Van Liew has 450-mile lead rounding Cape Horn
Charleston skipper Brad Van Liew rounded Cape Horn about 5:30 p.m. Monday -- his third solo trip around the Southern Ocean landmark.
Van Liew, currently leading the Velux 5 Oceans race, battled huge waves and winds of nearly 60 mph on his approach to the cape, but said the weather was good enough Monday afternoon to catch a glimpse of the pyramid-shaped rock. On his last trip around, during the Around Alone in 2003, the weather didn't permit him so much as a peek.
This time, he reached the landmark -- the equivalent of reaching the summit of Mount Everest for sailors -- in decent weather an hour before sunset, giving him an ample view.
"I'm looking right at it," Van Liew said in a phone call to race headquarters. "I'm going to buzz it, give it a fly-by. ... It's really pretty special, pretty cool."
Van Liew becomes the first American skipper to sail solo around the Horn three times.
Cape Horn is one of the most treacherous places in the world to sail. At the southern tip of South America, the entire Southern Ocean is funneled through the Drake Passage, a 400-mile wide path between the cape and Antarctica where the water speeds up and the ocean gets relatively shallow. It all adds up to monster waves.
Van Liew said that on Sunday night and Monday morning, he buried the bow of his 60-foot yacht, Le Pingouin, in the backs of a few waves. At one point the boat was buried underwater up to the mast, with the rudders out of the water.
"It was a reminder of how unforgiving this place is," Van Liew said.
Now Van Liew will turn his boat north toward Punta del Este, Uruguay, the leg 3 finish line. He is less than 1,500 miles from Punta del Este and more than 450 miles ahead of his nearest competitor in the race. But he said he expects the wind to quit on him once he reaches the South Atlantic, which could cost him part of his lead on the rest of the Velux 5 Oceans fleet.
But Van Liew said Monday he'll worry about that later. He was just thrilled to see Cape Horn.