 100 Comanche finished about nine hours after the trimarans and well ahead of the second-place monohull. Alas, Comanche was unable to best the monohull course record held by George David’s Rambler 100, as she was off the record pace on much of the fetch from St. Martin to Guadeloupe. Bay Area navigating whiz Stan Honey made a lot of good tactical calls in the last 150 miles, but the big red and black machine finished 33 minutes off the record pace.
Hap Fauth’s JV72 Belle Mente was looking great for class and overall honors once again — until keel worries forced her to drop out about 160 miles from the finish. One of her crew told Latitude that the boat suffered pretty serious damage to the H-structure that supports the keel. Sailing in the trades of the Eastern Caribbean takes a toll on even the best of boats.
The Phaedo-versus-Concise sistership battle has been going on for about six months now. It started with Britain’s 600-mile Fastnet Race, and has continued through the Transatlantic Race, the Around Barbados Race, and now the Caribbean 600. It’s been a case of the student prevailing over the instructor, as one of the multihull sailing experts on Concise 10 is the French sailing legend Michel Desjoyeaux, who used to own Phaedo and who taught current owner Thornburg how to sail her. Phaedo has prevailed in three of the four races against Concise 10, having been bested only in the Around Barbados Race, and only by 10 seconds.
Phaedo3’s not so secret weapon is Brian Thompson, who has been multihulling across the oceans and around the world since the days of Steve Fossett’s ORMA 60 Lakota and 110-ft PlayStation. Indeed, Phaedo crewman Paul Allen from Santa Cruz told us that Thompson drove about 75% of the 32 hours, with owner Thornburg driving most of the rest. As MOD70s have flipped in as little as 15 knots of wind, you can imagine how demanding it was to steer Phaedo3 for so many hours at such high speeds, and much of it in the dark.
Thompson, who is such a cool guy in so many ways, wasn’t about to take credit. “The Phaedo team is so much more improved than last year, and that includes Lloyd, who is now a really good helmsman,” Thompson told the press. “He did the start, the first beat and much of the race. He is a superb driver and this is a tricky boat to sail.” While Concise did briefly take the lead from Phaedo off St. Barth, Thornburg did a great job of boxing Concise out at the starting line, picking up several minutes right at the start.
The rivalry between Phaedo3 and Concise 10 is a terrific one between good friends who enjoy the thrill of pushing each other to the limit. Thornburg and Thompson both enjoy sailing against another boat as opposed to just chasing a record. The consensus seems to be that Phaedo has the advantage off the wind, while Concise made some gains upwind, but both are constantly improving. Unlike monohulls, where an advantage might be an eighth of a knot, in multihulls such as MOD70s, it’s more like two knots.
All in all it’s been a great race for Thornburg, who not that many years ago was sailing a Soling out of Marina del Rey and who currently also has the orange Gunboat 66 Phaedo in Newport Beach. Now he and the crew rest up in Eric Clapton’s mansion, which he leased as the crew house. But not for too long, as the St. Maarten Heineken Regatta is just around the corner, and the Voiles de St. Barth is in mid-April.