Friday, 20 March 2009

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG FIVE DAY 34 QFB: received 19.03.09 1045 GMT

Celebrating the night-time Cape Horn rounding with a cigar on Green Dragon. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing.

by Wouter Verbraak (navigator)

My second rounding of the Horn and out of luck again. None of the glamorous pictures of a yacht blasting along the green rocks in bright sunshine for us. On the contrary we were hanging on for dear life in 40 knots of wind in a pitch black night. The waves were so bad we even had to drop the fractional spinnaker and went to the smaller blast reacher. Cold, wet, overcast and stormy is a better description of Cape Horn if you ask me.

They say the Horn marks the end of the Southern Ocean. I would like to disagree with that statement and suggest changing it to the Strait of Le Maire. A mere 100 NM around the corner of Cape Horn, this 16 NM wide strait is for me the gateway to the Atlantic. On the one side, grey and overcast skies with storm force winds and squalls, on the other side, sun, clear skies and a gentle NW breeze. The contrast can’t be bigger. A wild scramble for sunglasses, foul weather gear being peeled of, and frozen feet regaining their feeling.

It is here that we finally found a good moment to celebrate the rounding of Cape Horn, the end of the Southern Ocean and the return to our home waters of the Atlantic. Our fantastic shore crew provided us with all the necessary ingredients to mark this special day. Big bellows of smoke signalled the end of our two weeks of wet clothes, cold feet and frozen hands as we lit some big cigars.

A pleasant surprise found its way up from the galley too in the shape of a bottle of Linje Aquavit. Whereas most of the crew threw some inquisitive and curious looks at this unknown bottle, I felt right at home. Living in Norway this traditional drink is no stranger to me as we typically drink it with our Christmas dinner. A very nice gift from race sponsor Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines indeed, and soon the bottle was shared around us heavily bearded group of smelly men.

So now it is all good news as we are heading north towards Rio de Janeiro. The weather looks to be a right mess, which suits us very well as it will provide us with some snakes and ladders to try and overtake Puma. This marathon is not over until we cross the finishing line, that is for sure.

The 10000 nm behind us have been the warming up for the grand finale which is about to start. The crew is hungry for a podium place and Ian and I have been spending some decent time on trying to second guess the weather models that are spitting out a rather chaotic pattern of small low and high pressure systems. First we will have to deal with the Falkland Islands which are of course right in our way, and then we will slalom north through what the weather Gods are going to throw at us. At least my feet are dry again, so life is looking up. The Southern Ocean has been everything it is meant to be, but we are happy to leave it behind us for a while.

You know those pictures of Volvo 60s running under spinnaker in a beautiful sunny day with the green mountainous Horn in the background? Fake and trick footage if you ask me. A pretty story to keep us motivated through the cold, wet and stormy Southern Ocean.

Volvo Ocean Race

No comments: