Today, at 16:38 UT, we will wrap up our third week of sailing, with Cape Horn still in front of us. Our time has gone from good to so-so. But what's important today is that the southern tip of the Americas is back on the calendar. At the end of the night tonight—i.e., Thursday bright and early—a secondary cold front is expected to sweep across the area around Lemaire Channel, right where we plan to end our stand-by period. The westerly wind will be blowing at 40-45 knots, but we're used to it—that's been the average wind speed over the past three days! As soon as the front has passed, we'll take off in its wake, in seas that we hope won't be too high and in a wind that should lose strength over the following hours. We have 110 miles of tacking to look forward to, from the start of the channel to Cabo de Hornos island.
It's going to be really rough going at first, then the strong wind will quickly weaken—too much in fact—once we're past Cape Horn. The area will be calm, before a new low-pressure system arrives on the scene. But the wind will come from the south-southeast, finally giving us the opportunity to reach. Then we'll have another squeeze play coming: when we start our turn northward, we'll have to move fast to stay ahead of the new low-pressure system. If we tangle with this new system, we'll be in for another good one, with a further loss of time. Two factors will be decisive: the difference of a few knots of wind, plus the speed of the low-pressure system. If it decides to move faster than forecast, the door to the north will be locked.
For now, until we can put our plan into action, we'll spend our last day (we hope!) near Tierra del Fuego. This hostile landscape—comprising desert and sandy cliffs—has protected us from the worst of the seas. But it also prevented us from heading toward the Strait of Magellan on Tuesday. Too short, too abrupt, we had to give up. So, sailing along slowly, we again checked Gitana 13 and then got some rest. For the past three days, we have been enjoying six hours straight of sleep, as the stand-by watch hasn't been necessary. So we're well rested and ready to pick up where we left off tomorrow...San Francisco here we come!