Puma's Il Mostro and 11 crew celebrate rounding Cape Horn - the first for skipper Ken Read

Four of the five Volvo Ocean crews have now rounded the infamous Cape Horn and the southern most tip of South America. For two of the skippers – Ian Walker (Green Dragon) and Ken Read (Puma) – it was their first time. Ken Read recounts this momentous occasion, and what it meant for his rookie and experienced crew.

Ken Read, received 17.03.09 2100 GMT:

“I have never been accused of being the sentimental type. Just not part of the game so to speak. Find a goal, plan it, and get it done. Keep it simple. Not a lot of moving parts to mess up. But the mould may now be broken.

Roaring into the most famous of all great Capes, our entire team has been asked collectively a thousand times what they believe they will feel while rounding Cape Horn. Remember, we have all types aboard this craft. This is Erle Williams’ fourth time, Justin Ferris ‘ second, Jerry Kirby’s second. Andrew Cape’s seventh, Sidney Gavignet’s fourth, Rick Deppe’s second, Rob Salthouse’s second, Rob Greenhalgh’s second, and for Casey Smith, Michi Mueller and myself… we are the rookies for Cape Horn passages.

Each has answered in their own way. Some take this milestone in a sailor’s life with passion and emotion; others say it isn’t a big deal. All say it marks something major though, and that is simply that you are now out of the grasps of the Southern Ocean and, for this reason alone, it is time for celebration.

To take a step backwards, I have asked many of the Southern Ocean ‘experts’ onboard what they thought of this passage. All have said ‘different’ due to the amount of beating and tight reaching we had to do. All have said ‘odd’ because of the ice gates keeping us out of iceberg zone and further north than a usual crossing, but all have said ‘normal’ because of the cold and the grey and the general nastiness that broods here. Kind of daunting if you sit back and think about where you are, and where the nearest safe haven is, when you are halfway across the vast stretch of water.

I mentioned before in one of my blogs that if this, the southernmost point of South America could talk it would tell some harrowing tales of tragedy and heroics by sportsman and traders and businessman and adventurers alike. Probably more so than any other nautical landmark in history. For this reason alone, it is a privilege to be let through these gates. Entrance to which must be earned and not simply taken.

The boats we sail today are both good and bad for a place like this. Sure they are fast…too fast sometimes and, like last night for example, you are working hard to actually slow the boat down rather than speed it up. They have been shown to be brittle at times, as any new generation of technology will be. But their speed is also advantageous towards the safety of passages like this.

Modern day weather forecasting mixed with the raw speed of these boats allows us to pick and choose much of the weather we plan to entertain. Good and bad. Typically the ‘fastest route’. But the fastest route can also be the safest route as well. We can get on a single front and ride it for a large part of the ocean if the angles are right. Avoiding multiple chances at really nasty weather systems that are simply just lining up down here to keep kicking you in the teeth.

I am by no means a Southern Ocean expert, nor will I ever be one of these guys who have done this route time and time again. Easy to say, at this point anyway. But I am in awe of the sheer magnitude of the passage and the final toll booth that lets you through and awaits the next yacht to venture this way. We appreciate safe passage more than anything right now, and with that in mind we thank this Great Cape.

PUMA’s ‘il Mostro’ and her crew of 11 have now rounded Cape Horn. Easy to stare at and dream about what has been and what will be. Maybe I am becoming sentimental.

By the way, our team (family) celebration went off without a hitch. More Cuban cigars made their way on deck, a dash of ‘sailmakers oil,’ a spot of Scotch whisky, and of course Casey found the energy to get naked again! On the bow, waves crashing over him with a Cape Horn sign. Dear lord. Welcome to my world. Never a dull moment around here.”