Friday, 20 March 2009

VOR: GREEN DRAGON LEG FIVE DAY 33 QFB: received 18.03.09 1808 GMT

Snow accumulates on the deck of Green Dragon. Image copyright Guo Chuan/Green Dragon Racing.

by Ian Walker (skipper)

Who would have thought at the outset of this project that we would round Cape Horn on St Patrick’s Day? You couldn't have scripted it better.

Amazingly both Justin (Justin Slattery) and Damian (Damian Foxall) have done this before onboard the maxi cat Cheyenne - how freaky is that?

It was not an easy passage this time with 30 - 40 knot westerly gales and a large and disturbed sea state on the continental shelf that bounds the Horn. We took a cautious approach given the conditions, and stood 30 miles offshore to avoid the worst of the waves and to make sure we didn't have to gybe to round the Horn.

We didn't get to see the actual Cape because we were so far away, but had we been closer it was a dark, rainy night so visibility was next to zero. By first light this morning we had sailed the 100 miles to the Straits of Le Maire, a 16 mile wide channel between the mainland Chile and Staten Island (Argentina).

We were blessed with flat water and a fair tide (four knots) to usher us into the Atlantic. Here we celebrated our rounding of the Cape. We toasted our rounding with a bottle of Norwegian Linie Aquavit given to us by Wallenius Wilhelmsen and a Cuban cigar or two - thanks Odd Egil. I had my best sleep of the trip immediately after!

We toasted our rounding and I took time to reflect on all those who had lost their lives trying to round the Cape in years gone by. I also remembered Glyn Charles, a friend and member of our 1996 GB Olympic Sailing Team, who died in the 1998 Sydney Hobart disaster. As a skipper you feel the responsibility for boat and crew at all times and I am a very happy man to have crossed the 4500 miles of open Pacific Ocean and rounded the Horn safely.

The boat and crew are in great shape and able to sail a hundred per cent and push hard in the hope that the weather gives us an opportunity to make a move and get on the podium in Rio. Finishing this leg will be a great achievement for the whole team but it would be far sweeter if we could get on the podium in Rio.

So far we have sailed 10,500 miles in 33 days and we now have 2,000 to go. We are heading north and will soon be feeling the warmth of the sun again. The old hands say it warms up by the Falklands and I am prepared to admit for me that cannot come soon enough.

Volvo Ocean Race

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