Vendée Globe, day 67: Bellion 'like a kid at Christmas' at first solo Cape Horn rounding
Wednesday, January 11, 2017 4:58 PM
French sailor Eric Bellion today became the ninth Vendée Globe skipper – and the first rookie – to round Cape Horn.
Bellion, 41, first passed the legendary landmark on the southern tip of the South American continent in 2005. Then, he was with two friends in a 28ft boat on an adventure that would see them spend three years cruising the globe. Twelve years later, the circumstances have changed somewhat - Bellion, a management expert-turned-solo sailor, rounded Cape Horn on his 60ft IMOCA raceboat in ninth place in the Vendée Globe solo round the world race, just 66 days after leaving Les Sables d'Olonne in France.
What's more, the Parisian skipper of CommeUnSeulHomme has been surfing towards the milestone at speeds of up to 24 knots thanks to a big Southern Ocean depression that brought huge seas and storm-force winds. Despite receiving what he described as a 'Patagonian spanking', Bellion said nothing could suppress his excitement at his first solo rounding. “I rounded Cape Horn for the first time 12 years ago,” Bellion said. “I was excited like a kid at Christmas, and it's the same again this time, but it's not the same when you're sailing solo. I know what Cape Horn looks like, but this time the approach to it is different. I can tell you that it's quite tricky here. I got hit by a 45-knot squall with some hail and huge waves. If the Vendée Globe is an Everest, it is the Horn that is at the top and the road to Les Sables d'Olonne is be the descent to the base camp.”
Bellion passed Cape Horn at 1449 UTC today, two days, eight hours and 11 minutes behind eighth-placed Nandor Fa and 19 days, two hours and 15 minutes adrift of race leader Armel Le Cléac'h. Although the heavy weather of the Southern Ocean has pushed Bellion, a relative newcomer to solo sailing, to the limit, he said he would miss it once into the Atlantic and heading north towards Les Sables. “I'm sad to leave the Southern Ocean, I feel good here,” he added. “I don't know when I'll be back to see the albatrosses. For me, it's all about hunting down the lows - that's how the adventure really began. I wanted to enter the unknown and I'm doing it my way.”
Ninety miles west of Bellion and 130nm from Cape Horn, Conrad Colman was having an easier approach in 20 knots of south-westerly breeze and calmer seas. It will be the third time the New Zealander has passed Cape Horn but the first solo. Colman said he was grateful to be rounding Cape Horn at all after his yacht Foresight Natural Energy was almost dismasted a week ago. “For my first rounding in 2012 I was trying to outrun a massive storm of 50 knots,” he said, “and the second time was two years ago in the Barcelona World Race when we sailed right past it but it was midnight and we couldn't see a thing. I'm crossing my fingers for the third time. After my misadventures in the Southern Ocean I'm a disappointed I can't push hard and be competitive but it puts things in perspective. I was a hair's breadth away from going home early on a cargo ship, so I am just happy to still be running under my own steam.”
At the 1400 UTC position update Le Cléac'h had pulled out his advantage over second-placed Alex Thomson to 226nm. The latest ETA for the leading pair is January 19.
Tune into Vendee Globe Live at www.vendeeglobe.org at 1200UTC tomorrow when Will Carson will be joined by 2008 Vendée Globe competitor and expert navigator Brian Thompson.