Please select your home edition
Edition
The Cruising Village 2021 - LEADERBOARD

Barcelona World Race: Cape Horn may be tougher

by Barcelona World Race 3 Mar 2018 04:40 GMT 12 January 2019
The rounding of Cape Horn - Barcelona World Race © Barcelona World Race

The rounding of Cape Horn is one of the most delicate and meteorologically complex stages of the Barcelona World Race. In the next race, as the southern autumn sets in, the IMOCAs will take on the legendary cape in what may be the more treacherous conditions than in previous editions.

So, why don't round the world regattas such as the Vendée Globe and the Barcelona World Race start during the pleasant month of May and finish in the warm summer of European ports? The answer is simple and straightforward: at that time of year, the Southern Ocean is treacherous, and sailing during the southern autumn and winter can be a risky business. At Cape Horn, even more so.

Why? Firstly, because the average wind force and frequency of squalls is higher during this time of year, also meaning bigger swell. The second reason is that the water temperature of the waves washing over the deck can easily be as low as 4ºC at 40-45º S latitudes, which makes for very, very tough on-board conditions indeed, especially taking into consideration the icy Antarctic winds being blown in by the storms. Therein lies the third reason: the colder the air, the denser it is, which means it weighs more and therefore impacts more heavily on the sails making sailing more gruelling for both sailor and yacht.

In the Vendée Globe, which starts around the middle of November, the IMOCAs reach Cape Horn during the second half of December and early January, so the first half of the southern summer. During the past two editions of the Barcelona World Race, which started on the 31st December, the fleet rounded Cape Horn between the last week of February and the middle of March (the anniversary we are celebrating!), therefore in the second half of the southern summer.

The latest of the Barcelona World Race yachts to ever round Cape Horn was We Are Water on the 29th of March 2011. Jaume Mumbrú and Cali Sanmartí found themselves grappling with some ferocious conditions at the start of the southern autumn, with winds of 45 knots and gusts of up to 60 and 65 knots. They were forced to sail in defensive mode and even so suffered damage to their boom. They were hit with harsh winds coming in from the south, which blew across swell coming in from the NW creating cross currents which were incredibly difficult to navigate.

Incredible, right? Well, the chances of the entire IMOCA fleet going up against similar conditions as those endured by We Are Water in 2011 are the same. The race start on the 12th of January, coupled with the Sydney stopover mean that the boats will reach the cape towards the end of March, a period of the year which no IMOCA round the world challenge has embraced in the South Pacific so far, let alone including a rounding of Cape Horn.

This is why the FNOB has commissioned a study to meteorologist Marcel van Triest to evaluate the dates of passage round the cape according to the characteristics of the boats. Van Triest concludes that before April 1 all ships will have rounded Horn, except for some exception due to damage, thus avoiding the toughest of the austral autumn.

The rounding of Cape Horn is also meteorologically tricky due to the geographical features of the landmark. It sits at 55 degrees58' S, the southernmost latitude of the entire regatta. The Andes mountain range is also the source of compression of north-easterly winds which speed up and generate some angry seas. As if that weren't enough to deal with, the water depth climbs suddenly from 4,000 metres to just 500 metres within a few kilometres. That rapid shift in depth produces huge swell which also generate cross currents and occasionally pyramid-shaped waves.

For more information visit event website: www.barcelonaworldrace.org/en

Related Articles

Barcelona World Race 2018-19 suspended
Organisers suspend the upcoming edition of the Barcelona World Race Political instability has made it difficult to guarantee delivering the event to the standards a round-the-world race deserves. Posted on 30 Mar 2018
Exploring the sea for solutions
The Barcelona World Race has a big role in exploring the seas “The answer is in nature” is the theme of this year's World Water Day. Sailors are well aware of this and the FNOB continues to play a big role in exploring the seas so more can be learned about the world's water. Posted on 25 Mar 2018
Ocean sailing for equality
Male or female makes no difference when it comes to courage The FNOB is made up of men and women working for a cause which benefits society as a whole. That also means that we support initiatives aimed at real social equality, on International Women's Day and every day. Posted on 11 Mar 2018
Three years later, the legend of Cape Horn grows
The legendary cape is both a challenge for safety and a landmark for environmental sustainability Three years ago, Bernard Stamm and Jean Le Cam, as they led the Barcelona World Race fleet, rounded Cape Horn, the round the world race's grand challenge. Posted on 25 Feb 2018
Countdown to the Barcelona World Race begins
Presentation to the sailing community on Wednesday The countdown to the Barcelona World Race 2018/19 kicked off this Wednesday with a presentation of the regatta for the international sailing community at the Fundació Navegació Oceànica Barcelona (FNOB) headquarters in the Catalan capital. Posted on 14 Dec 2017
Jacques Caraës named as Race Director
For the Barcelona World Race At 14 months from the start of the regatta, the Barcelona World Race 2018/19 has put together the Race Management team, which will be headed up by Jacques Caraës who will be joined by Guillaume Evrard, Hubert Lemmonier and Javier Villalonga. Posted on 25 Nov 2017
Barcelona World Race 2018-2019
Pre-Notice of Race released Work is now underway on the fourth Barcelona World Race, the non-stop two-handed round-the-world race that starts and ends in Barcelona. Posted on 29 Jan 2016
A step towards the second trilogy
Of the Barcelona World Race The first trilogy of the Barcelona World Race has just ended, the third edition completed only days ago. Posted on 26 Apr 2015
Barcelona World Race Prize Giving
Ceremony held at the Barcelona Maritime Museum Barcelona's historic Maritime Museum was the perfect venue this afternoon for the prizegiving and awards ceremony for the 2014-15 Barcelona World Race. Posted on 22 Apr 2015
Nandor Fa & Conrad Colman finish 7th
In the Barcelona World Race 2014-2015 Nandor Fa and Conrad Colman crossed the finish line of the Barcelona World Race this Monday20th April at 22:59:40 hrs UTC (00:59:40 Tues 21st CET) to complete their race in seventh place. Posted on 21 Apr 2015