Sticky finish for latest RORC Caribbean 600 arrivalsAntigua, 24 February 2022
Jean-Pierre Dreau s Lady First III reached Antigua this morning after a frustrating the end of their RORC Caribbean 600, the opening event of the 2022 IMA Caribbean Maxi Challenge. The last four miles had taken their good-looking Italian-built Mylius 60 an hour to cover before they slipped across the line off English Harbour at 06:58:04. The French team currently lies 6th in IRC Zero and 16th in IRC Overall.
For Dreau this was not his first time to Antigua – he has competed in Sailing Week here many times – but it was his first ever RORC Caribbean 600. “I think it is very, very interesting with all these natural marks,” he said. “And it is winter and we are in shorts and T-shirts! So everything was excellent – the weather, the atmosphere on board and the crew is very good.”
In addition to friends, on board were several well-known French pro-sailors, such as Mini/Figaro sailor Xavier Macaire, runner-up in last year’s La Solitaire du Figaro, plus Ronan Treussart and Jean-Paul Mouren, who famously competed in 27 editions of La Solitaire. They were led by Christopher Pratt, who has been regularly racing with Jeremie Beyou on board the IMOCA Charal but who is now focussing on his own Vendée Globe campaign for 2024.
Dreau said that having pros on board was necessary to ensure that Lady First III was driven as hard as possible. They had entered the RORC-IMA Transatlantic Race and the RORC Caribbean 600 two years ago but had to postpone taking part due to the pandemic.
As to this specific RORC Caribbean 600, Dreau says he very much enjoyed it: “Every moment was good, day and night. The arrival was interesting because it was exactly the same as when you arrive at the end of the Rolex Giraglia with no wind at all. Here, I thought we would have some wind.”
As someone who has competed in most of the world’s major offshore races, it takes a lot to impress Christopher Pratt but he loved the RORC’s annual Caribbean tour: “The race is just incredible, passing all these islands but each time we rounded one at night, I was thinking about how much I would have loved to have stopped there or passed in the daytime so I could have seen it.
“We are really happy with the way we sailed. The boat is not perfect in reaching conditions [a jibtop didn’t arrive in time for the race], but we managed not to lose too much distance on our competitors during the two long reaches. We arrived yesterday in the middle of the night in Basse Terre [Guadeloupe], which was the key moment and on to Les Saintes with a lot of manouevres. There was no wind and it was really hard to find a good way to go through this area but we managed to do it well because we closed from 10 to 5 miles behind all the Class40s, Daguet 3, The Kid, etc.
“Then there was a big upwind leg to La Desirade, which is pretty good for the boat, even if it was only in 10 knots of wind, and then reaching, but in a high mode, to Barbuda, which was also good for the boat. Then the last downwind to Redonda was nice in 15 knots and then to come back here, was just at the limit because we spent one hour to sail the last four miles. I think it is going to be hard for the last boats... Ultimately we finished the race thinking we couldn’t have done better.”
From here Lady First III is due to return to the Mediterranean where her first event scheduled will be the IMA Maxi European Championship, taking place out of Sorrento, Italy Mid-May.
The IMA’s Caribbean Maxi Challenge continues with St Maarten Heineken Regatta over 3-6 March.
(Race report: James Boyd / IMA)