More people have climbed the Mount Everest, than sailors have sailed around this infamous Cape.
Team Alvimedica (Charlie Enright/USA) had the considerable honour of leading the battered fleet past the fabled point, just 15 minutes clear of overall race leaders Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing (Ian Walker/GBR). MAPFRE (Iker Martínez/ESP) and Team Brunel (Bouwe Bekking/NED) were hot on their heels as the fleet prepared to head north at last and back in to the Atlantic for the first time since last November.
For Team Alvimedica’s 30-year-old skipper Enright, it was the culmination of an eight-year dream, which first took shape on the film set of Disney movie, Morning Light, when he hatched the idea of entering a team in sailing’s leading challenge.
There are no points on offer for leading the Volvo Ocean Race fleet around Cape Horn, but so much kudos.”For me, most of this race is about competition, but this leg is a little bit different. This is pretty special for us,” said Enright, by far the youngest skipper in the fleet. But this was no time for lengthy celebrations.”We can see Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing behind. The match racing continues. Keep the focus!”
For Dongfeng Race Team it was a case of ‘what might have been’ as well as ‘what next?’ At 03h15 UTC, the crew were startled by a sickening crack that sent all of them scrambling to deck to check out the damage. The boat’s mast had broken above the third spreader.
Team SCA (Sam Davies/GBR) were continuing to battle their way through heinous conditions in the Southern Ocean, some 550nm behind the pack still racing. They have been considerably hampered by damage to their fractional code zero sail after a Chinese gybe last week sent the boat crashing on its side.
Mark Towill Sailor, Team Alvimedica
Cape Horn requires no introduction. Its symbolism and significance are matched only by its natural beauty and ferocious weather. I, like most sailors in the world, grew up dreaming of one day sailing around it, thereby conquering the infamous Southern Ocean.
More recently, I’ve spent the last five years and nearly a fifth of my life completely dedicated to achieving that dream. Everything from the 4AM sponsorship conference calls, the extra set in the gym when giving up seemed so enticing, the fifteen thousand miles of training before the race started. It was all in preparation for Cape Horn.
And on Monday I achieved that goal. Not only were we lucky enough to come within just a few miles of the Horn, in daylight, but we also led the fleet; it was a fantastic milestone for our team.
Doing twenty knots under our A3 spinnaker we smiled, took some photos, enjoyed an honorary sip of rum, soaked in the scenery and tried to relish the moment. And that moment was certainly quick, too quick even, as we were immediately brought back to the Volvo Ocean Race reality by a stiff thirty-five knot headwind.
There was little time for reflection as multiple sail changes led to minimal sleep and maybe the hardest night we have yet had during this race.
The truth is, the full impact of what we have just achieved has not sunk in. We are still pushing hard, still trying to maximize every ounce of performance out of the boat as we race towards Itajai. That moment for reflection will just have to wait… maybe a warm Brazilian beach and a refreshing Caiprihana will do the trick, who knows.
Team Brunel rounds Cape Horn
More people have climbed the Mount Everest, than sailors have sailed around this infamous Cape. Ocean sailors have a sense of longing for this desolate rock where the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans meet. The extraordinary southerly location and the resultant extreme weather conditions make it a unique experience to round the most southerly point of South America.
“It’s been bloody nice sailing the last couple of days,” says Bouwe Bekking, who has just rounded the Cape for the eighth time. “Rounding Cape Horn is the climax of the race. Volvo Ocean Race sailors who failed to round Cape Horn for any reason in the past, have always felt they had not completed the race. Take Gerd-Jan for example, who was unable to sail this leg on two occasions and has therefore had to miss out on rounding Cape Horn.”
In the Whitbread Round the World Race in the past, the boats sailed much more southerly around the Cape. There were icicles not only on the railing but also on the sailors’ beards. Now that the boats are so fast nowadays – sometimes reaching speeds in excess of 50 km/h – the organisers have introduced a so-called ice gate. This is a geographic line under which the boats are not allowed. “Although this has taken away a little of the charm, this leg is still exhausting,” Bouwe continues. “Just imagine: The boats are racing at high speed through the most remote ocean in the world. The hull cuts through insurmountable waves, giving hundreds of litres of freezing spray. After rounding the Cape, the men have been well and truly separated from the boys.”
“Every time I round Cape Horn, I think about the seafarers who sailed around the Cape in their merchant vessels,” Bouwe Bekking continues. “Those guys didn’t have protective clothing or modern navigation equipment. They deserve respect and a moment of reflection.”
Team Brunel rounded the infamous Cape Horn, with MAPFRE in their wake. A few hours later, Bouwe Bekking and his crew were forced to slow down, when their J1 headsail became damaged. Now that Team Brunel could no longer enjoy the advantage of the largest jib, the Spanish boat skippered by Iker Martínez was able to overtake the Dutch team.
Team Brunel had already lost a number of miles in the night before rounding Cape Horn, when the navigation screens suddenly failed. “Due to moisture problems, all navigational instruments in the mast and cabin were wiped out. Jens Dolmer got all the screens working again after drying off the computer which controls the instruments.