Dee Caffari rounds Cape Horn in virtually zero winds

Date4 January 2356

PositionS 56° 57’/W 69 ° 40′

At 0940UTC I became a member of an elite group of people, single handed ‘Cape Horners’, east to west.

The grey mist lifted and the radio was busy with shipping calling into Cape Horn Radio. The 35 knots of wind from last night had left and we were sat with 5 knots of breeze and Isla Hornos on our starboard side.

I went on deck, not really knowing what to expect. I hadn’t seen land since I said goodbye to Blighty, at The Lizard Lighthouse, 44 days ago. The first thing that hit me was the smell. I could smell seaweed and sea birds, unbelievable. Then I saw the island itself. Low lying at one end and rising up at the other and very green in colour. I was surprised; I thought it would be barren and brown. There was an abundance of bird life and I also saw penguins in the water.

Then the radio traffic came into view. It was like the M25 down here at the bottom of the world. I spoke to Cape Horn Radio and registered my passage with them, although it took six attempts before he understood that there were no crew onboard with me. Then the Chilean Navy came by and we spoke on the VHF, I gave them a wave as they were supplying a pilot for a cruise liner called ‘The Henseatic’. I spoke to the Captain called Ulf, and he was very interested in my project. He offered me some beers or anything else I wanted, but as the rules state you cannot take anything from outside of the boat once across the start line, I had to decline. It was a very generous offer.

They had come from Cape Town, via the island of Tristan de Cunha, South Sandwich Islands, the Antarctica peninsula and now Cape Horn, and they end in Ushuaia to change clients and reverse the route. The expedition leader onboard then asked if they could drive by and show the yacht to the guests and would I like some photographs taken with Cape Horn in the background. Now what are the chances of turning up at Cape Horn and having someone else there to capture the moment? Aviva and I were so lucky.

All in all it was a very busy morning. I was so excited I didn’t know whom to tell first. The fact that the wind had died gave me some time to e-mail the team at home to let them know.

I felt for my Global Challenge Crew last year. We headed round the corner, in a stiff breeze that made us head south of west and passed Cape Horn in the middle of the night, when it was out of sight and it was almost like an anticlimax for them. I now have the photographs, so we can all see what is there. The good news as well is that I don’t have to go round a third year running to get the picture. It is etched in my memory for life.

The wind will be back with a vengeance, we are now completely exposed to the Southern Ocean, but we spend our time now trying to head west, which psychologically makes me feel as if we are progressing.

Dee and Aviva