Tuesday December 5th, 2000

Location

285 nautical miles from Cape Horn

Latitude

54.48S

Longitude

75.35W

Course

095 deg True

Wind

SW of 17 knots

Sea

Moderate with left-over swell abating

Air temp

6 deg C

Sea temp

4 deg C

Barometer

995 mbs and rising


0930 hours: We have just come through a really blustery night – very cold, with squally showers that ripped the surface of the sea into streaks and built the tops of the breaking waves into jagged peaks with little order to them. These broken seas gave us some hard bumps, at times throwing solid water right over the deck. We suspected a series of strong counter-currents might be the cause, because within one hour of my going on watch this morning with Alistair, the sea flattened out, the 4 to 5 metre high swells completely disappeared, the 40 knot westerly wind eased back and we are enjoying some reasonably pleasant sailing. I should have taken more note of the old sailors superstition about the appearance yesterday of the Southern Giant Petrel. (See yesterday’s Log).

This new sou-sou-west wind is straight off the ice. It looks cold. It is cold. Cape Horn is directly ahead, and the continent of South America is away on the port beam, stretching ever northwards. We can’t see the land yet because it is still 140 miles away at the nearest point, but we are closing quickly and hope to be in sight of The Horn by tomorrow evening.

Cape Horn. I know I have mentioned it many times in previous issues – but for sailors who have had to cross an ocean to get here, this is the pinnacle of many a career. We have been looking at the chart with it on for many days – drawing ever so slowly nearer. Suddenly the realisation is setting in that it might be about to become a reality. What a thrill for those who have never passed this way before. Believe it or not, it is just as much a thrill for me. And I have “rounded” The Horn 5 times in calm weather and in gales. I will still get a huge “kick” out of seeing this “Cape of Capes” again, this time with the luxury of being able to turn left and head north into the Beagle Canal and spend time in this splendid place that I could only dream about from a distance in my racing days. I used to look through the binoculars as we raced past and think “one day”.

On the big catamaran Enza New Zealand, when we were involved in the Jules Verne non-stop record attempt around the world (English Channel to English Channel) leaving South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and South America on the port hand side, and Antarctica to starboard, we passed but never saw Cape Horn. The closest we came was approx 150 miles in full storm force conditions. The wind was screaming out of the north at close to 60 knots as we struggled to get up out of the 60’s of the Southern Ocean and into the Atlantic. The waves we estimated at approx 18 to 20 metres high, fully breaking, Cape Horn Greybeards as they are known. We could carry no sail but made our way nearly across the wind and sea with just the windage of the mast and boom driving us forward.