Abhilash Tomy's (Bayanat) second Cape Horn rounding despite gear failure. Credit: Aïda Valceanu/ GGR2022
Day 170 GGR: Abhilash Rounds Cape Horn and two more struggling
Cape Horn is part of international folklore. Most know of its fearsome reputation for ships and lives lost and the emotional relief of finally sailing past. It has been like that for 100's of years. For solo sailors it is the biggest single objective of any planned circumnavigation and it is not gained easily. Sir Robin Knox Johnston in SUHAILI made the first solo nonstop circumnavigation via the three great capes in the 1968 Golden Globe. Around 180 sailors have now done the same. Vito Dumas in Lehg II his 9.5mtr double ender (not dissimilar to Suhaili) did it first with stops in 1943. Around 150 have now done that too. So 330 solo sailors have been drawn to this ultimate challenge of Cape Horn and a solo circumnavigation.
Four Golden Globe sailors are still trying for Cape Horn. Then it is home to Les Sables d'Olonne which is also the home of the International Association of Cape Horners "HALL OF FAME" recognising many of these great solo sailors.
Abhilash Tomy (IND) sailed past the infamous Cape Horn for the second time and in second position of the 2022 GGR at 18:00 UTC on Saturday 18th February. His first solo rounding was on January 26, 2013 while sailing 'Mhadei', a Van de Stadt "Tonga 56" design, supported by the Indian Navy, in an attempt to become the first solo non-stop Indian sailor to do so. He succeeded and the memory of that was strong in his mind this past week. He spent most of the previous week trapped on a lee shore off the coast of Chile, desperately trying to repair his broken wind vane in 30 to 40 knots of wind bound for Cape Horn. He did it!
He says sailing in the GGR is hugely satisfying compared to sailing with modern technical aids. He has become a better sailor through the GGR and is enjoying the challenge. Now he just wants to get to Les Sables d'Olonne.
"It is great to be around Cape Horn, 10 years and 23 days after the first one. It's been a lot harder this time than it was when I left from India and I still have another 2 months to go. Since January 26, my objective was to round the Horn safely and then sailing fast up the Atlantic. I have spent most of my time inside the boat working on the boat, and now looking forward to sailing again to Les Sables d'Olonne." Abhilash Tomy, Bayanat.
Is Abhilash's Bayanat getting tired? Can it make the finish in Les Sables d'Olonne? Abhilash is continuously working to service and fix things. All entrants do, on a regular basis, but it appears Abhilash may have more than usual. Will his windpilot go the distance? He now thinks it will! He sacrificed his chart table and then toilet door for Windvane parts and finally his yacht's emergency rudder, even dismantling an anchor for more bits. His repairs however, have not been limited to the windvane and have also included stitched sails, broken Halyards, repaired spreaders with various trips aloft, dismantled wind generators, electrical system backouts, fixed water and diesel tank leaks and various issues as explained in his voluntary safety call. He is happy if not a little tired himself, but for sure, he is a real MacGyver of the Seas when it comes to fixing things. He keeps things going, so let's hope it continues!
Meanwhile, Michael Guggenberger (AUT) onboard NURI is just 400 miles from Cape Horn. His well prepared Biscay 36 is in the middle of storms with 60 kt winds and 8mtr seas. GGR has been providing regular weather updates, but there is nowhere for him to hide. He has prepared well for this blow, which is going for nearly three days, while the seas continue to build. Six hours before the peak of the storm was due to hit, he reported..
2310 UTC 21 FEB .... All well on board! current wind.. a LOT!!!.. waves are super BIG.. main and mizzen lashed tight to the boom both on lee and low. Storm jib is pulling on the bow. Have about 40 to 50m rope with about 20 kg chain at the end holding the stern. Happy sailor! lots of water and a pos. All well for now! aye!! Michael G.
Unlike Kirsten and Abhilash, the Southern Ocean is new territory for Michael. 10 years ago, when Abhilash rounded the rock for the first time and Kirsten started roaming these southern seas, the Austrian sailor had sailed a total of 7 days in salty waters! This is a testament to his preparation, his team lead by Stefan Weigel and his dedication to a lifetime GGR Dream.
Capt. Gugg has been lucky with generally acceptable weather and seas for virtually all the Southern Ocean to date, with no major storms. Other competitors ahead and behind have had to face heavy storms and devastating calms. He also managed to finally catch some desperately needed freshwater! 46 litres, to be precise, now carrying a total of 95 litres aboard. He still has all of the Atlantic to go, but the chance of rain may get better after the Southern Ocean. He hopes so! He is expected to round the ROCK on Saturday 25th, if all goes well!
The final climb back to Les Sables d'Olonne
Kirsten Neuschäfer (ZAF) continues to surge ahead. With a 530 miles lead over Abhilash, the South African has now entered a zone she knows like the back of her hand, having worked in the region as a commercial skipper aboard Skip Novak's Pelagic. She and Minnehaha made a quick detour past Port Stanley in the Falkland islands, her base for Antarctic expeditions, to say 'Hi!' to her many friends there on the way back to France. It was a huge boost and an emotional moment for her.
Will 530 miles be enough to keep her ahead of Abhilash who has proven to be a bit quicker upwind and in light conditions of the Atlantic? Both have now sailed 75% of the course and are left with the final stretch of sea back to where they started 170 days ago: Les Sables d'Olonne, France. It looks like an easy task. It is far from it.
You are still very much in the Southern Ocean after rounding the Cape. A huge storm with 75 kt gusts and big seas crossed just days ahead of Kirsten when she was leaving the Falklands. Both now have over 1000 miles of challenging sailing, first with unpredictable systems sweeping from the west and then Trades that could be forward or aft of the beam. Only then do they reach the Horse Latitudes at 30S. Here, there is little rain and the start of frustrating doldrums. Across the equator and it all comes hard on, forward of the beam, wet sailing for weeks before entering the North Atlantic at the end of the northern hemisphere's winter. No small feat! On top of that, with 22.000 miles non-stop in their wake, the boats have suffered a lifetime of sailing hard. The race still has a long way to go!
Coastal cruising? Just frustrations!
Simon Curwen (GBR) HOWDENS had to make a 1000-mile detour to the north-west in Puerto Montt for repairs to his damaged wind vane. It cost him the lead and made him Chichester Class at that time. Getting back out and sailing south has proven to be no easy task.
Missing a weather window while exiting the scenic Chilean port from the east of Chiloé island, Simon sailed straight out into strong south-westerly headwinds and challenging seas, making no progress at all. He had to turn back. He requested GGR weather and navigation advice to seek shelter in a bay behind an island some 40 miles away. There, he sat waiting for better weather, before finally departing six days after originally setting out. Frustrating light to moderate headwinds continued for a few days. Then with building westerly then north-westerly winds, he was off. It was an eventful week, as he explained in his safety call. Later that night, he was in storm conditions with 40-55 knots north-westerly winds. Today, he has a window of some moderate winds and then, the next five days, no storms. That should get him around!
Life in the (not so red) zone.
For Ian Herbert-Jones (GBR) and Jeremy Bagshaw (ZAF, Chichester Class) conditions are not quite the same this week. Progress has been slow with elusive winds and unstable weather. Strong headwinds have pushed both north, when all sailors try to stick as close as possible to the northern limit of the exclusion zone at 47°S, making the most of any westerly winds. Both are very aware that they need to get around Cape Horn as soon as possible. The number of low pressure systems now passing the area is increasing every week as summer passes in the southern hemisphere. Ian has over 3000 miles to go and Jeremy is only 450 miles ahead. ETA around MID MARCH!
"Cape Horn is completely on my mind. I'm quite anxious. My ETA will be right at the end of the season, almost at the equinox. I am concerned; every day I get headwinds or half a day of calm is another day that I'm not at the Horn, and I know I am at the very tail end of the season now. I know it can get serious very quickly down there; the biggest challenge is still ahead." Ian Herbert-Jones Puffin