VOR – Gybing for Cape Horn

dongfeng__0~0~0~vor_20vor dongfeng nearing horn 14_-_backup_-_dongfeng~vor_hq_primary_http~0~0~dfg_150328_riou_368717342_lowresThe distance of a Fastnet Race to go, but the Volvo Ocean Race fleet will probably cover it in under 2 days as they surf their way east, pushing along by a classic Southern Ocean swell and an ever increasing following wind. A ‘classic’ Cape Horn seems on the menu for the determined men of Dongfeng, only 3 of which have passed the mythical rock before.

Having held the lead for much of the last two days, as the conditions have built we can sense that all the teams are getting close to the thin line between 100% performance and throttled back (very slightly) mode.  A line when crossed at the wrong time as we’ve already seen on this leg can lead to major difficulties. To complete this leg, and certainly do well in this leg, you have to pass Cape Horn and head north with the boat and crew intact. Judging where that line is, is not easy – and each skipper has his own set of constraints and factors to weigh.

Right now we remain very proud of how Charles Caudrelier has managed this so far – and having pulled themselves back in to the game. But no doubt he will continue to do his best to judge just how hard to push – and perhaps erring on the side of caution more than some of the other teams. A factor we can seeing already in the slightly slower average speeds of Dongfeng today, with Alvimedica taking a small lead and a few miles lost to their hunters – partly from the mainsail drop to make a repair to a batten car (see below), and partly to just backing off very slightly.

The approach to, and then passage of, Cape Horn looks like to be a major moment of this race.

Hold on tight.

And then – remember its a long way up the coast of Brazil! Need stamina in this race!

The final ‘curved’ line
Thats it, we made what should be the final gybe this morning, and we are heading straight for Cape Horn. Straight line? Yes and no. Because we are sailing a great circle route, that makes a nice curve on the chart. Its about 1000 miles (720 as I’m writing this) that we expect to cover in less than 48 hours to get to the mythical rock.

“Good teamwork. We lost a few miles but we’ve gained in confidence” Martin Stromberg

It was a busy day with some damage to one of the mainsail batten cars [this is what the mainsail slides up and down the famous mast track on] that meant we had to take the mainsail down to repair. An efficient manoeuvre, with limited miles lost to Alvimedica and the rest of the fleet. Impressive in fact to realise we could manage to keep a very respectable speed without the mainsail. We even touched 27 knots down one surf!

The crew and the boat are now in perfect condition to attack this final chunk of Southern Ocean.

At the time of writing, its a very dark night outside. We’ve just changed the headsail. At 56 degrees South, at 22 knots of boatspeed in 28 knots of true wind, without being able to see anything at all. In other words, no time for hesitation when you venture on to the bow…