On Day 70 of the Barcelona World Race, Jörg Riechers and Sébastien Audigane revealed that they encountered 70-knot gusts after rounding Cape Horn yesterday.
Speaking in video conference today the Renault Captur skippers spoke of their relief at surviving what Audigane, who has now rounded the Horn four times, called “The most stressful conditions I have seen in 25 years.”
For German co-skipper Jörg Riechers, his first rounding of the landmark transpired to be the most severe Cape Horn crossing in the Barcelona World Race’s history. Riechers commented today, “We survived it. It was not easy.”
“Rounding Cape Horn was pretty easy. We had 35-40kts of wind. And just after the Cape, we thought OK, it is going to be easy. No stress. But one mile after Cape Horn came the first gust, 70kts of wind, so the boat was lying flat with the third reef in the main and the J3. So from there we were a b it scared, we bore away and rolled up the J3, and continued with the triple reefed mainsail. And still we surfed at 24 to 25kts. The seas were very white and very steep. In the end it was pretty scary. So for my first rounding of Cape Horn it was a big one.
“You are not super, super scared. But you ask yourself the questions. With a triple reefed main and with the boat on the edge of control, with the rudder problem, you can only steer with the autopilot, you just stay inside. You ask yourself what is going to happen if the autopilot freaks out and makes a mistake? Then you have a real, real big problem.”
The waiting game
Sébastien Audigane explained how the pair prepared for the storm and, once in its midst, rode it out together at the chart table in their survival suits:
“Two and a half days ago we contemplated turning round to avoid it. It was the perfect storm with a very low depression in the centre. Looking closely we judged we could pass it. But I confess that during the storm we looked at each other and said “This is a bullsh*t idea”. Once you are in it there is little you can do to manage the situation. The boat did well under three reefs. The only worry was our dear autopilot might give up on us.
“After the Horn, when we hit 70 knots and the wind was consistently at 60, we sat it out, watching what was going on outside from time to time as we waited at the chart table, ready to adjust the autopilot if needed. These are the most stressful conditions I have seen in 25 years.
“We don't try to get ourselves into these situations. We had prepared the boat as best we could. We stacked the boat as best we could, we had our survival suits on and were ready psychologically.”
The boat was monitored constantly through the extreme conditions by the Race Direction team of the Barcelona World Race, liaising closely with the Chilean Navy and MRCC.
At the front of the fleet, Cheminées Poujoulat has entered the North Atlantic tradewinds. Now just 2,600 miles from Barcelona, Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam have exited the Doldrums and are sailing in north-easterly winds of around 14 knots as they make miles to the north.
Second-placed Neutrogena, although some 1,300 miles to the south, has chipped another 100 miles off the leaders’ advantage, sailing consistently 1-2 knots faster than third placed GAES Centros Auditivos.
We Are Water and One Planet One Ocean Pharmaton have shadowed each other since rounding the Horn. This morning, however, the Garcia brothers on We Are Water were sailing at over 16-17 knots to One Planet One Ocean’s 12-13, and began pulling away from their long-term neighbours as they clocked up over 400 miles in 24 hours. This afternoon One Planet One Ocean Pharmaton are once again matching We Are Water for speed, with around 60 miles now between the two boats.
The real deal
The last remaining boat in the South Pacific, Spirit of Hungary, is approaching the edge of a large low pressure system that has seen them consistently sailing in 40-plus knots.
Conrad Colman blogged last night: "It feels a little lonely out here in the middle of the South Pacific, what with the rest of our fleet already around the Horn and the Volvo guys still tucked up in Auckland. For company we only have a monster depression centred south-east of us and directly on our route. At 2000 miles across and with a deep centre at 968 mb this is the real deal. We are broad reaching in a solid 40 knots with three reefs and the staysail, which feels pretty conservative, but when the 50 knot gusts roll through we wouldn’t want anything more up!”