Just finished racing the Caribbean 600 on the BRIAND 125' P2. What a great race; 600 miles of racing around Caribbean islands, 10-25 kt winds, warm weather, and star filled nights. P2 is a Superyacht, designed for cruising and day racing, so we were pushing her to do an offshore distance race. Kind of like taking your Jaguar for a spin on an off-road track. We also went with a reduced crew number, so it was critical that we have a smart game plan of how we raced the boat. We pulled it off without any major issues, had some great racing with the other boats in our division, and had a fantastic tour of the Caribbean.
The race started in Antigua, a short upwind around the top of the island, a reach to Barbuda, an offwind to Nevis, then a fetch along the bottom of Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Eustatius, and Saba, then upwind around St. Barths, loop around St. Maarten, back up around St. Barths, then a long fetch to Guadalupe, up around the top and then a fetch to Barbuda, down to Redonda, and upwind to the finish at English Harbor Antigua.
All this took us 2.5 days, starting at mid-day on February 20, and finishing at about 2am on February 23. The major tricks and highlights were the squalls that came through, and passing in the lee of the islands. The squalls bring a significant increase in wind speed as they approach, and then a lull after they pass. So the trick was to go near them to get the increase, but then run away to avoid the lull, and all the while hope our sail selection can survive these changes in windspeed.
The other key factor of the race was how you play the lee of the islands, where the wind shadow can take away all the breeze and leave you becalmed. The added trick is that it is changing all the time depending on the time of day and the heating and cooling of the islands, plus the difficulty if you pass at night and have no visual signs of what is happening.
Lessons learned are to remain versatile through the squalls, ready for anything, to drop a sail but also to be able to re-hoist it quickly. Also that it is better to go wide, give away a few miles rounding an island, than it is to get stuck and park up while your competitor goes wide around you.
But a fantastic race that I predict will grow into one of the best distance races in the world. And the P2 team was awesome, everyone did a super job and the boat held up beautifully.