Cape Horn tomorrow
Cape Horn is the round the world racer’s ultimate milestone. It is the time that the bow is finally directed in a northerly direction, what feels like homewards. In theory the wind ravaged Cape puts behind them the wild challenges of the Southern Ocean and marks the start of the final long 10,000 mile long ascent of the Atlantic.
In fact for the leading Barcelona World Race pair, Virbac-Paprec 3 and Mapfre, there is likely to be little change in the intensity of their individual attack. The wind conditions may progressively ease, but both teams know that every mile gained and lost is a valuable one.
The challenges of the southern Atlantic are often every bit as difficult as they were for the fleet on the descent more than six weeks ago. For example the 2004-5 and the 2000-1 Vendée Globe races both saw huge miles caught up in the lower reaches of the Atlantic as the Saint Helena high proved especially slow for the leaders.
Both leading duos will be well aware of this as their next set of strategic challenges on their horizon, but tomorrow, Thursday, will be about the excitement of passing the iconic landmark and making sure they remain in the best possible shape for the big push up the Atlantic.
For the leading duo, Jean-Pierre Dick and Loïck Peyron, it will be their respective third racing passages of Cape Horn, J-P passing in his first Vendée Globe in 2005 and subsequently en route to winning the first Barcelona World Race, while Peyron passed en route to second in the first ever edition of the Vendée Globe and subsequently as skipper of Innovations Explorer in The Race. For the Mapfre duo it will be Iker Martinez’s second but Xabi Fernandez’s third – having rounded twice in successive Volvo Ocean Races.
After repositioning themselves slightly to the north early last night, the Spanish pair have so far been able to deliver some of the compression that Martinez spoke of yesterday, making nearly one knot quicker than Virbac-Paprec 3 over the course of the middle part of today. Both have been spearing east towards the Horn at between 18 and 21 knots with the full expectation of a passage of the promontory in breezes which will vary between just plain windy and very windy. They are still expecting the race’s final encounter with ex-cyclone Atu, with Mapfre expecting worse conditions, due to arrive at the Cape some five hours later. This afternoon there was 80 miles between them with Virbac-Paprec 3 due to pass between 0930hrs and 1030hrs UTC.
On We Are Water, Jaume Mumbrú sounded still slightly dazed but very resolute today nearly 24hours after their yacht was knocked down on. When he spoke clearly and lucidly of their incident, which he described as ‘for sure the hottest thing that has happened to us so for this race’ he revealed that their mopping up operation is still continuing progressively, they still have a lot of work to get through but ‘are back in the match’.
They were knocked flat by a powerful 1-2 combination of waves, taking ‘tonnes of water’ down the companionway. As Mumbrú recalled: “We were sailing in the bad part of the storm downwind, at an angle 135 degrees. We had only the main with three reefs with no sail at the front at all in 45 touching 50 knots, and the sea was very, very big, high waves with not a lot of distance between the waves. And on one of the accelerations of the boat we just crashed against the wave in front and the wave behind just lifted the boat and capsized us. We were completely over to one side, the water came into the boat and we had tonnes of water inside. We had a few seconds capsized, the boat came upright and from there on, it was just a case of getting the boat ready to get on with it and sail again. It was the first really, really hot situation that we have been in like that.
"Basically we had the boat stopped completely we had all this water inside, electronics were on and it was situation where we had to start making decisions how to put things back together. The wind was blowing at an incredible speed, outside we could not even move. Sometimes it was dangerous, it was the toughest situation since we left.”
"We are both very tired. We have been working hard for the last 24 hours. We have managed to get the boat back sailing, and the minimum electronics to work, and then we had to gybe to get north, to try and get some north on this second front. After these 24 hours we are happy with the evolution, and we are tired, we try to recover, but we still have some tough conditions to go, but we hope to continue through the Cook Strait so we can have some rest, so our priority right now is to get some rest.At the moment we are holding on to optimism, our hope not to stop, that is our objective. But that will depend on the evolution of the boat. We feel we are getting pretty lucky because we are managing to dry some of the stuff. Before it was the head of the engine, so we are keeping optimistic not to have to stop in Wellington.”
Forum Maritim Catala will restart tomorrow from Wellington after their 48 hours stop to fix their watermakers and hydrogenerators:
Gerard Marín said today: “From the psychological point of view, being on the water for so long is getting difficult, more so than I thought it would be.”
Also heading for Wellington, with just over 100 miles to sail, is the jury rigged Central Lechera Asturiana which lost the top section of her mast yesterday evening.
Meanwhile in the battle for third place Pachi Rivero on Renault ZE Sailing Team reported: "Right now we're fine physically. We sleep, we keep the rhythm fine, within the usual realms of being tired and so on, but physically we are fine although we haven’t seen the sun for a long time. "We gybed with the wind shift because we wanted to leave the center of the maximum pressure in the low. We have about 35 - 40 knots of wind from behind we are going downwind well, with a sea not too big but safe, most importantly, safe.
"We want to sail with Neutrogena on the same conditions, we seem very even. We hope to get out of this system better than them. At the moment Cape Horn is a bit far away, we have another very critical low and then we'll talk about Cape Horn and to get home. It's a little fruity this low, it has to go and set up right in front of us! ... will have to duel with it a bit or stop a bit to let it pass, cross through the middle, further north ... I do not know, but it's a pain in the ass! To me, Cape Horn is the father of all Capes, leaving the South. It is important to leave the South well, powerful and strong to face the way home.
"We feel really sorry about the incident Central Lechera Asturiana’s mast. They don’t deserve it, none of them. They made a huge effort and came very well from Cape Town. We are good friends with Juan and Fran and I'm sorry for them.
"Our rudders are responding well, we're delighted. The one that was more delicate is doing a good job, is holding up and I think we won’t have any problems with them. The two pilots are going very well, both the mechanical and the hydraulic. Now we are sailing with the mechanic one with 35-40 knots. The hydraulics are fine too."
From 36 miles astern Boris Herrmann radioed in from Neutrogena: “It is very rough, we have a big swell from the side. It is very dark and so I cant see what is going on so I try hard to find a good course to not launch off the waves because sometimes we hit 27 knots or something like that and between the waves the boat slows down and so it is not so easy to keep an even speed.
"We decided to not be too extreme, not to take any risks, and we also gybed a bit later here so that we would have a little bit of distance to this low in the south, and we sail an angle not exactly on the rhumb line, a little to the north to not go in the very strong breeze, we have decent conditions, 42 knots right now. It is not that far from Cape Horn now and so there is no reason to push the hell out of the boat right now.
"Our energy is okay at the moment. It would be good if we could see some sun at one point, but I guess after the Horn in a few days there might be a chance, but it all grey and drizzle, I cant remember where we saw the sun the last time really, before New Zealand. I am a bit tired of this grey horizon. We have a big low pressure system passing to the south of us and we have to have a good look at that, I think that could bring another day or day and a half of good breeze, nothing very threatening. We had a couple of mails of encouragement from Bilou two or three days ago.”