Globe40: Challenge of Cape Horn

Today at 15:00 hours local time (01:00 UTC Sunday), the Gobe40 crews set sail on Leg 5 in Matavai Bay to the north of Tahiti, bound for the Argentinean stopover of Ushuaia via the legendary yet feared Cape Horn.

A striking moment in this Globe40 start symbolizes a return to offshore racing for French Polynesia, a truly exceptional maritime region, thanks to its sheer scale and scope and the intrinsic beauty and diversity of its islands.

Ahead of the skippers lie some 4,500 nautical miles along the direct route and doubtless more than 5,000 miles in reality, before they officially earn the title of Cape Horners, with the exception of American Joe Harris, who already boasts this particular badge of honour.

The coming leg boasts a course that is as unique as it is rare. The boats set out from the shores of French Polynesia at around 20 degrees south, navigating a large section of the Pacific, powering along the coast of Chile and Patagonia and rounding Cape Horn at 55 degrees south.

From there, they then making headway amidst the magnificent backdrop of mountains and wild nature towards the town of Ushuaia, via the Beagle Channel, which links the Atlantic to the Pacific and to the centre where the Argentinean resort town is located. This latest voyage equates to a passage of 22 to 24 days according to Christian Dumard’s latest weather forecast:

“To kick things off, competitors will have to carve out a route due south after sailing around the northern edge of the Polynesian atoll. They will be making the most of a fairly moderate south-easterly trade wind, which will help them avoid stumbling into the zone of high pressure that is blocking the direct course towards the Horn.

“As a result, their dive due south will involve a four or five-day beat. At 35 degrees south, they’ll begin to hook onto the low pressure system sweeping around the area, the centres of which are located between the Roaring Forties and the Furious Fifties.

“By heading eastwards towards Cape Horn, they’ll remain to the north of these depressions, so they’ll be sailing downwind because depressions move clockwise in the southern hemisphere of course.

“To avoid dropping down too far to the south with its increasingly hostile areas, the skippers will have to negotiate a compulsory waypoint (Chilean Gate) some eight or nine days later at 46 degrees south and 110 degrees west, or around a thousand nautical miles to the south of Easter Island.

“The passage around the Horn should take place on days 22 to 23. They’ll make landfall here during the equinox, the last few days of spring in the southern hemisphere, so it’s likely to be a fabulous passage with 17 to 18 hours of daylight. In theory, it’s the perfect time to round Cape Horn, but of course, the situation there could easily change out of the blue.

“Naturally, all this is relative, even if it is synonymous with the first few days of summer. The water temperature will still be 6 or 7 degrees, so a chilly ambiance awaits at best…”

Historically, Matavai Bay is the site where the great explorers made landfall in Tahiti and the Society Islands. Wallis, Cook, Bougainville, as well as the mutineers from the Bounty in 1788, disembarking here to make the most of this far-reaching bay free of coral reefs.

Today, to the north of the bay, stands the Pointe Venus lighthouse, designed by Thomas Stevenson, father of author Robert Louis Stevenson, which is the site where Captain James Cook originally set up his observatory to study the transit of the planet Venus.

As a result, the backdrop is steeped in history for the start of leg 5 of the Globe40, with the starting signal being fired from a French Navy vessel, the organisation being supported by teams from the Fédération Tahitienne de Voile (Tahitian Sailing Federation) and the Yacht Club de Tahiti.

Unsurprisingly, Papeete proved to be a difficult stopover for the crews to leave behind, having discovered virtually all the region’s delights and been so touched by the warm welcome from the Polynesians, whose kindness and benevolence are renowned far and wide.

Moreover, our press teams got the chance to explore the Society Islands – Tahaa – Raiatea – Huahine – Bora Bora – providing some sumptuous footage for the 26 film, Episode 5 of the race travel saga and round the world adventure.

Within the sanctuary of Taputapuatea Marae on the sacred island of Raiatea, the teams asked for a safe passage from the gods for their upcoming voyage. This is in line with the ancient traditions of these great seafaring peoples who have populated the whole of the Pacific Ocean aboard their pirogues from New Zealand to Hawaii to Easter Island.

Despite the Polynesian charms though, the competitive spirit of the race continues to reign supreme. With just two points separating the top three crews: Sec Hayai, Amhas and Milai Around The World.

It is likely that the winner of the upcoming leg will take pole position in the overall ranking. That is unless Gryphon Solo 2 or Whiskey Jack, can shake up the podium. The two crews are honing their skills more and more with every leg.

With precious little separating the finishers, the competitive tension is omnipresent in this race, especially during a leg where it will be vital to strike a balance between speed and prudence in this risky navigation zone.

To further whet the appetites of skippers after the official finish of Leg 5, at the entrance to the Beagle Channel, teams will vie for the Tierra Del Fuego Trophy, the outcome of which will be decided on the finish line off the port of Ushuaia.

A big thank you to all the partners who have made this stopover in French Polynesia possible: The Polynesian government and its various departments, the Town of Papeete, the Papeete Port Authority, Tahiti Tourisme and Air Tahiti Nui, which got us to Polynesia in its wonderful planes. And to Stéphanie Betz, from the Société Archipelagoes, organiser of the Tahiti Pearl Regatta, who kindly opened up the doors to this region she’s so familiar with.

All information:

Jeanneau JY55
NAV at Home
Selden Asymetric Rib Technology
NAV at Home