A 'warm ball of fury spins towards Cape Horn' says Brian Thompson

After a magical rounding of Cape Horn yesterday by Brian Thompson on Bahrain Team Pindar he is now preparing to spend 24 hours sheltering from a fierce storm behind Staten Island off the tip of Tierra del Fuego.

On Cape Horn he says: ‘There were 40 knot winds and seas as I approached, and then in the last few miles the winds dropped, the seas calmed, and I sailed serenely past in the moonlight. The Cape’s massive triangular bulk loomed over Bahrain Team Pindar, and ashore 2 small lighthouses signalled their warning, though it felt perfectly safe just 2 miles off the shore. At times I could smell the land as the breeze shifted to the North, and after 60 odd days at sea that was a great pleasure.

After the Cape it was a new world of flat seas, clear skies and a breeze from the north, it really is amazing the divide between one side of the Horn and the other. In the glow of Antarctica and the light of the moon it never got dark, and I set off at good speed towards the east tip of Staten island or Isla de los Estados. As I passed the tip I was buzzed by an Argentinean Air Force plane about 6 times, he was probably taking photos and I could just make out figures in the windows of the plane.

Within 10 minutes of the plane leaving, I got a call from Julian Hocken of the Race Committee to warn me of the severe gale that would strike between the Falklands and Tierra del Fuego. This is the one I have been following from its birth as a tropical depression between Tahiti and New Zealand, and it is now winding itself up again into a ball of warm fury as it spins towards Cape Horn. The limited weather data I have now did not show the severity of the storm that Julian described. It is certainly the strongest storm of this Vendée Globe according to the experts, and I was not going to disagree with the combined knowledge of Météo France and the Chilean forecasters. They are looking after the safety of myself, Dee and Arnaud now, and showing great responsibility and seamanship from ashore.

So tonight I will have 60 knots of northerly winds as I shelter behind the 30 mile long island. Just off the western tip, between it and Tierra del Fuego is the Straits of Le Maire, and its forecast to be blowing 85 knots through the strait. I had better stay away from that end of the island! I will see how the boat behaves tonight, I will probably try a few options so that I can stay close to the land but be manoeuvrable in case the wind shifts direction. At present I am just a couple of miles off the island; close enough to be in light winds. I am just sitting with 4 reefs in the main with the storm jib ready to go if needed. I feel a little bit like a tourist or that I have been let off school for the day, as the boat is hardly moving with no big waves, there is scenery to look at and the usual routine of the last 60 plus days is altered. I am sure that there will be plenty of excitement to come, so if I am able to grab a little rest now, I will, because once the wind comes, there will be no resting.

The plan is to have the strong northerlies 00-03z, then as the low centre passes just to the south the wind will become variable, hopefully light, until 1500 tomorrow when the new SW wind first approaches. At this point I am due to move off, around the East end of the island (not via the Le Maire straight!) and start heading north, with rapidly increasing SW winds propelling me northwards. It won’t be champagne sailing but it will be fast and similar to the Southern Ocean sailing we have been doing for the last month.

If there are some light winds tomorrow I will be able to go up the mast to check it, and I have many other jobs to do, so it won’t be wasted time. It’s a shame to see your competitors ahead getting away further, but this is a game played with Mother Nature, and sometimes we are too small to play her games, and have to wait our turn till she has had her fun. It does not happen very often, but there are cases where the winds are just too powerful for yachts, like in the Route du Rhum 2002 which created carnage for the Multihull fleet and of course the famous Fastnet and Sidney Hobart storms.

I have been doing a little research on Staten Island and it has 4 inhabitants who are all from the Argentinean Navy, and plenty of wildlife including penguins, seals and orcas,

For more information on Brian and Bahrain Team Pindar
visit: www.teampindar.com