The days are racing by at an average speed of 22 knots and the maxi-catamaran Orange is loping her way to the last cape to leave to port, the mythical Cape Horn.
At 0800 yesterday morning, Bruno Peyron and his men were just 1000 miles away from the cape, so dreaded for its unpredictable humour. At the 1200 position report today, the Marseilles Giant had done 562 miles in the last 24 hours and at that rate, the rendezvous looks like being sometime on Saturday morning. The countdown to "delivery from the Southern Ocean" is ticking and today the Atlantic is just a stretch ahead of their bows.
Less than 1000 miles to devour, that's less than two days sailing for the maxi-catamaran Orange before leaving the vast Pacific Ocean and attacking the final straight up the Atlantic. The mile devouring giant is showing tremendous form and has been easily notching up daily runs of more than 500 miles for several days. She should be able to enjoy good weather conditions as far as the cape that bears the name of the birthplace of Dutch navigator Willelm Schouten... Horn.
"The flow is globally from the north force 7 on average" according to Météo Consult's daily weather bulletin sent to the boat. "It will progressively shift to the NW as the high collapses. You shouldn't be concerned about the low-pressure system and you should have overcast skies at the moment. The swell will not change much, it should be favourable, orienting SW on 13/04 with 2-3 metre crests". In clear, Bruno and his men will continue apace towards the compulsory passage point, taking advantage first of all of a 30 knot beam wind that will then shift to the NW "decreasing" to 25 knots. Then all that's left will be negotiating Drake straits, just 550 small miles wide, with its amplified swell because of the funnel effect between the southernmost tip of the American continent and the Antarctic, and also because of the seabed that rises from a mighty 6,000 metres deep to.. just 200 metres. Needless to say that the sea state can seriously change within a few hours. Not only that but the powerful winds generated by the low-pressure systems blast up against the Andes Cordillera and accelerate even more as they evacuate out through the Straits. Those are some of the reasons why this passage point has gained such a fearsome reputation in the pages of maritime history.
And what if we to take a look at some numbers, what would we see?
To beat the Ushant-Cape Horn record held by Olivier de Kersauson since 1997 in 46 days 16 hours and 57 minutes, the maxi-catamaran Orange must round the rock "at the end of the earth" before April 18th at 0033 GMT... It's a pretty safe bet that Bruno Peyron and his men will be not have too much difficulty in netting this third record after Ushant-Cape of Good Hope and Ushant-Cape Leeuwin. It will be exactly here, in less than two days time, that we will know the giant's true lead over the current holder of the Jules Verne Trophy. A lead that should not be far off four days...
Did you know ?
Cape Horn is a mythical place for several reasons, but do you know what was the most edifying rounding? It was the rounding of the three-masted ship Garthway, which after being partially dismasted when rounding Cape Horn and nearly home, turned about and returned to her port of destination in Chile by passing... Via South Africa and Australia. She arrived 559 days after having left Europe.
Incredible but true!