Vendée Globe Sailing Race Rounds Cape Horn For Final Sprint To France

The solo, non-stop and unassisted sailing race around the world—Vendée Globe—is notching into final gears as 14 of 27 boats still in the race have passed the third of three international ‘capes’ on their journey, which began on November 8th last year from the port of Les Sables-d’Olonne in France.

The first sailor to pass Cape Horn was Yannick Bestaven, in the boat Maître Coq IV. This French skipper passed 85 miles south of the cape on January 2nd, having already sailed south of the Cape of Good Hope off South Africa, as well as Australia’s Cape Leeuwin. Cape Horn lies off the southern portion of South America—on Chile’s Tierre del Fuego archipelago—where Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet. Passing Cape Horn provides a psychological edge to sailors: the lonely and often cold, rough expanses of the Southern Ocean have passed, and they are on the last stretch of their arduous journeys.

Forty-eight-year-old Bestaven is now 440 nautical miles ahead of Thomas Ruyant (in the boat LinkedOut), and about 5,000 nautical miles from the finish point back at Les Sables-d’Olonne. Bestaven’s last Vendée Globe attempt was in 2008, when his boat lost its mast within 48 hours of the start of the race. Yet his current lead is never certain, as Bestaven explained.

‘I feel the bungee cord is going to snap back and those behind me will start closing the gap…’

Overall race weather conditions have been less than favorable during this edition of the event, which takes place every four years. This has likely contributed to Bestaven’s passage of the third cape being eight days slower than the record time set by skipper Armel Le Cléach in 2016.

In their 60-foot long IMOCA class boats, the 27 sailors (down from an original 33 that began the race) are in the process of transitioning from the often-tumultuous Southern Ocean (seas located south of 60 degrees southern latitude, which fringe on Antarctica) to the Atlantic Ocean. The sailors will now enjoy balmier weather as their craft slip northward parallel to the South American eastern seaboard, then eastward to France.

In addition to needing to be on alert 24 hours a day for almost three months, sailors are constantly adjusting for conditions and making repairs. Forty-five-year-old British sailor Pip Hare, for example, just discovered on a routine check of her boat Medallia that her port rudder stock was cracked and close to being useless. Like other sailors, she narrated—holding back tears— that she was ‘devastated.’ Because she expected another 30 knot storm…

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