Monday, 16 March 2009

VOR: PUMA LEG FIVE DAY 29 QFB: received 14.03.09 1926 GMT

Casey Smith on the bow, onboard PUMA Ocean Racing, on leg 5 of the Volvo Ocean Race, from Qingdao to Rio de Janeiro. Image copyright Rick Deppe/PUMA Ocean Racing/Volvo Ocean Race.

by Kenny Read (skipper)

We are approaching The Horn. Seems like we have been approaching for about a month. Actually, it has been just about a month.

With a little boost from a tight low pressure system we are going to have a quick ride to the Horn from here. That is the good news as all aboard are getting a bit anxious about turning the corner and heading back into warmer climates. So as long as there is light at the end of the tunnel for the next couple days, the heavy running shouldn't all that bad.

We have a bit of a race on our hands as well, if you haven't noticed. This low has done what was predicted and brought the leader and the back of the group all together in about the same spot...all focused on the same point on this low. As the low has come down though it has spread out a bit and also slowed some which has done two things. It will make the entrance into the west side of the system much more palatable. Meaning we will be at much broader angles entering the system rather than the hard on the wind prediction that the weather forecasting was showing us a few days ago. But what that does is also widen the range of positioning that will work for each of the boats once in the breeze. And what that really means is that the group of four of us may not be quite as bunched up as previously predicted. Closer together to be sure, but not exactly on top of each other.

On board I think we are all looking forward to our first tropical rain shower to get off some of the grunge, as well as a shave on the other side of the Horn. This light air has certainly given us a bit of a breather over the last 48 hours, enough to air out the boat and dry some things off. But, that is about to change as the fire hose will be on for at least a few days and maybe longer.

I have to admit that I am becoming more fascinated by this landmark that we are about to round (about to round means in 1000 miles which gives you an idea of how warped our sense of time and distance has become). What I didn't realize was that Cape Horn is actually one of hundreds and maybe thousands of small islands that litter the west side of Chile. As Chile turns into Argentina, the coastline smoothes out and up the east side, which is all Argentina, it is all smooth with no islands at all.

The number of documented passages that have created heroes or ended in tragedy while rounding this landmark is unparalleled. I guess this is all part of the allure. If these islands could talk they would tell some harrowing tales I would guess. From early explorers to the original trade routes to the west coast of the US. An unimaginable amount of high sea's tragedy happened here in storms so fierce that they wouldn't let the ships out of their grasp. We are looking forward to Cape Horn allowing us passage in reasonable weather.

So, as we begin putting our foot on the accelerator in the building breeze we hope to tick off the final mileage in just under three days. That will be a great treat. And did I mention that we are all ready for the warmth. No more complaining about sweating while sitting here at the nav station typing for the rest of the trip to Russia. I promise.

Volvo Ocean Race

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