Cole Brauer rounds Cape Horn, Ronnie Simpson next

Cole Brauer – First Light @colebraueroceanracing

In the dynamic and challenging realm of solo sailing, few feats are as awe-inspiring as navigating the treacherous waters of Cape Horn. In its first edition, the Global Solo Challenge has been graced with an extraordinary display of sailing prowess by Cole Brauer. Her journey around the legendary cape has been an excellent display of strategy, skill, and resilience.

On her rounding of Cape Horn she was congratulated by sailing legends such as Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, president of the International Association of Cape Horners, and Dee Caffari, the first woman to sail solo nonstop around the world in both directions (eastward and westward). The Global Solo Challenge, with a pursuit format and staggered starts saw 16 skippers taking the start, Cole Brauer currently holds second place in the event  having outpaced many of her fellow competitors.

Cole is still hard on the chase of the front running boat Mowgli, sailed by French skipper Philippe Delamare currently leading the competition. Philippe rounded Cape Horn on the 9th of January in heavy weather conditions just ahead of a cold front that was threatening to bring  messy and dangerous seas. Philippe’s experience and prior navigation in these areas meant he knew what to expect and his strong aluminium cruiser-racer gave him an edge in the heavy conditions of the screaming fifties where he was able to stay on course and sail the shortest distance of all competitors on his route to Cape Horn. Lighter weight racing boats, like Cole’s Class40, often had to negotiate a path and find the balance between speed and risk mitigation.

Louis Robein – Philippe Delamare @globalsolochallenge

 

Today, in fact, Francois Gouin on a similar Class40, Kawan3 Unicancer, reminded us of the perils of navigating in heavy seas in the remoteness of the South Pacific. The French skipper’s boat was knocked down by a breaking wave in the proximity of Point Nemo.The boat’s spinnaker pole became dislodged and broke off two stanchions and a side window. With the hull laid on the side, mast in the water, the boat flooded with a foot of water before coming back upright. Luckily, despite the inevitable scare, the mess inside the boat, the water to be pumped out, Francois was not injured and the water did not damage any of his electronics and especially the most crucial of aids to a solo sailor, the autopilot. He is back on route to Cape Horn, around 1600 miles ahead of him.

Francois Gouin – Kawan3 Unicancer @globalsolochallenge

 

Cole Brauer’s approach to the legendary cape began with meticulous weather monitoring. Understanding that weather models are only reliable for a short term, Cole and her shore team analyzed the changing patterns with precision, preparing for the unpredictable. The reality of sailing is that while weather models give an indication of potential developments, the actual behavior of a system can vary significantly.

As Cole found herself between two low-pressure systems, weaving a delicate route away from the strongest winds and seas was paramount. The system trailing her was heading east, then was predicted to shift southward, squeezed by the Andean Mountain range. This positioning presented a challenging scenario, with an area north and east of Cole expected to be swept by very strong winds. However, by timing her movement southeast towards Cape Horn meticulously, Cole managed to stay out of the worst conditions, navigating through the path of least resistance on her route east.

Cole Brauer – First Light @colebraueroceanracing

 

Her prudent and cautious approach kept her boat, First Light, in good shape to face the last blow of the South Pacific before turning the corner into the South Atlantic. Reaching her “Everest of the seas” was far from easy and the emotions surrounding Cole’s rounding of Cape Horn were palpable. Sharing her experience live on Instagram, she conveyed tears, joy, and relief as she reached east under fractional code zero and a reefed mainsail. Too far to see the Cape, Cole chose an offshore route to avoid the risks associated with heavy seas in shallower waters.

Cole’s achievement at Cape Horn is a significant milestone in her sailing career. As a 29-year-old aiming to become the first American woman to sail solo nonstop around the world by the three great capes, her performance in the Global Solo Challenge 2023/2024 has been remarkable and we strongly believe that on completion of the event she will have managed to open many doors for her future self, having fully demonstrated she has what it takes to be a professional offshore solo sailor. A profession that requires a vast mix of skills including her down to earth positive communication skills which earned her a huge following on Instagram and other platforms.

Cole Brauer @colebraueroceanracing

 

Of the original 16 starters, three competitors have retired, Juan Merediz and Dafydd Hughes as a result of autopilot issues, Ari Kansakoski following his dismasting north of the Crozet Islands.

Philippe Delamare and Cole Brauer are back in the South Atlantic after rounding Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and Cape Horn whilst the rest of the fleet is split between the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Next to negotiate his approach to Cape Horn is American skipper Ronnie Simpson sailing a 1994 vintage Open 50 which was donated by the previous owner, Whitall Stokes, to Patriot Sailing USA which Ronnie proudly represents as a US war veteran, injured in combat many years ago. Sailing gave new goals and ambitions after recovery and his return to civilian life, which many veterans know can be a hard and difficult transition, to the point that Ronnie even says that sailing somewhat saved his life.

Ronnie Simpson – Shipyard Brewing @Pep Portas

 

Ronnie’s campaign was put together with very little time to spare and only thanks to the late onboarding of title sponsor Shipyard Brewing which was the deal breaker to even be able to make the start. With a tight schedule and lots of maintenance, upgrades and work to be done to the boat, Ronnie often felt the frustration of not having been able to set off as well prepared as he would have liked to be. He capably dealt with many issues as they arose at sea but was forced to stop in Hobart for repairs to his sails and primary autopilot which makes his current third place even more remarkable. A stop in the Global Solo Challenge is permitted but receives a 4-day time penalty, which Ronnie observed in Tasmania before restarting.

Ronnie’s approach towards Cape Horn has also been influenced by several heavy storms blocking his route which forced the American skipper to throttle back and slow down the boat to ensure he remained within manageable winds and waves whilst he let the worst of the low pressure systems blow east. With under 750 miles to the dreaded cape his eyes are firmly on the big prize and he has also chosen to time his rounding on the back of a heavy blow due to hit the archipelago de Hornos in the early hours of the 31st of January.

 

Behind Ronnie, a trio of boats has been leaving their wake in the South Pacific. Currently in 4th position in the water is Italian skipper Riccardo Tosetto on Obportus closely followed by French skipper Francois Gouin, whom we mentioned earlier, on Kawan3 Unicancer. Both skippers sail on Class40s of the same generation, respectively the JPK designed #60 and the Finot-Conq Pogo 40 S2 #75. They have kept us glued to the tracker with their match race which has been going on for thousands of miles with the two boats which appear to be attached to an elastic which stretches and shortens continuously.

Riccardo, very quietly appears to have made a strategic move in the past few days, with a more northerly course. Fran