It was in a gloomy pre-dawn light that Bruce Schwab finally sailed his Open 60 Ocean Planet across the finish line in Cape Town this morning.
Earlier the skies had been clear and Bruce reported seeing the spectacular sight of Table Mountain from afar, but no sooner than he had cross the finish a light, persistent drizzle started. It was a wet ending to a long, arduous passage.
Schwab is a quiet, soft spoken Californian who freely admits that he is still getting to know his boat. The Around Alone is only the first of many long distance races he plans to compete in, and so he is using this event to learn how to get the most out of himself and his boat. The fifth place finish in Class 1 does not bother him."I knew leaving England that I would be behind the other Open 60s,"
he said. "I still had work to do on my boat after replacing the boom, and once I stopped in Spain I was out of contention anyway."
The rest of the leg was spent in a close race against fellow American Brad van Liew on Tommy Hilfiger Freedom America. "I enjoyed racing against Brad. He is very experienced and helped a lot with weather and tactics. It was great to have someone like him to race against. I look forward to the next leg when I can get back in the mix against the rest of my class and really show them what Ocean Planet is capable of."
During the leg Bruce would send a daily update that gave us a small insight into his moods and frustrations. He was one of the few skippers that regularly attached images to his emails and from the logs and images we have been able to get a look at life on board Ocean Planet these last six weeks. Bruce's last log of the leg was one of the most thoughtful. It follows here in full:
"After roughly 6,000 miles, my longest single-handed trip so far, we are 120 nautical miles from the Leg 2 finish in Cape Town, South Africa, a famous place I have never been before. The trials and tribulations of this trip, along with the emotional ups and downs, have been many, but they are not what is foremost in my mind at the moment.
Despite its great distance from Europe and the western world, South Africa has a history closely intertwined in the economic and social fabric of modern civilization. Before the Suez Canal, many thousands of sailors traveled (and perished) around the capes of Good Hope and Agulhas on what was for some time the most important marine trading route and landmarks. The Dutch, and the long time rulers of the sea, the British, controlled the passage of vessels at this important stopover, and thus a great bulk of world trade from the far East. Other European nations were forced to use complicated land trade routes through many other countries which could be equally difficult and perhaps even more costly.
Unfortunately, a long legacy of racial strife between European colonialists and the native Africans has become sort of a microcosm for the rest of the world to watch. First in fear of ever increasing bloodshed, and then in wonder at the success of persistent heroes in bringing about a surprising peace. I for one have a great interest in this place. Who hasn't heard of, and admired, the great long story of the life of Nelson Mandela, perhaps the most well known of those who have brought great change here? Sure it's not perfect and many ominous problems exist, but this is one of the most important places on earth to study and learn from as to how our Ocean Planet can (and cannot) work for all of us who live here.
To arrive here after such a long voyage puts me in touch with the sailors and travelers who have gone this way before. Ocean Planet (the boat) is thankfully much safer and faster than the ships of the past. Can you imagine the wonder of a 17th or 18th century sailor if aboard this boat, at a pace of 12-14kts, under autopilot, while the skipper is below typing out historical musings....
I should make landfall late tonight or early tomorrow. The wind near shore reportedly is dropping off so it's hard to predict, but after so far, being this close seems like I'm almost there!"
Now that Bruce has arrived on these fair shores we look forward to more stories, and more importantly, the hearing the new songs Bruce will have composed on his long passage to Cape Town. The sun has even come out to warm the day so all in all the future looks bright for Schwab and Ocean Planet.