GSC – 100 days to the peak of the Everest of the seas

By Marco Nannini  / Global Solo Challenge

Today marks exactly 100 days since Philippe Delamare left A Coruna, on the 30th of September 2023. 100 days sailed impeccably by the French skipper whose experience makes him the only competitor in the event to have sailed the Roaring Forties and Screaming Fifities before, both crewed and solo, as well as having rounded Cape Horn before. On his 100th day at sea, at the time of writing, Philippe is less than 200 Miles from the legendary Cape Horn  in approximately 30-35 knots of wind, gusting around 45 knots and 5 meter waves. He is just in front of the cold front of the depression he is sailing in, which will bring about a windshift tomorrow from the northwesterlies to southwesterlies that will generate uncomfortable cross seas. The cold front will also be associated with unstable airs and squalls with gusts which can significantly exceed, temporarily, the model-given figures. Winds gusting well into the mid to high 50s are probably to be expected. Cape Horn is certainly living up to its fame.

Philippe’s biggest strength in his exploit to date has been to sail the least amount of miles for any given milestone of the circumnavigation compared to the other competitors. On the event tracker we have drawn a route that reflects the theoretical route likely to be followed by the skippers accounting for seasonal weather, i.e. not simply the shortest geographical route, which would be utopic, but the shortest possible route under sail. For example in the descent of the Atlantic boats sail close to Brazil, then towards Trinidad, then Tristan da Cunha before even pointing their bow to the East. The route remains an estimated and theoretical route and skippers will always sail through the water more miles than this theoretical route indicates, which, on paper, is 25008 Nautical Miles A Coruña to A Coruña.

Over the course of the 18,000 miles or two thirds of the total route to reach Cape Horn, Philippe delamare has sailed only 800 Nautical miles in excess of the theoretical route with a “wastage” of just 3.2%. I am not sure how many can grasp the astonishing skill required to achieve such efficient sailing. For comparison, the second boat on the water, First Light sailed by Cole Brauer, whilst still being over 3000 miles behind Philippe, has already sailed 1240 Nautical Miles in excess of the theoretical course with her excess miles at approximately 5%. It is true that a planing boat like a Class40 has more incentive to go and search the best wind angles, so it is in fact normal that a non-displacement boat capable of great accelerations may be faster whilst sailing a longer route, but it also goes to show that Philippe has made the absolute best of his displacement boat, only capable of small surfs but not capable of significant speed differences when searching for optimal wind angles, making the shortest (possible) route very often the most efficient choice.

Well, enough praise for the amazing Philippe Delamare for today as we will be celebrating his Cape Horn rounding hopefully tomorrow, we have talked at length about the challenges he will be facing with winds and seas on his approach to the Everest of the seas and we’ll hopefully receive some news from Philippe himself.

The rest of the Global Solo Challenge fleet has seen a week of mixed conditions depending on the position within the fleet, whilst some boats have been routing themselves north of the deepest depressions, others have taken the strong winds on the chin and held through. Edouard de Keyser spent several days in strong conditions, so much so that his family waited for conditions to improve to break to him the sad news that his elder brother had passed away a few days earlier. We feel for Edouard and all the challenges he has faced so far and the difficulty of dealing with such news whist alone at sea. Today at least he could celebrate a very important milestone, the rounding of Cape Leeuwin which I’m sure he’ll share, in thoughts with his big brother.

Many others have had important milestones in the past week, Cole Brauer has been constantly closing the gap to Philippe Delamare and has been putting in some solid mileage day after day as well as crossing the antimeridian during her Groundhog Day.

Riccardo Tosetto on Obportus and Francois Gouin on Kawan3 Unicancer have crossed…


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