Cape Horn for Renault Captur, the Northern Hemisphere for Cheminées Poujoulat
There is always a measure of relief in completing the passage of Cape Horn, escaping from the hostile Pacific into the Altantic. But, come early Tuesday morning, it should be a doubly relieved Jorg Reichers and Sébastien Audigane who bring sixth placed Renault Captur into the Atlantic and make the left turn, northwards for home. They are due at Cape Horn around 0700hrs UTC Tuesday morning.
The German-French duo have had to sail at reduced speeds because of a problem with their starboard rudder blade. But a rapidly deepening low is threatening to give them a very tough time at Cape Horn if they drop at all behind their current pace, or if the low, which is due to accelerate down the Andes and pick up strength, arrives ahead of forecast.
Theirs is a delicate race against time which will test their seamanship and their nerves.
For Audigane, 47 today, it will be his fourth passage of Cape Horn. And for Riechers it will be his first time. They were working hard today to make sure they, and their boat, is in the best possible state for the coming 36 hours. All things staying the same as forecast and if they can hold to their routing speed they should be in the lees of the land.
Audigane said: "For us it’s a race against the clock. If we’re quick enough we’ll get by just losing a few feathers"
Their fortunes contrast sharply with those of the race leaders Cheminées Poujoulat. Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam have just slowed down into the ITCZ, the Doldrums, but are due to pass across the Equator later this evening, back into their home, Northern Hemisphere. They have been in the south for eight weeks. Crossing the Doldrums should not be too testing for them, as the band of light winds is narrow and by tomorrow they should be comfortably into the NE'ly trade winds. There is no question of them dropping their guard down, explains the Swiss skipper in a message: "We have a big advancebut we do not lose concentration or relax. Ahead of us there are still some areas where we could struggle and a mechanical problem just comes upon you suddenly and so vigilance prevails, the road is still long!"
Neutrogena and GAES Centros Auditivos, secone and third, have seen their E'ly breeze pick up a little and can contemplate more regular trade winds. Now that they are in the Atlantic the pace is fast for We Are Water and One Planet, One Ocean & Pharmaton. Bruno and Willy Garcia have had the pedal down hard, racing east of the Falklands. They have been quickest of the fleet, although Spirit of Hungary - seventh - have been making a respectable 15kts, a welcome relief after three or four days in a mid Pacific Doldrums.
Jorg Riechers (GER) Renault Captur: "For the moment we are OK. We don't have that much wind, maybe 20kts, but what we have approaching us is not too cool. How can we approach a massive storm. You know what is going to happen, you prepare to take in the third reef, you do everything you can to secure everything, but you don't know what will happen in the end. It might be that we have 50-55kts of wind, with 10 metre seas. There is not much you can do to be prepared for that. We should get there for about 7 o'clock tomorrow morning. We will have 40kts from the north. We will be really happy to be out of there because the problem is not taht good with the rudder. It was really frightening sailing with this rudder system, doing quite a lot of Chinese gybes, you never know when. We will be really happy, really happy to have that finished. The rudder is stable as it was. On port tack everything is quite alright but on starboard at certain angles it is really, really dangerous.
We are tired. This is exhausting. When we have problems we get less sleep. It means more stress, less sleep. All the time you are getting more tired, sure."
Sébastien Audigane (Renault Captur): "We gybed a few hours ago and are heading NW just now. We will do one more and that wil take us to the Horn. And hopefully we will miss a serious gale. Winds of over 50kts will blow over the area. Normally we should get through with WNW winds, backing W. That will give us seas which are crossed coming from the west and north. Nice! But normally we should be OK. We should have 40kts, 45 to Staten Island. It's a bit like preparing for a battle here! We will prepare the boat and at the moment there is 16kts of wind which is OK, but we set the boat up to reef right down."
" When we have things to do, we do them together. And the advantage of course, is when there is less wind then you can do two hours on and two hours off. When the wind picks up now, well we will be fully ready in our foul weather clothing, on standby."
" We should be there in the morning, so around 0800hrs. Maybe a litle later. We are not going very fast at the moment. There is a little less wind than expected."
" For me this is the fourth time around. It is such a mythical place to sail. Long time ago it was the the southernmost point of the shipping route from New York to San Francisco, for example. And of naturally it is the third of our three great Capes, on the course of the great round the world races. And the weather is special, big depressions passing through with very hostile seas. And for us it is about getting out of the southern oceans and into the Atlantic. For us that will do us good. The last few days have been hard, depression after depression."
" We must get through this stormy bit and then we will see. The main objective is to manage the gales efficiently. The difficulty is close to the coas where the wind accelerates so much. The weather models don't necessarily recognise this. And so you can have ten to 15 knots more. It is all a bit delicate. We are looking forwards to getting out of here."
" I think he is just the same. He is impatient. We are both looking fowards to getting through the gale. It is not fun. We have had our two nights with winds over 50kt and we had trouble with the autopilot then. So we feel we have had our dose of that, for sure. Anyway we can't wait to get through, we just have to manage it right."