By Brian Hancock
They both took the gap, Pen Duick VI and Translated 9. I am sure that it was a calculated move on the part of both skippers and their navigators and it seems to have worked out well for both of them. Well done to both teams. By the gap I mean taking the way between the mainland of Argentina and the island of Isla del Estados, a small island off the coast. You can cut the corner to Punte del Este but it may go all pear shaped if you don’t miss the tide just right. It can come in the opposite way like your newspaperman on a bad Sunday morning.
One of the best days of sailing that I ever had was in the Strait of Le Maire. There is something exhilarating after you round that most famous of all capes and turn your bow to the north. It was a spectacular, crystal clear day and sometimes life at sea comes in magical little packages that you just have to open and enjoy.
That day was particularly special because the day before had been horrendous, so if you will indulge me. Again this race in not about me, but the great sailors of the McIntyre Ocean Globe Race.
OK, don’t judge me and don’t judge our crew (we were young and dumb with an IQ less than the length of our boat), but we thought that it might be a good idea to have (more than) a few hits out of the bottle as we were getting closer to Cape Horn. We had built a 3.0 oz spinnaker with wire in the leeches that we could use when the wind was up, and it was blowing a good 40 knots when the whole thing came down in pieces, wires and all. We wanted to round Cape Horn with a chute up but it wasn’t to be so we dragged the bits down below and poled out a headsail and took another hit on the bottle.
Now we were very close in to the Cape itself. We could see the birds nesting. There were Petrels, Terns and the unfortunately named Rock Shags. Sorry, I am trying and behave myself on these updates but how can you leave that on the cutting room floor? Her name was Liz and it didn’t work out so well. Anyway there were an occasional wandering albatross that flew over and circled and in hindsight I think that they were trying to warn us.
It’s a bit of a story but we had put one of our crew in a mental home in New Zealand (I think that I already wrote about this – maybe I am going mental myself and forgot), but I digress.
We picked up an old mate of mine to replace him but he was not a great helmsman and so we didn’t let him drive the boat but once you get to Cape Horn you want to have a picture taken of you on the wheel with Cape Horn in the background. Our new crew member (Moose – no, not that Moose – that one is extremely talented and famous and married the great Emma Richards). Different Moose.
Well anyway, Moose got on the helm, smiled for the camera, and turned the wheel the wrong way. We crashed gybed and then we went over; right abeam of Cape Horn. We were well and truly screwed. We were in too close. Luckily we were all clipped on (unusual for me) and the boat came upright. Then we went over again and I mean the mast on water over kind of stuff, not just the tip. The boat came upright and we lurched closer to land. Now we were very close in and things were starting to get dangerous. Then we went over for a third time. Luckily (I use that term lightly here) the mainsail ripped from luff to leech and we came back upright and were able to gybe back and get the heck out of there like squirrels with their bags of nuts being chased by a coyote.
lt was all fun except that I was the sailmaker on board. We dragged the main below (of course it was filled with water) and I set up my sewing machine. Now it’s not easy to repair a big (wet) mainsail in a very small corridor where we had set up the sewing machine, but being young and full of adrenaline and full of cr*p, I stitched it back together with the help of the crew. Luckily the wind had died a little (it was around 60 knots at Cape Horn) but I got my stitches in and the mainsail went up and we enjoyed some good tourism in southern Argentina. “Life hey” as my mate Don, as in McIntyre would say. “Life hey?”
So with that out of the way, Maiden is almost there. What a great time for all of them. They are going to have a decent rounding and good on them; they have earned it. Plus the rest of the McOGR fleet. One of the posts on Facebook suggested that might be a good name for the next race but I will leave that up to Don.
I am not forgetting the rest of the fleet. Evrika, sailed by the amazing Dominique Dubois, is sticking to the plot. He’s right on the rhumb line and booking along at 10 knots. How great is that? The rest of the spaghetti mesh are finding their way and even my mates on Sterna (after most of them have lost their flip flops overboard) are making it work and we love them for it. The crew on Explorer are getting something strong from behind (sorry Tracy) and life seems all good for the OGR fleet. Well except for that pesky Windy (not my uncle) App that shows a bit of nonsense coming down the east coast of Argentina. There is going to be some strong wind pomping (South African term – get used to it) from the south west that may give them a bad day at the office.
I have a few more stories about Cape Horn but let’s let the great maidens on Maiden get around and I can pick up again. But what a great feeling for them and they have sailed such a great race and hopefully by this time tomorrow they will have all fulfilled one of all of their dreams.
I like to sign these off out of total respect to all the sailors in the McOGR. Sail safe and sail fast and be kind. But this time I am acknowledging them in a saying that my late mother used to say to me (RIP – she has been gone 50 years now). She would say to me you are just “full of piss and vinegar.” So there you have it. She was right. All of these great sailors are full of piss and vinegar. Good on them all.