Pen Duick VI First To Cape Horn

The renowned 73ft Bermudan Ketch, Pen Duick VI FR (14) skippered by the equally legendary Marie Tabarly, rounded the notorious Cape Horn at 04:51 UTC, 6th February.

For Tabarly and her 11 crew, it’s a momentous achievement. But, no doubt, being head of the OGR fleet past Cape Horn makes the experience even sweeter for the super-competitive skipper.

The days approaching Cape Horn brought 35-knot winds, gusting to 55, 6-8 metre seas, a confused sea state, with 2-metre secondary swells, it’s just what Pen Duick VI, and Tabarly, had been craving – a challenge. Consistent average speeds of over 10.5 knots heading to Cape Horn were normal, with 240 nm a day ticked off the chart – nothing unusual. In fact, just prior to the final approach, Pen Duick VI recorded a boat new speed record of 28.3kn!!

Concerns about a ‘mega’ storm earlier in the week by some commentators never materialised – just your regular ‘Southern Ocean weather’ for the area says race organiser, Don McIntyre. And despite the OGR’s warnings about ‘being careful what you wish for’ some REAL ‘Southern Ocean weather’ is exactly what Pen Duick VI, in fact, the entire 13-strong fleet, had been waiting for since the start of Leg 3 in Auckland, back on January 14th. Crews are happy! Ironically, the actual passing itself proved the tamest weather in days for Pen Duick VI with 25k NW gusting 40k 2.5-3.5m sea and a temperature of 10ºC. They passed 2.5nm off Cape Horn.

Since the OGR started in Southampton, Tabarly has stated that Pen Duick VI just required strong winds to show what the powerful yacht and her crew are made of. Finally, after months of waiting and searching, the winds showed up in the South Ocean this week, and Pen Duick VI bared his teeth.

Translated 9, about 5 hours behind Pen Duick VI, is still the IRC handicap leader two days ahead on IRC rating. Pen Duick VI is third. Tabarly had, like many in the fleet, complained that the weather to date had been too easy! She also claims her crew have ‘lava’ running through their veins, such is their passion for racing the high seas – appropriate really while conquering Cape Horn, which sits on the archipelago at the southernmost tip of South America called Tierra del Fuego – Land of Fire!

And for many, seeing Pen Duick VI lead the fleet around Cape Horn is extra poignant. They’ll recall her father, Eric Tabarly, racing the unique yacht in the 1973 Whitbread Round the World Race. The crews of the OGR are circumnavigating and taking on the three Great Capes in recognition and celebration of that first Whitbread – so yes, this race is extra special for Pen Duick VI.

But it’s not only the change in weather that makes this week remarkable for the OGR. To conquer Cape Horn is a mammoth badge of honour for any sailor. Its infamous nature strikes fear in the heart of even the hardest seafarer, but the crews of the OGR have been waiting with bated breath for this challenge – no doubt with a mix of excitement, trepidation and a healthy respect for what’s ahead over the 6-metre waves. Yes, the crews will have conquered Africa’s Cape of Good Hope and Australia’s Cape Leeuwin, but South America’s notorious Cape Horn is the one that you have in your back pocket to brag about when you really want to shut them up at the yacht club bar!!

Currently first in the IRC rankings Translated 9 ITL (09), the 65-foot Swan formerly known as ADC Accutrac, passed the Horn at 10:29 UTC with 15kn winds from the north, gusting 20, with 2 metre seas. They sailed just 0.5 mile from the coast of Cape Horn.

Skipper Marco Trombetti was preparing for the tough passage by ensuring the essentials were taken care of.

“Preparing for a not-so-easy Cape Horn passage next days. Expecting big waves. We just had a good hot chocolate,” tweeted Marco.

Translated 9 and Pen Duick VI have been tussling for the top of the leaderboard since the start of Leg 3 – being within sight of each other at times. Co-skippered by Golden Globe sailor Simon Curwen and with first mate Nico Malingri, hailing from Italian sailing royalty, it’s little wonder the stunning yacht is ranking so well.

A 72hr time penalty applied for a sail repair violation in Auckland will be applied on completion on Leg 3. This makes their quest to remain top of the IRC ranking leaderboard more daunting, but if there is any crew determined to do it, it’s this Italian crew.

Meanwhile,  the rest of the fleet has split. The lead pack includes Maiden UK (03), Neptune FR (56) Spirit of Helsinki FI (71) and Triana FR (66). They received a weather warning from OGR headquarters over the weekend, which is standard procedure when winds are expected over 35knots. The ‘big’ winds passed over the pack –  not causing any major issues, but producing impressive speeds. They are expected to reach Cape Horn on Thursday.

The Maiden crew had also expressed frustration at the lack of wind at the end of last week and threatened a wind dance to get things moving! They must have carried out their threat as the wind filled in shortly after and have since recorded a top surfing speed of 22 knots.

“Starting to get gnarly… loving the thrill” tweeted Maiden.

Meanwhile, Neptune, another former Whitbread yacht, recognises the challenge they face ahead with appropriate respect. They are in 4th on the leaderboard – their highest rankings in the race to date.

“We pass a low-pressure system and find ourselves back in Indian conditions: 50 kts gusts and 6m swell. The Horn has to be earned!” tweeted Neptune.

Spirit of Helsinki, who are sitting 5th in lines reported on the wet conditions onboard the former Whitbread yacht. The Swan 651 will be returning to Punta del Este having sailed into the port as Fazer Finland in the 1985 Whitbread.

“Rough sail changes in 40kn breeze! Diving gear needed on foredeck. All good and wet!” Tweets Spirit of Helsinki.

While Triana, one of the smallest yacht in the fleet, a 53-foot Swan also revelled in the ‘tougher’ conditions keeping up with the bigger yachts, as she has done since race start.

“45knts, big waves causing few crashes but holding up ok for now” tweeted Triana.

A gap of 170nm separates the next pack which includes Galiana WithSecure FI (66), L’Esprit d’équipe FR (85), White Shadow ESP (17), Outlaw AU (08) and Evrika FR (07). It’s within this group some yacht damage has been reported.

“Had a total blow out of the Cinia Code 0 at 6am with the sail in the sea under the bow. Whole luff, leach & head torn off. Will be fixed by 7pm.” 

“At 7pm Alex cut the last thread and put away the sewing machine with Viivi as they had promised. Code 0 fit to fight again” tweeted Galiana WithSecure.

While White Shadow’s skipper Jean-Christophe Petit continues to take on the role of fleet chef!

“WS is 10/10 after this 24h gale Crew thanked of efforts with best ever English invention after pop music: BREAKFAST! Had bacon, baked beans and potatoes” tweeted the skipper.

Evrika reported a damaged boom, but clearly it wasn’t too bad, as they managed to fix it within hours!

Meanwhile, L’Esprit d’équipe, another yacht returning to Punta del Este, having sailed in previous Whitbread are lapping up and miles and enjoying the challenge of the increased winds.

“The beautiful Pacific swell is building: long, high and powerful. everything’s going well, even if it’s a rollercoaster ride in the bunks” tweeted the former Whitbread winning yacht (1985/1985).

Bringing up the rear of the fleet is Sterna SA (42), who reported ‘insane’ sailing in the Furious 50s, and Explorer AU (28). Both of whom have reported maintenance required thanks to big unpredictable seas crashing onto the deck.

“Dodger took on a rogue wave, bent the forward tube and forced it aft, ripping the inside zip pocket, but you should see what what that waves looks like” joked Sterna.

The crew of Explorer have been using up their supply of duct tape to ensure they make it to Punta del Este in time for the start of Leg 4 on March 5th!

“Compass knocked off binnacle during boarding wave. A roll of duct tape later, it’s only SLIGHTLY crooked. 5 degrees won’t matter, right?”  Then “Cold, dark night in the Southern Ocean. Broke the mizzen halyard = a problem to be solved in the morning after a nice cup of tea” tweeted Explorer.

The first yachts are expected to arrive into Punta del Este on February 13th/14th.

Daniel Sielecki, Vice Commodore of Yacht Club Punta del Este recognises the good fortune of the OGR arrivals coinciding with the club’s 100-year anniversary:

“As the excitement grows higher about the arrival of the OGR, it reminds us of the Whitbread stopovers in Punta del Este and the fantastic experience lived by both sailors and the public who were fortunate to be part of it.

“Watching and talking to the crew would make us sailors daydream, that daydreaming is real now as the OGR is approaching our port, right in time for our 100-year anniversary. Who would have thought of a better timing!”

More news from All At Sea