The New Year has many of the sailors focussed on the final miles in the Southern Ocean. For some of the sailors the New year will mark their rounding of the infamous Cape Horn. It is a sailor’s dream to conquer the Southern Ocean and of course notorious Cape Horn where the whole Southern Ocean tries to fit through the smallest gap between South America and Antarctica.
A violent stretch of chaotic water, frequented by icebergs, huge waves and plagued by gale force winds. In fact, more people have ventured into Space then have sailed round Cape Horn successfully on their own, that puts things in perspective.
At some point along the Pacific Ocean between clearing New Zealand and rounding Cape Horn there is normally a monster depression to deal with. There will be storm force winds and huge waves to conquer and it almost as if the Southern Ocean is giving you its final farewell. You survive the final challenge, and you feel as if you have conquered the world.
The passage will not be the same for everyone but each of the sailors will have their own reference for the sting in the tail that the Southern Ocean delivered to them in this edition of the Vendee Globe. So far, we have seen a high pressure dominate the South Pacific, but do not let that fool you.
Yannick Bestaven is back in the Atlantic Ocean
This year, the passage around Cape Horn is expected to be the toughest a Vendée Globe leader has faced since many editions of the solo non-stop race around the world. Waves as high as a three-story building and winds gusting to 55 knots are expected over the next few hours for Yannick Bestaven and Charlie Dalin. Both are rounding the Horn, the last of the three major capes of the Vendée Globe, for the first time.
This afternoon, 48-year-old French skipper Yannick Bestaven on Maître Coq IV passed the Cape at 13:42 UTC and returned to the Atlantic from the Pacific with an estimated lead of more than 160 nautical miles over runner-up Charlie Dalin on Apivia.
Boris Herrmann tries to please the spirits of the seas © Boris Herrmann / Seaexplorer
Hope for mercy of the spirits of the sea
“A sip for me, a sip for the boat, a sip for Neptune, hoping he will be lenient with us”, said Charlie Dalin, the runner-up, yesterday, celebrating his arrival in 2021. Boris Herrmann also gave himself and sea spirit Rasmus a sip to mark the new year.
This Saturday, a few miles from Cape Horn, Bestaven and Dalin very successfully pushed themselves well into the lead, ahead of their nearest challengers. This lead should allow them to slow down, get into survival mode, and be prepared for the worst of the vicious low pressure system that is expected to be most severe this afternoon.
Yannick Bestaven faces bad weather at Cape Horn, followed by Charlie Dalin © #VG2020
Led by the chase group, Ruyant is sailing behind the low, in an icy southwesterly wind current that accelerated the entire group yesterday on New Year’s Day. The pace is once again relentless, and the gaps between the boats in this group are tiny. Boris Herrmann is currently in sixth position, followed by Jean Le Cam.
Le Cam was rescued here at Cape Horn after capsizing during the 2008 Vendée Globe. It was Kevin Escoffier’s recently lost PRB boat that played the rescuing role in that Vendée Globe. The PRB skipper at the time, Vincent Riou, had rescued Jean Le Cam from distress after his keel broke and capsized.
A monster storm and nowhere to run
In 2008, I was sailing between Brian Thompson ahead of me and Arnaud Bossieres astern of me and we were watching a depression build behind us and it had us in its sights. As we closed Cape Horn and our gateway marking our return to the South Atlantic and our passage north returning to Les Sables D’Olonne, we were destined to meet this depression at the same time. It was the ultimate meeting of fate. A monster storm and this narrow waterway giving us nowhere to run.