Cape Horn: Turning points in life

Published on March 16th, 2015

The youngest skipper of the 2014-15 Barcelona World Race is 31-year old Conrad Colman, a Kiwi/American who was a late replacement to join Hungarian sailing legend Nandor Fa on his IMOCA 60 Spirit of Hungary. Here Conrad shares his experiences of rounding Cape Horn on March 16th…

Finally, we see the light! Only this time it’s not a light at end of a tunnel but the lonely flash of the lighthouse at Cabo De Hornos! We’ve made it. The Pacific is behind us, we get to put the indicator on and turn left for home. After the problems and frustrations we have encountered, and overcome to get here, all seems possible now.

Instead of running for our lives with a monster depression at our heels, the wind ignored the forecast and dropped until we were gliding along in just over 10 knots of wind. The drama was reserved for the heavens, however, as sunset brought a yellow and pinkish hue that was diffused by the indigo blue and purple storm clouds that threatened us from behind.

In the light winds we could play the tourist, sneaking passed the rock just three miles off at 0617 UTC, giving us time enough to pay tribute to Neptune and all those sailors whose wakes we crossed.

Turning points in life, whether literal or figurative, always mean something new. Passing the Horn meant new fishing grounds for Nantucket whalers, new trade routes for Europeans hunting spices, and a new chance for exhausted sailors on racy Clipper ships. But above all, passing Cape Horn means new hope. Hope for a better future and faith in calmer seas!

I was inspired to take up a life at sea by Sir Peter Blake – Kiwi adventurer, environmentalist and ruthless competitor in the Whitbread (now Volvo Ocean Race). Hearing his voice on a crackly radio telling tall tales of daring do while trading blows with his competitors in between the icebergs of the Southern Ocean ignited my imagination as a young boy and continues to drive me today.

His era is over, as race directors now protect us from our dangerous competitive spirits, but his capacity to do whatever it took to get the job done has certainly characterized our race so far.

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