MACIF passes Cape Horn
Vendee Globe leader Francois Gabart and his IMOCA 60 MACIF passed the longitude of Cape Horn this evening at 1820 UTC setting a new record for the passage from the start in Les Sables d'Olonne of 52 days 6 hours and 18 minutes.
Gabart, 29, broke the existing record, which set in the last Vendee Globe by his mentor Michel Desjoyeaux, by the significant margin of 4 days 8 hours and 50 mins.
As he passed Cape Horn the young French skipper led second placed Banque Populaire by around 25 miles. At the time the wind was gusting from 25 to 40 knots, with very limited visibility while Gabart was also having to keep a watch for the proliferation of ice which has been reported.
Two time Vendee Globe winner, Michel Desjoyeaux, whose company Mer Agitee manages Gabart's campaign, commented: "I exchanged text messages with François, very short messages. He told me the visibility was under two miles, he's sailing ahead of a (cold) front and approaching Cape Horn. So he has his hands full right now.
"It is a very emotional moment, but I'm afraid he doesn't have time to enjoy it because the data collected by CLS shows there's ice all over the area. It's hard to tell exactly what type of ice blocks, growlers and icebergs there is but they definitely need to be out on the deck and visually check. You need to stand next to the helm, even if the autopilot is on, because you can grab the helm if necessary or work on the sails if you need to change the heading of the boat very quickly. Radars aren't enough because they can't detect smaller objects."
"I'm so happy for François, he's been so much in control of his boat and his race from the start onwards, he and Armel have led the race since the Southern Ocean. I'm sure they have had their own technical issues, but they managed to solve them and keep enjoying the experience and to have a blast."
To give some indication of how speeds from Les Sables d'Olonne to Cape Horn in the Vendee Globe have improved over the years...
2008-9 Michel Desjoyeaux (Foncia): 56 days 14 hours and 8 minutes (although he set off from Les Sables d'Olonne 41 hours after the start)
2004-5 Jean le Cam (Bonduelle) 56 days 17 hours and 13 minutes,
2000-1 Michel Desjoyeaux (PRB) 62 days 3 hours
1996-7 Christophe Auguin (Geodis) 66 days 22 hours