The ninth edition of the RORC Caribbean 600 Race set off yesterday from Antigua. The high-tech Italian ocean racing trimaran, Maserati Multi70, skippered by Giovanni Soldini crossed the start line off Fort Charlotte on the south side of the island with a 10-knot westerly breeze at 11.40 local time (15.40 in Europe).
Soldini has seven other crew members on board Maserati Multi70: Guido Broggi, Vittorio Bissaro, François Robert, Oliver Herrera, Carlos Hernandez, Francesco Malingri and Matteo Soldini (a member of the shore team standing in for John Elkann who withdrew after forecast light winds meant the race duration no longer fitted in with his previous work commitments).
Soldini’s team of ocean racing experts are facing much gentler winds than are normal in the Caribbean at this time of year. The unusual weather scenario is the result of a low-pressure storm system to the north that has extinguished the regular trade winds that characterise the classic 600-mile race.
Light breezes do not suit Soldini’s trimaran which is designed to race in much stronger winds when it can fly above the water at high speeds on specially designed hydrofoils.
The RORC Caribbean Race is renowned as one of the most complex and challenging races in ocean racing. This year’s edition has attracted a record fleet of 80-boats including top ocean racing crews from around the world.
Starting and finishing in Antigua, the course weaves its way through the Caribbean taking in no less than 11 island turning points, stretching as far north as Saint Martin and down to the tiny island of Les Saintes off Guadeloupe in the south.
"It will be a tough race", Soldini said before the start. "Accurate navigation is essential and then you have to take into consideration the wind shadows that stretch out from some of the islands that can stop you in your tracks. We will try to sail our boat to the best of our ability".
With average winds for the race expected to be below the level Maserati Multi70 needs to be competitive – it is unlikely that the Italian boat or its main rival, the USA-flagged trimaran, Phaedo3, will challenge for the race record time of 31 hours, 59 minutes and four seconds, set last year by the American boat.
After having crossed the starting line, Maserati Multi70 passed York Island on the east coast of Antigua heading north towards a turning mark in the southwest of the island of Barbuda; Maserati Multi70 is currently at close range and catching up to its rival Phaedo3, near to the western side of the island of Guadeloupe.