Mixed emotions for Dee Caffari as she rounds final great cape yesterday afternoon 4/4/06

Date2 April at 2320

PositionS 33° 20’/E 17° 15′

Wow, what a day! It has been dreadful and wonderful all at the same time.

The best news is that after rounding Cape Horn on the 4 January, and passing south of Cape Leeuwin, I rounded the final of the three great capes today. We passed The Cape of Good Hope at 1600hrs this afternoon. Slightly earlier than expected but I shall explain why a little later.

That now ends the chapter on the Southern Ocean. We can smile in the knowledge that we survived and conquered the greatest and most remote stretch of water on the planet. I had a mixture of feelings. I was definitely massively relieved; I also felt proud of Aviva and the team, as together we overcame the worst conditions I have ever sailed in. In addition, I couldn’t help but feel a little sad at saying goodbye to the Southern Ocean. This was emphasised with my baptism of fire last night, there was always someone on my radar, it was very busy, and it was like returning to the M25. I guess that is the end of having the ocean to myself pretty much.

All the emotion of passing this very significant landmark kept me going today. I was extremely tired as last night I had to avoid shipping and also there were lots of squalls. Each rain cloud shifted the wind and I had to keep gybing to sail the best course. Now in thirty to forty knots of wind Aviva is a big girl to gybe and after a few of these I was getting tired. In amongst all the rain was an electrical storm. Lightning was holding an amazing display streaking the sky in all directions, as someone who is not too keen on thunder and lightning, I managed to gybe to avoid that one.

These gusty and overcast conditions stayed with me all day. The wind was great for progress and we screamed along at 10 knots for most of the day with hardly any sail up at all. I had three reefs in the mainsail, the staysail was away and a small amount of headsail was left. Again we had several gybes to do during the course of the day. These difficult winds made estimating my position for the arranged rendezvous with the helicopter a little tricky.

The helicopter joined me at lunchtime. We transferred the video footage first and then they filmed some footage of Aviva sailing. She loved it, sailing at 10 knots, surfing in the waves for the camera. The helicopter was huge and it came so close I felt I could touch it. It was awesome to watch and there was a cool bit of flying. Thank you to all the guys involved that made it all happen so smoothly and easily.

They stayed with Aviva and I for about half an hour and then off they went leaving Aviva and I alone once more. We didn’t have any time to reflect on that as the heavens opened, the wind screamed in, and we were off in amongst the blackest of clouds. Again, the wind direction shifted and we needed to gybe. This took me some time, but we made it and the course as a result was spot on. Then came the thunder and lightning. As a child I remembered counting between the two to see how far the centre of the storm was. I managed to count to two. I knew that wasn’t good. The barometer fell some more and the rains continued and we hurtled along on the verge of being completely out of control.

Eventually by early evening, the worst of the storm clouds had rolled across and the sky was breaking up and showing hints of blue. The wind stayed but was a little steadier and we kept the boat speed up in the right direction. As the sun dropped to the horizon behind the clouds they suddenly all lit up in pinks, purples reds and oranges. I had a smile on my face because whilst sailing in the right direction the sun had set to my left. We were no longer sailing into the sunset. I admit it is a romantic notion, but it does mean that now we have definitely turned that well talked about corner.

A tired but elated Dee and Aviva