Clocked at 27.5 knots early yesterday afternoon, Gitana 13 temporarily dropped below 10 knots at the end of the day. These uneven average speeds are the result of the mixed weather systems along the boat's route: “We are 25 miles off-shore, not far from Cap Blanco. All around us the seas are calm and there's not a hint of air: dead calm!” said the skipper of the maxi-catamaran on Thursday at 7pm. But this situation shouldn't last: “We are bracing for a strong north wind, which could climb to 30 knots, in the next few hours. Our goal will be to ride this breeze southward as fast as possible.”
As it approaches the southernmost point of South America, Gitana 13 is hugging the Patagonian coast in hopes of making it through Lemaire Channel without having to change tack. Lemonchois and his crew expect to reach this narrow strait at the end of the day.
But what's really on the team's mind is the Horn itself. Rounding this famous promontory from west to east is difficult enough, as storms there can really cause havoc. But approaching it “backwards” is even more complex: “At this point, we're not sure we'll be able to make it around Cape Horn on our first go. The window is very narrow, and given the forecast of strong winds, if we don't take it Saturday morning, we may have to take shelter until 4 February.”
This 24km-wide stretch of water separates Staten Island from the eastern tip of the Argentine part of Tierra del Fuego. It was discovered in 1616 by Jacob Le Maire—hence the name—and his fellow Dutchman Wilhem Schouten, during their expedition to map out a new commercial route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Several months later, these same men discovered the existence of Cape Horn, which they named in honor of their city of origin, the Dutch port Hoorne.