Friday, March 13, 2015


Jörg Riechers and Sébastien Audigane aboard Renault Captur (6th) fought with 70k winds after rounding Cap Horn. Riechers said:

“Rounding Cape Horn was pretty easy. We had 35-40kts of wind. And just after the Cape, we thought OK, it is going to be easy. No stress. But one mile after Cape Horn came the first gust, 70kts of wind, so the boat was lying flat with the third reef in the main and the J3. So from there we were a b it scared, we bore away and rolled up the J3, and continued with the triple reefed mainsail. And still we surfed at 24 to 25kts. The seas were very white and very steep. In the end it was pretty scary. So for my first rounding of Cape Horn it was a big one.

“You are not super, super scared. But you ask yourself the questions. With a triple reefed main and with the boat on the edge of control, with the rudder problem, you can only steer with the autopilot, you just stay inside. You ask yourself what is going to happen if the autopilot freaks out and makes a mistake? Then you have a real, real big problem.”

Sébastien Audigane , on his 4th rounding of the Horn: “The most stressful conditions I have seen in 25 years. Two and a half days ago we contemplated turning round to avoid it. It was the perfect storm with a very low depression in the centre. Looking closely we judged we could pass it. But I confess that during the storm we looked at each other and said “This is a bullsh*t idea”. Once you are in it there is little you can do to manage the situation. The boat did well under three reefs. The only worry was our dear autopilot might give up on us.

“After the Horn, when we hit 70 knots and the wind was consistently at 60, we sat it out, watching what was going on outside from time to time as we waited at the chart table, ready to adjust the autopilot if needed. These are the most stressful conditions I have seen in 25 years.

“We don't try to get ourselves into these situations. We had prepared the boat as best we could. We stacked the boat as best we could, we had our survival suits on and were ready psychologically.”

Anyway it is good to know that an Open 60 is able to meet these absolutely extreme conditions and keep sailing....on autopilot. Absolutely extraordinary on a boat that weights less than most 40ft cruising sailing boats. So much for those that think that seaworthiness on a sailboat is directly linked to displacement and that heavy boats are necessarily more seaworthy than light boats.

Regarding the race itself, it has not been very interesting. I had pointed out at the beginning that only two boats and teams seemed to me competitive regarding winning it and that the fleet was very dissimilar regarding sailing potential. The two more competitive  teams (Hugo Boss and Cheminees Poujoulat) were reduced to one at the early stages of the race when Hugo Boss lost the rig.

About 1000nm separates the first (Cheminees Poujoulat) from the 2nd (Neutrogena) and more than 5000nm!!! separates the last from the first. The two leading boats are very close on sailing potential, being both 2007 Farr designs, both have won major races, one the Vendee Globe (2008/2009) the other the Route du Rhum (2010) but the very experienced crew of Cheninees Poujoulat (Stamm, Le Cam) marks the difference to the less experienced crew of Neutrogena (Altadill, Munõz) that have been doing a good race and learning fast. Without their forced stop at New Zealand for repairs their difference for the first would be less than 200nm even if I believe that Stamm/Le Cam could go faster if they had to.

Some great images from the race:

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