If full crews in 70 foot boats are finding it tough, imagine what it’s like in that part of the Southern Ocean when you are single handed, or two up in a 40 foot boat. When the fleet of four boats, in the Portimão Global Ocean Race, rounds Cape Horn (the first is scheduled for Wednesday evening), it will mark the first rounding by a race for 40 footers and the first race rounding by a Chilean race team.
Forced to run eastwards under reduced sail in the south-westerly gale yesterday, Felipe Cubillos and José Muñoz are currently 300 miles off the coast of their homeland. “Those following the regatta via the internet will see that we are in an area of very dark arrows,” explains Cubillos. “It is certain that we are facing the worse weather by far in this entire race and possibly the worst we have seen in our lives, but we’ve got everything under control. In the past few hours, we have stopped receiving winds of 65 knots and this is becoming stabilized at just under 50, which feels surprisingly calm by comparison.”
Despite the harsh conditions, their Class 40, Desafio Cabo de Hornos, is coping with the battering at 51°S. “Nothing is broken on board,” confirms Cubillos, “and although the fuse on one of the rudders broke during a broach and it flicked up, we’ve sorted it out already.”
The presence of a Chilean team has not only evoked big interest in this race throughout Chile, but especially at MRCC Punta Arenas, which is feeding the skippers with highly accurate and detailed weather forecasts. “With advance warning of the gales, we dropped the main and sailed with the staysail only.” Cubillos explains. “Our average speed has been 13 knots and just with the staysail, we touched 22 knots. In these conditions the autopilot can’t cope and José and I have been helming in two hour shifts.”
Both Cubillos and Muñoz have been taking every precaution to preserve their boat and prevent injuries as Desafio Cabo de Hornos is thrown around, although the constant torrent of water rolling down the side decks and over the coach house roof is unstoppable: “I can now confirm that a truly impermeable dry suit has not been invented yet,” notes Cubillos. “We bought what we thought was the best gear in the world, but I’m afraid the outfit is rubbish.” As the freezing, Southern Ocean water finds a way through tight cuff and collar seals, the clothes below will have no opportunity to dry until the milder conditions in the South Atlantic. “Dry suit designers would learn a huge amount if they left their desks in Europe and spent some time down here in the Furious Fifties.” Cubillos bluntly advises. For those who’ve never seen the famous Horn close up, above is a Chilean Navy pic of one of its frigates rounding. Pix from the Portimao fleet are here.