Circumnavigated the world: Cape Horn means mortal danger

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Storms and chunks of ice await in the forecourt of Hell

Circumnavigated the world: Cape Horn means mortal danger-horn

Fight for survival: The Abu Dhabi Racing team at the Volvo Ocean Race in the Antarctic en route to Brazil

Source: MKnighton / Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing

Cape Horn was and is the most dangerous area in the world for sailors. The German Jorg Riechers barely escaped a hurricane there. In the Volvo Ocean Race, one of the favored teams broke its mast.

GThe ordeal of the French Jean Le Cam lasted exactly 16 hours. The Frenchman capsized in 2007 during the solo circumnavigation of the Vendee Globe with his boat "VM Materiaux" not far from Cape Horn. In the gloomy interior of the racing yacht, floating upside down in the churned sea, Le Cam waited out of contact with the outside world in the hope of being rescued.

Only one thought determined his emotional world: “Don’t leave the boat.” On the other hand, Le Cam did not know how long he would survive in the air bubble. Salvation came the morning after the dramatic capsize. Le Cam heard the voice of his competitor Vincent Riou. He was lifted out of trouble in one of the most spectacular bailouts in history.

In front of Le Cam, more than 10,000 people were killed in the merciless area around Cape Horn. According to expert estimates, around 800 ships have sunk here since the first passage in 1616. Cape Horn marks the largest ship cemetery in the world.

Wind speeds of 250 km / h

Herman Melville, Jules Verne and Edgar Allan Poe gave an impressive account of the wildest area in the world, where wind speeds of more than 250 kilometers per hour were measured. Contrary to the widespread opinion that Cape Horn has lost the horror and danger for sailors of our time, the jagged gray rock on the southern tip of Chile still represents a great danger for sailors today.

The Chinese Dongfeng Race Team just lost its mast there. The sailors are currently having their boat repaired in Ushuaia / Argentina in order to continue the Volvo Ocean Race to be able to. The uninjured crew met their misfortune west of Cape Horn shortly before the rounding with mixed feelings. For newcomers like the Chinese Liu “Black” Xue, it was a shock: “The whole time I felt like I was moving in a film. I am speechless and sad. "

As much respect as today’s professional sailors still show Cape Horn, the honor of having conquered the infamous landmark is coveted. The British naturalist Charles Darwin once put it this way: "Cape Horn is enough to make a landlubber dream of shipwrecks, dangers and death for a week."

Every sailor knows Cape Horn

Every ocean sailor knows the position of Cape Horn: The island rock is 55 degrees 58 minutes south latitude and 67 degrees 17 minutes west longitude.

Cape Horn, first circumnavigated by Dutchman Willem Schouten in 1616 and named after his hometown Hoorn in the north of the Netherlands, is much more than just a landmark. Cape Horn is both a mystery and a memorial. Before the opening of the Panama Canal, the course around the Cape was considered the only possible route to circumnavigate America.

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There was no alternative to the passage, especially for the windjammers, because the route through the Magellan Strait, which is more northerly but is sometimes too narrow and characterized by strong currents, was unsuitable for them.

In the colonial times, the Hoorn Passage was considered so dangerous that the Spaniards preferred to transport their plundered gold overland at times rather than taking the risk of rounding Cape Horn. Anyone who fell from the rigging of the windjammer into the sea had no hope of rescue. The big, heavy ships could not be turned in the stormy seas. The fallen drowned.

Undercurrents and pieces of icebergs

Waves as high as houses, howling winds, treacherous undercurrents and even broken pieces of iceberg attack sailors in this area, which is only 500 nautical miles from Antarctica. A few weeks ago, the extreme sailor from Hamburg, Jorg Riechers and his co-skipper Sebastien Audigane Cape Horn happened in the worst storm of their career.

Shortly after the Hoorn, the Franco-German duo was attacked by hurricane winds. "My first Hoorn passage was a really big one," said Riechers after surviving the onslaught of the forces of nature.

The 47-year-old described Cape Horn as "the courtyard to hell". Also because the waves in the Southern Ocean are nowhere interrupted by land masses, they roll towards Cape Horn at heights of up to ten meters and can thus become a nightmare for ships and their crews. The strong current is due to the unrestrained embrace of the Pacific and Atlantic at the Cape.

280 rainy days a year

The mixing of warm and cold air masses contributes to the enormous low pressure eddies. The average of 280 rainy days a year are therefore repeatedly accompanied by hurricanes. Sailors in the Volvo Ocean Race, who have regularly rounded Cape Horn since the first edition of the most famous marine marathon around the planet, describe this prominent point and its area as "cold, desolate and full of danger". To date, more people have climbed Mount Everest than have passed the "summit" of ocean sailing.

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The Hoorn-Rundung is celebrated as a great success among circumnavigators. And so they honor the barren rock with traditional customs. “Most sailors light a cigar here and toast the curve with a sip of rum or whiskey to thank Neptune. The two-time circumnavigator Tim Kroger rounded Cape Horn in the Whitbread Round the World Race in 1994 and 1998.

“My premiere was pretty wild, but not dramatic,” recalls the sailing professional from Hamburg, recalling the passage with the European “Intrum Justitia”. “What stays forever is the good feeling of having passed this challenge. And the luck of two encounters in daylight, so that I could see this rock, around which so many dramas and myths entwine. "

Whoever defeats him is like the young Frenchman Fran├žois Gabart as the "King of Cape Horn". The youngest skipper in the Vendee Globe fleet was the first to reach the famous Cape in 2013 and then raced to triumph. His predecessor, the two-time Vendee winner, “Le Professeur” Michel Desjoyeaux, respectfully stated: “The encounter with Cape Horn is always a special moment. It has built its reputation for centuries. Today it mainly brings relief, because you escaped the Southern Ocean. "

Scary scenery

The Swiss Dominik Wavre was the first person to pass Cape Horn for the ninth time in 2013 and noted in his logbook: “I think of all those sailors who have been here in the past, their hands with symptoms of frostbite and without technological aids. That must have been scary. This region is a real ship cemetery, the place is steeped in history. "

The dangers, as demonstrated by the accidents at Jean Le Cam and the Donfeng Race Team, have not changed to this day. The storm cape at the tip of South America symbolizes one of the greatest challenges for the best sailors in the world, even in the age of modern technology and highly developed protective clothing.

Thanks to modern meteorology, Riechers and Audigane knew even before their hurricane passage that they would face a severe storm. In the fight for every nautical mile, however, they were not prepared to avoid the hurricane low and to accept losses of time. So Cape Horn remains as a gray rock in the surf, which it always was: The most difficult and sometimes life-threatening test for people and material at sea.

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