As any sailing fan with a pulse probably knows by now, we rounded Cape Horn yesterday. The unofficial end to an epic Southern Ocean leg of the Volvo Ocean Race. It is unreal that only two of the six that started this leg will get to the Horn at close to 100% speed. I guess that when all start an Iron Man race not all expect to finish or even get there at near full capacity, so it shouldn't be a shock. This has been our ultimate Iron Man.
It would be too easy to glow poetically about what it means to go around Cape Horn – for me the second time. Instead, I will describe the scene on board as it happened. Kind of like a first timers’ equator crossing, there is a ritual and for very good reason. It is a time to be proud and happy and relieved. The feeling of "we have escaped" is prominent. The hardened and the rookies share this feeling. It is a feeling that sticks with you forever. It is a time to take an hour break from the race and just appreciate the accomplishment that few others share. A wonderful time.
First things first. There has to be a team photo and there has to be a sign commemorating the date and place that the photo is taken. This was a huge topic of debate for days leading to the horn. "Do we have a sign yet?" "Where is the sign?" "Who is doing the sign?"
I got the sign. Written on the paper chart of Cape Horn. I kind of like the meaning, and the awesome nature of the area. The Drake Passage between Antarctica and the southern most tip of the world. The sign…done. Stop bugging me. We have a sign already!
Next are the necessities. "Who brought the libations?" "Did anyone bring alcohol for the Horn?" "Oh no, we forgot liquor for the Horn?!?"
Boys, boys, we have libations for the Horn. Do you think I was born yesterday? Now if the bottle didn't break, we are in business.
Finally the cigars. I still have a photo in my house of Jerry Kirby and me rounding the Horn last race, sitting in the hatch with big dumb smiles on our faces both smoking cigars. It means a lot to me, that photo. Cigars were going to be back, and I told my wife Kathy to search Auckland for some good cigars and she did just that. Don't want to know what a box of 11 Cubans cost these days but it sure was worth it. Even if it was tough to keep them lit in the freezing rain as we passed.
And finally, the photo. The one that you will have in your office or living room forever. Make sure Rosco (Amory Ross) is in it, and of course our media man came equipped for exactly this situation with a flexible tripod that he could wrap around the grinder pedestal. No photo would be right without all 11 guys.
So, just with the rock about 3 miles abeam, which is very rare – passing so close – the rum was passed, the cigars were lit and the photo was taken. Eleven amazingly close human beings exchanging hand shakes and silent smiles. Amazing what a silent smile can really say. The photo that will last forever. Something to be proud of, something that is part of each of our own little life history.
"Remember the day we rounded Cape Horn?"
That phrase will live in infamy for the 11 guys on board this yacht.
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