Full speed ahead for Cape Horn

The leading boats in the 2008 Vendee Globe are now passing to the south of New Zealand and heading out into the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

The next land to be seen will no doubt be the sothern tip of South America where the Pacific and Atlantic oceans meet at Cape Horn which has a fearsome reputation.

And there is still about 12,000 miles to race so there is plenty of time – another 30 to 40 days at sea – for events to unfold. Heading toward the New Zealand gate Michel Desjoyeaux in Foncia has a 60 mile lead over Roland Jourdain in Veolia Environment with Sebastian Josse – BT – a further 100 miles (approximately) behind Veolia Environment and Jean le Cam in VM Materiaux in fourth place.

Of the 30 boats that started the race 12 have now had to retire leaving only eighteen still in the race. For those that don’t know the Vendee Globe is a solo trans global race for open 60s – and what is an open 60? Read on:

Open 60s are one of the fastest boats in sailing — built in carbon fibre using the latest hi-tech structures, they are designed to be as light as possible (for speed) but strong enough to withstand the worst the seas can throw at them.

They are designed from the outset to be sailed by just one person. There are very few comforts aboard, and the skipper will spend most of the time in the ‘crash’ seats in a cuddy that separates the open cockpit and deck from the navigation work station. This is the nerve system, packed with electronics and computer equipment to help navigate, check performance, and communicate.

The boat has a number of different sails to suit various conditions — not as many sails as a boat designed to be sailed by a 12 strong crew, but enough to keep the solo skipper working hard all the time matching sailplan to wind and sea conditions. There are three types of sails — a mainsail, headsails on furlers (rolled up around the stays) and a spinnaker — although alone, the spinnaker is only used in very stable conditions (to be caught in a squall with this huge balloon of sail could mean disaster — end of race).

The boats also have to prove their ability to turn themselves the right way up if they become knocked down or turn upside down. This is part of the latest IMOCA safety rules which require the boat to right without the assistance of waves by the skipper taking some action to turn the boat over.

The video below from yachtpals will give you an idea of what can be expected in the southern oceans – kind of tough.

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