The Caribbean 600 yacht race will start on Monday at 11am local time under a beating Caribbean sun for 600 miles of intense and full on racing passing 11 Caribbean Islands. I will be reporting from the rail of one of the smallest boats in the fleet.
This race was started in 2009 and is now well established and attracting some big hitters from the sailing world to try their luck against the naturally challenging course which will include beautiful robust trade winds, outlying reefs and rocks, wind shadows caused by volcanos and dodging boats coming in the other direction on the tighter corners of the course.
A record 68 boats will cross the start line tomorrow.
The race will start from Antigua and head North towards the bottom corner of Barbuda and round a turning mark then across to leave Nevis, St Kitts and Saba to Starboard.
Round the top of Saba the course turns to the North East and boats will sail zig zag over to St Barth’s which must be left to Port ( including all of its many off lying islands and rocks which will produce tricky navigation in the dark) then switching direction to round Saint Martin to Starboard.
Once St Martin is clear the fleet will have a chance to ramp up a gear and enjoy a solid reaching trade wind over a 170 mile leg cutting between the Islands close to Monserrat and finally arriving the West of Guadeloupe.
Here the fleet will enter stealth mode on the trackers. The west side of Guadeloupe is where previous races have been won or lost as the enormous wind shadow cast by the island can have boats parked up for hours while others find a fickle lucky breeze and carry on through.
The idea of allowing the fleet to hide during this section brings an extra element of tension to the race; you choose your own track and won’t know if it pays or not until popping out on the other side.
After continuing South to round Isles des Saintes and then La Désirade the fleet will then head back up the Eastern side of Guadeloupe, to the turning mark off Barbuda and then a final circuit out to the tiny island of Redonda to the West before finishing in Antigua.
Sounds exhausting? It will be – this course offers every challenge and condition a sailor could imagine except icebergs and snow.