It hasn't been easy for the VOR fleet to round the mighty Cape but now they face another obstacle…a wind hole 3/3/06

The Volvo Ocean fleet rounded Cape Horn in massive seas with patches of no wind, making for some intense sailing around the infamous landmark.

Pirates of the Caribbean (Paul Cayard) passed Cape Horn in 33 knots of wind and now, just 47 miles east, they have just five knots of wind, but a huge seaway. Cayard wrote: “At least we are headed directly where we want to go: La Maire Strait, which is the water between the very bottom of Argentina and Staten Island.” Leading yacht, ABN AMRO ONE (Mike Sanderson), is in the same situation, but worse, only managing two knots in four knots of wind. The best wind is offshore and Cayard and his band of Pirates may well change their game plan once they become aware of this.

The luck is staying with the back markers as they scream up behind the leaders, in a pattern that is now becoming a familiar threat to Mike Sanderson at the head of the fleet. ABN AMRO TWO (Sebastien Josse), the furthest south, is giving the becalmed boats a wide berth, keeping well to the south to avoid the wind hole. She is still sailing in 26 knots of wind, while Ericsson Racing Team is making 22 knots. Even the stricken movistar, who almost sank earlier yesterday, is managing 13 knots at times, but she still has 78 miles to run to reach the scoring gate before diving into Ushuaia to effect repairs to her leaking keel box.

Rounding the Horn in second position, Pirates of the Caribbean skipper Paul Cayard reported: “We had a magnificent day rounding the Horn. The day started with the very slow lightening of the sky that you get at high latitudes. I was on the helm from pure darkness through to daylight. That is my favorite moment out here. It was particularly windy last night so we took the spinnaker down just to play it conservative and make sure we did not have any major issues. Still, it was on the edge steering the boat at 25-30 knots of speed, down large waves, without any visibility. In those conditions, just the slightest bit of additional light helps tremendously and the fact that the light is coming so slowly, tantalizes you.”

“As soon as we could see reasonably, well before actual sunrise, we put the spinnaker back up. I was trying hard to make sure we did not have to gybe at the Horn but in the end we did and that cost us a bit. But it also did set us up to come very close to the Cape and enjoy the spectacularly rugged terrain of the Cape area. There are several islands other than Cape Horn, which is also an Island. I enjoyed this one much more than the previous two.”

But while the Pirates crew could enjoy taking photos of the memorable moment, ABN AMRO TWO, as Simon Fisher reports: “It has certainly been an eventful 24 hours on our approach to Cape Horn, right now we are running downwind in massive seas, 45 knots of wind and at times upwards of 35 knots of boat speed. We have been buffeted by squall after squall in the last few hours making things interesting to say the least. Any hope of getting the cheesy photo in front of Cape Horn has been long since abandoned – right now we’ll just be happy to get passed the thing, collect our points and head onwards to Brazil.”

ABN AMRO TWO reports massive seas, 45 knots of wind and, at times, upwards of 35 knots of boat speed. They totally destroyed their code 6 spinnaker when the boat nose accelerated down an impressively large wave and the bow dug in, stopping the boat dead in her tracks.

Navigator Simon Fisher explained: “Despite Hans Horrevoets’ valiant effort to save the spinnaker by easing about five metres of sheet, it was a futile situation and, as the bow went down, the tack of the spinnaker was ripped clean off.”

“Even at this stage it wasn’t quite over as the wave that had caused the tip up now started breaking over the transom and was attempting to flip Sebastien Josse over the handle bars. Luckily Seb, in the midst of all this, managed to execute a swift left hand down and steered the boat away from the point of Chinese gybing. What ensued was a tidy up and the realisation that this was it for the code 6 for this leg as the tack patch conveniently tripped itself off the tack line and floated away.”

Shortly after this, when ‘Sod’s law of the sea’ was in full force, they hoisted their code 0 sail which only lasted half an hour before the tack line snapped sending it and the metal furling unit flogging behind the boat. Fisher said: “The furler did a spectacular job of beating the s?t out of the sail and the sail repair list got even longer.”

Cape Horn rounding times and points:

ABN AMRO ONE (Mike Sanderson) 1238 GMT 3.5 points
Pirates of the Caribbean (Paul Cayard) 1440 GMT 3.0 points
Brasil 1 (Torben Grael) 1810 GMT 2.5 points
ABN AMRO TWO (Sebastien Josse) 2125 GMT 2.0 points
Ericsson Racing Team (Neal McDonald) 2158 1.5 points