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5 March 2005, 09:44 am
Closing In On Cape Horn
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Oryx Quest 2005

At the 07:00 GMT poll this morning Doha 2006 was 366 miles due west of Cape Horn and closing fast. The Qatari catamaran was registering 26.3 knots on the instant speed and had been averaging over 20 knots for the last 12 hours.
If they are able to maintain the current pace they should be rounding the cape during daylight hours today, remembering that these days ships time is about the same as Manhattan time.

That's probably the only similarity between the small island in New York and the small island at the foot of South America. The mood on board Doha 2006 is one of anticipation as they get closer to the corner. As usual Paul LARSEN summed things up perfectly in daily log.

'Our focus is now fully on getting around Cape Horn cleanly,'
he wrote. 'The options for the approach are gradually narrowed down as you get closer. The freedom to roam the ocean and position yourself where you like regards to weather fades away as you simply have to go to this spot. Although the Horn is quite often the lowest latitude you go to, it marks the summit of any circumnavigation. A place in yachting where the bottom of the earth feels like the top of the mountain.' Five of the crew on Doha 2006 have not rounded Cape Horn before and they are hoping to get a glimpse of the stormy cape as they sail past.

Then there is Jacques VINCENT who will be making his eighth rounding under sail. As Larsen says in his log, 'he may as well leave a toothbrush down there.' Jacques VINCENT is one of the most charming and happy people in the planet. His boyish good looks make him look younger than his years, perhaps attributable the time spent roaming the oceans of the world instead of toughing it out with a 'real' job. His first circumnavigation was on board the maxi yacht, The Card in 1989. He then joined Bruno PEYRON on Commodore Explorer when they became the first boat to circumnavigate nonstop in less than 80 days. Jacques then sailed a succession of Whitbread/Volvo around the world races, first on Tokio, then Innovation Kvaerner and Djuice Dragon with a couple more nonstop circumnavigations on maxi-catamarans, first on Team Adventure in The Race in 2001, and on Cheyenne when they set a new outright circumnavigation record last year. One would be hard pressed to find another living soul with as much Southern Ocean experience as the indomitable Jacques VINCENT.

For Sharon FERRIS it's a different story altogether. Sharon was part of Tracy EDWARDS all-girl team on Royal & SunAlliance when they were attempting a Jules Verne record a few years back, but unfortunately the attempt came to a crashing halt when the mast came down west of Cape Horn and the team retired to Chile. She was also part of the Amer Sports Two crew in the last Volvo Ocean Race, but left the boat in Auckland. Should she round, and no one is tempting fate by saying 'when' she rounds, it will be third time lucky for the Kiwi sailor and certainly a sweet moment for her.

The sailing has not all been easy for the team on Doha 2006 as they sail in the Screaming Fifties. During the night they were hit by a vicious squall with the wind going from 20 to 42 knots in a couple of minutes. The crew had to do an emergency roll on the medium gennaker and put the yankee back up. They decided to keep the gennaker furled after that. Despite the chaos on deck the crew did find time to marvel at a rare phenomenon as Brian THOMPSON describes in his log. 'What we did see during that squall,' he wrote, 'was very unusual, though at the time we had our hands too full to appreciate it, and that was a moonbow, where the rain in the squall creates a gray rainbow just from the moonlight. I have only seen this once before.' What Brian did not know was that they crew had specially ordered the moonbow as a birthday present for him the skipper celebrated his special day in a place he calls his second home.

Further back in the fleet both Cheyenne and Daedalus are lining themselves up for their own Cape Horn roundings. Cheyenne is already down at the latitude of the Horn while Daedalus is eight degrees further north. On board Cheyenne navigator Wouter VERBRAAK describes how they nearly missed a crucial weather pattern. 'After a week of chasing the large depression in front of us, battling light winds and head seas, this morning we have managed to get it,' he wrote. 'It has been a long struggle, and even as recent as 18 hours ago, we were not sure whether we would make it. This morning, however, the wind increased to between 22 and 30 knots from the southwest and we have been doing good boat speeds ever since. This positioning we have worked so hard for will be crucial for the next three days to the Horn. Not making the system would have meant easterly headwinds and bad seas. The ideal combination for breaking the boat. Instead we have good winds and a swell from behind. Excellent! The latest weather information shows us in these winds for the next couple of days, before a new front with northerlies overtakes us.' Cheyenne is still more than 1500 miles from the corner.

Brian Hancock (As Amended by ISAF), Image: © Cheyenne
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