Thoughts on Cape Horn Timing

November 1, 2018

Day 28

Noon Position: 17 09S 129 29W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SExE 7 – 8

Wind(t/tws): NE 17 – 21

Sea(t/ft): NE 6

Sky: Mixed cumulus, occasional squall but without heft

10ths Cloud Cover: 3

Bar(mb): 1017+, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 84

Water Temp(f): 80 (slight drop)

Relative Humidity(%): 65

Sail: #2 one reef; main one reef; reaching.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 132

Miles since departure: 3654

Avg. Miles/Day: 131

Miles to Cape Horn: 3570

Twenty eight days to get half way to Cape Horn.

If we maintain this pace, we approach before the end of November. Part of me will be pleased if we can get all our southing in inside of 60 days–that’ll be an efficient run if we can do it. But part of me worries that we’re too early in the season. Jeremy Firth, a Hobart native and round-the-worlder I met while there last year, issued that warning. “Down here it’s all ocean,” he said. “Cold ocean. Seasons are slow to change. They’re at least a month behind what you’d think.”

This may be why most prefer to round the Horn nearer the end of December (except for Vito Dumas, who thought July was best, this according to Moitessier). It may also be why the South Pacific lows I’ve been watching these last weeks often have their centers in the mid 40s of latitude. Three cheers for a good blow, but Lordy, can I please stay above it?

Cape Horn timing. It may be one of the more challenging aspects to the Figure 8 route, which calls for two roundings of that famous promontory in one season. Mo just isn’t fast enough to get two in during official summer. An end of November approach (Northern Hemisphere equivalent: end of May) for the first pass puts me back at the Horn around the end of March (Northern Hemisphere equivalent: end of Sept). Imagine sailing the Gulf of Alaska or the North Atlantic in those months. Certainly doable, but not ideal. But any other timing risks being very early or very late.

Strange to cogitate on Cape Horn when the cabin is 84 degrees at sundown.

Wind today. Big wind and steady and exactly where Mo likes it best: flat on the beam. Squalls overnight to drive a sailor mental. Some were so big–a quarter of the sky, sometimes half–that they created their own wind patterns. I sat up until 3am as wind cycled between E and NW and 10 and 25 knots. Every hour or two, that pattern. Crank in sail; let it out; tap Monte on the left shoulder; now the right. Nap for 20 minutes in the pilot house. But sleep? Try it and you’ll wake to find Mo screaming toward the NE.

The morning showed a clear sky, not to windward, but in our direction of travel, and by an hour past sun up, we got there: wind filled in from the NE at 20 and hasn’t budged all day. Mo spends whole minutes having her way with 8 knots over the ground. Just grand.

4 Comments on “Thoughts on Cape Horn Timing

  1. I am following ,and am nervous about anytime some effort is made to round the horn. My thoughts and prayers are with you. while i think it may as always be a supreme challenge. I look forward to your successful rounding. Thank you .

  2. I believe Jean Luc from the GGR race should be at Cape horn around that time

  3. Jean Luc is approx 1400nm closer to the Horn right now. Lots of distance to make up in about 25 days…(2 knots a day) possible given Jean Luc is hung up with a low to the east and lots of barnacles underneath. Monte on the other hand will send Randal over the side to scrape off supper and will soon glory in some fast downwind sailing.

  4. Does anyone know if Randall has a Delorme? I will be rounding the horn at the same time from Chile and it would be awesome to have a sighting of him down in those waters. Great progress so far!

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