Team Brunel leads fleet past Cape Horn and out of the Southern Ocean

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After one of the most relentless Southern Ocean legs in the history of the Volvo Ocean Race, the fleet is poised to pass Cape Horn, and transition back in the South Atlantic Ocean…

Skipper Bouwe Bekking and navigator Andrew Cape have used their veteran nous to sail Team Brunel past Cape Horn at the head of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet.

Bekking and his team passed the famed Cape at 13:01 UTC (provisional) on Thursday and earn one point on the leaderboard for being first past the Horn.

But even with a successful passage from the Pacific into the Atlantic Ocean, Bekking said the mood on board during the approach to Cape Horn was subdued.

“The crew is very, very, very tired,” he wrote earlier on Thursday. “Even though we are leading, there is no ‘hurray’ feeling on board… The loss of John is sitting way deeper than people like to admit: I think of him several times in an hour.”

He’s not alone. As the sailors have some more time to digest the news about the loss of Scallywag’s John Fisher, the impact is sinking in.

“This leg has claimed a good man in Fish,” said team AkzoNobel’s Chris Nicholson. “We’ve all been very deeply affected by it and we offer our thoughts to his family and friends.”

Chasing Team Brunel to Cape Horn is a group of five boats led by Vestas 11th Hour Racing.

“I can speak for everyone on board to say we’re all really, really looking forward to getting there,” said navigator Simon Fisher.

“It’s the hardest of the great Capes to take on and this has probably been the toughest Southern Ocean leg on record for quite some time. I’m on my fifth race now and I don’t remember one as hard. As usual it’s blowing about 35-40 knots, so really, there’s just been no let up in the last week and half to these conditions…

“We’re certainly taking stock to think about what it means to get around Cape Horn and also to pause and think about John and the Scallywag guys who have been through a terrible ordeal and this will be a good moment to pay our respect to them.”

Dee Caffari has taken a crew of novices across two Southern Ocean legs and today finds herself in the hunt with the group of boats chasing Team Brunel.

“It’s a bit like a proud mum moment,” she said, talking about what it means to her to have shepherded her crew to Cape Horn.

“This has been the furthest south most of them have ever been. I’ve got six people who had never been in the Southern Ocean before this race who are about to round Cape Horn, which not many people get to do.

“But the tragic news we’ve had this week… it’s made us all realise how vulnerable we are down here, how hostile the environment is down here, and how quickly things can go bad, and how we’ve all lost a friend. That’s affected everyone quite deeply.

“So we’re saying that this rounding is definitely for Fish.”

As the fleet races around Cape Horn, Team Sun Hung Kai/Scallywag continue to make progress towards the west coast Chile, with landfall anticipated early next week.