Sunday, January 15, 2017

Approaching the Horn // Rich Wilson // Great American

Great American IV, skipper Rich Wilson (US) at start of the Vendee Globe, in Les Sables d'Olonne, France, on November 6th, 2016 - Photo Jean-Marie Liot / DPPI / Vendee GlobeGreat American IV, skipper Rich Wilson (US) au départ du Vendée Globe, aux Sable
Rich Wilson's Great Americcan IV

These are the harshest conditions that the singlehanded fleet have experienced at Cape Horn! Indeed, a depression in the Southern Ocean is generating a NW’ly wind, which is really packing a punch as it hits the Andes cordillera. The situation is expected to last throughout Sunday with a temporary lull tonight before another unsettled system rolls over the top of Patagonia on Monday. The sea state is particularly dangerous as it funnels through the Drake Passage (just over 400 miles wide), further complicated by the fact that the Vendée Globe competitors have to respect the Antarctic Exclusion Zone (AEZ) which is only 80 miles south of Cape Horn.

The four sailors involved have already taken steps to prepare for the storm: Fabrice Amedeo (Newrest-Matmut), Arnaud Boissières (La Mie Câline), Alan Roura (La Fabrique) and Rich Wilson (Great American IV) have really slowed up since Saturday, whilst trying to get in as much southing as possible to skirt the AEZ where the wind is lighter. However, some 250 miles from Tierra del Fuego, the wind is already reaching more than twenty knots and the foursome is expected to make their entrance into the Atlantic with 35 to 40 knots of breeze, peaking at 50 knots in the squalls.
Rich Wilson (Great American IV): “We rocketed through the night in a manner that is not at all my style. Yet there seemed an opening to get to Cape Horn if we went very fast and the wind gave us the chance, so we did. It was shocking and noisy and bouncy and noisy and big seas and the boat ricocheting and noisy and fast, fast, fast. And yet, when all was said and done, our little boat icon on the position reports showed 14.9 knots. So for the leaders of this race, who routinely would have little boat icons showing 19 knots, or 21 knots, what must that be like on board other than petrifying. It’s the one aspect of this I do not understand: how can those sailors tolerate that stress? When we do a tack gybe, the first part is to roll up the fractional gennaker. This is a long, hard, grind on the pedestal winch at high speed, or as fast as you can muster. For me, my asthma becomes problematic, not that I have an asthma attack or an anaphylactic episode, but just the fatigue of breathing at a level of 70-80%, when I clearly need 100%. These boats are monsters to manoeuvre singlehanded. Maybe if the storm delays a little bit it will be better. But hope has little role at sea. We await the next weather report forecast and will continue making our plans.”