PUMA MAKES ITS MARK
PUMA became the third boat to round Cape Horn on this marathon Leg 5 when Ken Read’s men passed through the iconic ”toll booth” at 20:46 GMT and banked themselves three points.
Earlier, Ericsson 3 had led the procession, reaching the landmark at 12:22 GMT to add four points to its overall tally. Ericsson 4 was second round, a little over two hours later.
Read gloriously captured the moment in an email this evening. “If the southern most point of South America could talk, it would tell some harrowing tales of tragedy and heroics by sportsman and traders and businessman and adventurists alike, probably more so than any other nautical landmark in history,” he said.
"For this reason alone, it is a privilege to be let through these gates, entrance to which must be earned and not simply taken.
"I am by no means a Southern Ocean expert, nor will I ever be one of these guys who have done this route time and time again. Easy to say at this point anyway. But I am in awe of the sheer magnitude of the passage and the final toll booth that lets you through and awaits the next yacht to venture this way.”
The Nordics, skippered by Magnus Olsson, have had control of this marathon Leg 5 since navigator Aksel Magdahl’s gamble to ignore Southern Ocean tradition and head north from the previous waypoint at 36 degrees south.
Olsson took over the reins of Ericsson 3 from Anders Lewander at the start of this leg in Qingdao, having deputised for Lewander on the previous stage while he nursed an injury leg.
Today marked the 60-year-old’s sixth rounding. "Anytime you go round Cape Horn your heart beats a little faster," he said. “You can feel the historical moments of this place, all of the seamen who've fought to get round it. It's fantastic."
Member Crew Member Gustav Morin led the festivities on behalf of the first-timers. “We celebrated with a drink of Captain Morgan rum,” he said. “Captain Morgan's going to lead us to Rio now because Magnus is so tired."
The sistership, Ericsson 4, picked up 3.5 points for rounding in second place at 14:48 GMT. Skipper Torben Grael, ticking the box for the second time, said: "Cape Horn for sailors is like climbing Mount Everest."
For the leading duo, the treacherous conditions anticipated at the Horn did not materialize with wind conditions in the 25-30 knot range and moderate seas. That may not be the case for the rest of the pack.
On the final approach, Ericsson 4's Media Crew Member Guy Salter handed out plaudits to his stable mates. “The Ericsson 3 boys have managed to hold us off – and fair play to them – they played a good move early after the last scoring gate – a move which none of the rest of us were as brave to play and go against all that is traditional with the NZ to the Horn leg,” he wrote.
Further back in the fleet, the deficits to the Irish-Chinese entry Green Dragon, seeking something to celebrate on St Patrick’s Day, was 98 miles from the waypoint. Telefonica Blue was 654 miles adrift. The Blue boat is engaged in a high speed pursuit as this awesome video clip shows.
Guillermo Altadil, who has made six roundings, and would have made his seventh had Delta Lloyd not sat out this leg, has fond memories of the "rock".
"One thing remains the same since that first man crossed the border between the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean, is that one little island with its lighthouse in one of the most remote areas of the world, and the feeling every sailor has when rounding Cape Horn," he said.
"I can only imagine It must be similar to a marathon runner on arrival at the stadium, with only 400 metres left after his epic 26 miles, to look up and see the public awaiting him.
"On that rock there is no public, but when you are lucky enough to get close enough and on a clear day, you look up, and that black rock, its lighthouse and all the legend surrounding it, makes you think that whatever happens from that moment onwards, you will have fulfilled your objective: to arrive in one piece."
But, as Mark Chisnell this morning, and Salter was keen to emphasize, there is still the matter of 2,000 miles and some light air from the Horn to Rio to negotiate. This leg is far from over, so expect the unexpected.
"The race does not finish at the Cape and its all go for the long sprint to Rio,” he said. “I know that there are a few of the lads on the good ship Ericsson 4 who are extremely hungry for his leg victory.
"The cold doesn't automatically turn off when we round the Horn – there is a hell of a lot of sailing before the survival suits get packed away and the thermals slung in a plastic bag to fester until wash day ashore.”
Cape Horn Scoring Gate
1. Ericsson 3 – 12:22 GMT: 4 points
2. Ericsson 4 – 14:48 GMT 3.5 points
3 PUMA – 20:46 GMT 3 points
Distance to Cape Horn at 00:00 GMT
Green Dragon – 98 nautical miles
Telefonica Blue – 654 nautical miles