In the middle of the Southern Ocean night at 06:25 GMT on Wednesday, Conrad Colman and Adrian Kuttel crossed the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate with Class40 Cessna Citation at the head of the double-handed Global Ocean Race (GOR) fleet.
The 28 year-old Kiwi, Colman, and his 41 year-old South African co-skipper, Kuttel, now join the ranks of Cape Horners and take the Felipe Cubillos Trophy in memory of the late Chilean yachtsman and skipper of the first Class40 to round Cape Horn in the 2008-09 GOR.
Colman and Kuttel had pushed hard throughout Tuesday hitting 14-knot averages to beat the gale forecast to hit Cape Horn: “It was pretty intense yesterday, with 30 knots sustained, gusting more,” Colman reported on Wednesday morning shortly after rounding the cape. “I put myself on the helm for nine hours straight to make the best progress possible with the small running spinnaker,” he explains. “Following a backing shift in the wind, we were still able to make good miles east with flatter sails and as the squalls intensified we ended up broad reaching under just the staysail and double-reefed main.”
Colman and Kuttel crossed the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate at 57S, 87 miles south of Horn Island, clipping the southern tip of Latin America’s continental shelf and wisely avoiding the shallower water closer to the cape. “I finally had a nap just before crossing the magic line of longitude and climbed into the sleeping bag with a huge satisfied smile on my face,” says the Kiwi skipper. “A pretty special place to be and what a way to do it!” Colman exclaims. “First place at Cape Horn in my first circumnavigation after all the challenges just to get here. Very memorable.” Having submitted their Cape Horn ETA on Saturday when 1,000 miles west of the cape, Colman and Kuttel are in the running for the Cape Horn Navigation Prize as Cessna Citation rounded the cape just one hour and 25 minutes behind their projected routing schedule.
In the 15:00 GMT position poll on Wednesday, Cessna Citation was 69 miles south-east of Cape Horn, climbing north-east steeply as the gale approached. “The sea state is still well established, but the wind has moderated for now before building again significantly for a time,” says Colman who is already looking beyond Isla de los Estados. “Current routing is unequivocally around the east side of the Falklands,” predicts Colman of the obstacle positioned 330 miles down the track.
Meanwhile, 300 miles west of Cessna Citation on Wednesday afternoon in second place onFinancial Crisis, the Cape Horn ETA of mid-evening GMT on Wednesday submitted by Marco Nannini and Hugo Ramon became unachievable as the Italian-Spanish duo hove-to at 57S, south-west of the cape to avoid intercepting gale force winds sweeping up from Antarctica. Marco Nannini explained the decision on Tuesday evening: “After much debate, we decided it was simply too risky for us to carry on heading for such a dangerous rendezvous and have instead slowed down and we’ll let the worst of the gale blow through,” he confirmed. Although Cessna Citation had the lead and the horsepower to attempt clearing Cape Horn, Nannini and Ramon were further west and handicapped by the loss of their main, masthead spinnaker. “We considered this option, but ruled it out as we didn’t think we could make it in time,” Nannini explains.
His Spanish co-skipper was in total agreement: “Cape Horn may have the smell and aura of adventure and freedom, but it scares most experienced seamen,” points out Ramon. “Hundreds of boats have broken up and sunk here and it’s only because now it’s mainly racing boats that round the cape that the number isn’t even greater,” he adds. “The Race Director of the GOR, Josh Hall, has raced around Cape Horn three times and Nick Leggatt on Phesheya-Racing has been around the Horn five times and they both advised us in emails over the past couple of days that in the conditions we would face in the gale, there would be enormous, confused seas as we crossed close to the continental shelf.”
Early on Wednesday, Nannini and Ramon – carrying storm jib and four reefs in the main – reported that all was well on Financial Crisis and their skilled and text book heaving-to manoeuvre was working comfortably in 35-45 knots and gusts up to 55 knots. By 13:00 GMT, the low pressure was on the move, heading for Cape Horn, centred south-east of the Italian-Spanish Class40 and Nannini and Ramon were back in the game, tucking into the 30-knot south-westerlies on the back of the system. At 15:00, Financial Crisis was averaging just under eight knots with 280 miles remaining to the Felipe Cubillos Cape Horn Gate.
As Cessna Citation approaches the Southern Ocean’s exit door and Financial Crisis piles on to Cape Horn, Nick Leggatt and Phillippa Hutton-Squire are picking their way across the top of a high-pressure system with Phesheya-Racing and at 15:00 GMT on Wednesday, the South African duo had slowed to under three knots as the light airs struck at 58S with 860 miles to Cape Horn.
GOR leaderboard at 15:00 GMT 22/2/12:
1. Cessna Citation DTF 1363 10.4kts
2. Financial Crisis DTL 316 7.5kts
3. Phesheya-Racing DTL 918 2.3kts
Arnaud Boissières had less than 70 miles to sail to the finish this afternoon and was still making nearly seven knots, keeping him on target to arrive for a triumphant return up the channel in Akena Véranda’s hope port of Les Sables d’Olonne on Sunday afternoon.
He told today’s radio session that he was already enjoying signs and memories of home, after having spoken with some Les Sables fishermen who congratulated him on his race:
“I’m enjoying myself out here and having a nice time. Yesterday evening some dolphins came alongside and this morning an hour and a half ago, some fishermen from Les Sables congratulated me on the VHF. I have a lot of respect for them, and so I really appreciated that. I hope to see them again soon in Les Sables.”
“ Already yesterday, there were a lot of cargo vessels around. I’ve come a long way in my Veranda and have so many memories. I just felt so good in my boat and I didn’t have any major problems.”
“ I will remember particularly Cape Horn and the Southern Ocean…There have been so many things. Finishing seventh is just incredible. The boat came sixth with Thomas Coville, fifth with “Jojo” (Sébastien Josse). As for my race, I owe it to my boat, my team, and all the experts, who were ready at all times of day and the people at Akena, who gave me so much support. It feels like there were 150 people aboard the boat!”
“ I should finish tomorrow after coffee and you’ll have time for a couple of brandies… The sun is out, the seas are not very choppy and there’s just 12 knots of wind, and even that is easing off. This morning the dolphins were back. It just makes it feel so good to be out here and so I’m taking advantage of every little moment. It’s just great!”
Steve White on Toe in the Water has 700 miles to the finish and seems to have to chosen to try and route to the east on an inshore course which are present is sending him back on a course south of Cape Finisterre where there is likely to be only light breezes and considerable traffic. He faces a long slow beat and consequently his ETA has now slipped to Wednesday or possibly Thursday. But he is still making the best part of ten knots this afternoon.
Rich Wilson, USA, (Great American III) has two options at the moment: to try and wriggle up the narrow band of contrary winds on the edge of the high pressure system to his east, which will save him miles but will require him to expend more energy, or to take the long way round. This routing sees him first having to breach a high pressure ridge which would see him slowed in light winds, which may in fact give him some time to re-group before a final push to France, but this is a longer routing.
Raphael Dinelli’s (Fondation Océan Vital) fortunes have improved this afternoon as he starts to feel the more solid NE’ly trades, signaling he is leaving the Doldrums behind and indeed his speeds have picked up nicely in recent hours. And while he has been in the Doldrums it has been a chance for Norbert Sedlacek to gain 50 or so miles and so the Austrian is now 430 miles behind on Nauticsport-Kapsch. Sedlacek was contemplating his mast climb this afternoon to try and replace his two foresail halyards.
Norbert Sedlacek, Nauticsport-Kapsch: “ I had a lot of work to do during the night. There was a little rain and the wind shifted a few times. Now it’s settled to become an ENE’ly, but it is not that strong. There is 30% cloud cover. So I’m in a good mood now. The air and sea temperature are the same. 28°C. It’s just right for a nice shower.”