The ultimate test – crossing Cape Horn. It is fitting the crossing from the Pacific to the Atlantic be an extra-ordinary experience. A literal rite of passage. Boris Herrmann, now at the helm of the Seaexplorer – Yacht-club de Monaco has done it four times but always with a crew. Doing it alone is a test of seamanship of a “third kind” – and in his case a fifth kind.
Crossing Cape Horn
How to describe it? Several factors combine to make the passage around Cape Horn one of the most hazardous sailing routes in the world: the fierce sailing conditions prevalent in the Southern Ocean generally; the geography of the passage south of the Horn; and the extreme southern latitude of the Horn, at 56° south. The prevailing winds range from the “roaring forties” and the even more wild “furious fifties” and “screaming sixties”.The strong winds give rise to correspondingly large waves; these waves can attain enormous size.
At the Horn, however, these waves encounter an area of shallow water to the south of the Horn, which has the effect of making the waves shorter and steeper. In addition, the area west of the Horn is particularly notorious for rogue waves.
These hazards have made the Horn notorious as perhaps the most dangerous sailing passage in the world; many boats were wrecked, and many sailors died, attempting to round the Cape.
Vendee Globe Race
That is why the Vendee Globe is so special and this ninth edition even vaunted as being especially “crazy” – fittingly nicknamed the Everest of the Seas. To date, the Vendée Globe is the greatest sailing race round the world, solo, non-stop and without assistance.
No choice for Herrmann to seek calm seas and be delayed on the Chilean coast. He had to brave the unavoidable cauldron. And just before 2.30 am, this fifth pass was launched – and in calamitous conditions, to describe it without pulling punches: imagine 6 metres deep, 35 knots of wind, increasing to over 40 knots at times.
In tenth position, having encountered close to disastrous conditions, which will have tested him to the limit mentally and physically, one of Monaco Yacht Club’s finest sailors has therefore succeeded to leave the Pacific and Southern Ocean behind to begin the great climb of the Atlantic before him.
Not far short of about 40.000 km of racing already without stopovers or assistance, the regatta is surprisingly closely fought. Boris Herrmann is racing at approximately 12 knots, not quite 1500 kilometres behind the leader, Yannick Bestaven. Reportedly out of thirty-three registered boats, six have already had to withdraw.
Keeping your powder dry and avoiding breaking up is a strategy that may prove wise. Be cautious, spare your mount- save the best for last, that last assault on the competitors where Boris Herrmann will surely be priming himself to deploy his full potential.
Boris has already had his fair share of challenges having to repair a tear in his main sail in very rough seas and then wait for the glued patches to dry before sewing – a chore that took him further south and frustratingly delayed the long awaited challenge of the passage of the Horn.
Next dilemma for him: determining the remaining course to take. The choice is between the relatively calmer waters of Mayor’s Strait, between Patagonia and Staten Island, or head out into the Ocean leaving the Falklands at port.