Olivier de Kersauson and crew are not out of the 'wood' yet

The Pacific is proving to be an appalling experience for the 11-man French crew trying to reach Cape Horn in conditions that have more to do with survival than racing.

For yesterday morning’s radio conversation, the skipper had to lie flat on the floor of the boat in his waterproofs to be able to be heard: “We can’t go further south, but we can maintain this latitude. We’re making good headway, thankfully. The anemometer is showing 58kts of wind and we’re flying the storm jib and three reefs in the main.

In eight round-the-world trips, I’ve never seen the Southern Ocean like this. In fact, if I had seen it like this before, I’d never have come back! It’s not sailing, it’s survival. There’s no finesse or delicacy about it.”

After a few hours respite yesterday, the crewmembers were able to get their breath back a little before joining this latest battle. “They’re fantastic, brave and really up to the task. But we’ve had our fill of this and can’t wait for it to stop. One fine day we’ll make that left turn and come back to the sun and the beaches.”

At around 3°C and blowing at over 60 mph, the force of the wind is accentuated by its density. “In terms of wind direction, the forecasting models were absolutely right, but they’re completely wrong about its force.

Winter’s arrived earlier this year. We’re not in danger at the moment, but conditions are very tough. It shouldn’t go on too long or get any worse. We need to get out of here quickly, because we’re not racing any more, we just want to get back.”

At the end of her 36th day at sea, the Cap Gemini and Schneider Electric trimaran had covered 465 nautical miles at an average speed of 19.4 knots and was 2,140 nautical miles from Cape Horn. If they can keep up this high speed despite the appalling conditions, they should be able to find a way south past the western edge of the enormous depression now centred over the Andes and stirring up the Pacific from 35° to 55°S. They should then find a more manageable sea today.

Their lead over the record is now over 1,000 nautical miles, although “at the moment, we’re not paying too much attention to others, we’re just trying to reach the Horn and after that, we’ll have to see.”

Latest position

54°50S 132°32W