Volvo racers round Cape Horn.
The sailors on Ericsson 3 and Ericsson 4 joined a long list of mariners who learned firsthand the joy and the fear of navigating around the southernmost tip of South America.
by Chipp Reid
The sailors on Ericsson 3 and Ericsson 4 joined a long list of mariners who learned firsthand the joy and the fear of navigating around one of the world’s most notorious nautical landmarks when the two yachts passed Cape Horn.
Known for its fierce winds and ferocious currents as the Southern Ocean mixes with cold Antarctic breezes which then run smack into the Atlantic current, Cape Horn was a rite of passage for mariners during the great Age of Sail from the late 1600s through the early 1900s. Passing the Cape from east to west meant the warm breezes of the Pacific while coming the opposite way often meant a large step closer to home.
Not much has changed since then. When the Volvo race flotilla rounded the horn, it signaled the start of the final sprint toward Rio de Janeiro and the end of the longest leg in Volvo race history.
The fleet left Qindao, China on Feb. 14 on an epic 12,300-nautical journey toward Brazil.
Magnus Olsson and his Nordic crew inboard Ericsson passed Cape Horn first the morning of March 17, with Brazilian captain Torben Grael and his International crew on Ericsson 4 trailing by just 52 minutes. The Cape greeted each boat with waves in excess of 40 feet but the vaunted hurricane-force winds never materialized, giving the crews a slight reprieve,
“We managed to celebrate the rounding with some port and cigars, which went down very well, everyone seemed extremely happy - even if we didn't see the Horn this time,” said Ericsson 4 bowman Ryan Godfrey. “But Brad (Brad Jackson) brought the brief relaxing to a perfect end by mentioning that in history, the first boat to round the Horn has gone on to win the leg! At that stage, the boys got stuck back into pushing the boat - all joined in the common goal to break history and get to Rio first.”
Onboard Ericsson 3, the crew decided to ask another “captain” to step in for a while in place of Olsson.
“We celebrated with a drink of Captain Morgan rum,” said crewman Gustav Morin. “Captain Morgan's going to lead us to Rio now because Magnus is so tired."
Olsson made his sixth rounding of the Horn and Morin figured the 60-year-old skipper of the Nordic boat had earned a break.
“It has just been such a tough leg that there has not been time or energy to waste on anything else other than trying to sail the boat at 100 percent in the right direction,” said E 3 navigator Aksel Magdahl. “All the held-back happiness was released at once when we passed the Horn leading the fleet after having started behind the others due to our ‘hole in the hull' on the previous leg.”
The fleet is roughly a week away from Rio de Janeiro. As of 9 p.m. EDT March 19, the Nordic crew on Ericsson 3 led the Internationals on Ericsson 4 by 50 nautical miles.