Cole Brauer rounds Cape Horn on Global Solo Challenge

Cole Brauer rounds Cape Horn on Global Solo Challenge

Cole Brauer – First Light @colebraueroceanracing

Text: Marco Nannini


More skippers getting ready


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.

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.

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’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. Francois decided to let him sail a different route and did not follow Riccardo who has now built 180 miles of lateral separation, enough to expect slightly different weather on the approach to the Chilean coast. A large area of high pressure is forecast to form on the direct route and Riccardo’s move may keep him in stronger winds despite sailing a longer course. This seemingly endless duel is very engaging to watch and this is the second time the duo separates. The first time it was around another ridge of high pressure in the Tasman sea, where Francois sailed on a southerly course and gained 300 miles on Riccardo briefly overtaking him. Who will this second separation favour? Riccardo or Francois?


Less than 70 nautical miles behind Francois, Italian skipper Andrea Mura on Vento di Sardegna has been sailing very fast for many days on end. He has undoubtedly changed pace since entering the Pacific, whether he decided to put his foot on the gas or whether it’s the longer period of these seas that allows him to go faster than in the Indian we don’t know. What’s sure is that Andrea has now sailed for several days averaging between 12-14 knots making him not just the fastest in the fleet but allowing him to reduce his expected time of arrival by many days. He is currently projected to overtake both Francois and Riccardo as well as, in time, Ronnie who’s more than 800 miles ahead of him.


Andrea is not simply the fastest boat but also the boat that has improved its own performance by the biggest margin in recent weeks. With Cole Brauer now in the south Atlantic soon to face lighter winds, Andrea is not out of contention for second place, although we presume the young american skipper will do all is in her powers to prevent being overtaken! We expect to see some fire!


David Linger on Koloa Maoli and William MacBrien in 7th and 8th place respectively proceed with their conservative yet effective boat preserving strategy and keep making steady progress with neither reporting any significant issues on their boats. William has however had a complicated week last week when a low trailing higher than others brought him some nasty headwinds leaving spectators a little apprehensive when he seemed to be following an erratic course, in reality William was simply sailing north and south in boat preservation mode but maintaining some speed to allow for charging batteries with his hydrogenerator and spare his diesel for more noble causes like emergencies and heating!


Pavlin Nadvorni is stuck in Bluff Harbour, South Island, NZ, awaiting two spare wind sensors after a squall ripped off his unit whilst at his temporary mooring. The southern tip of New Zealand seems to be often battered by storms and looking at the forecast it appears that Pavlin may have to even pick a safe window to leave his current position although sometimes looking too far ahead in the forecasts is counter productive, making us anxious with no benefit.


We have reported that Louis Robein is battling his way to reach Hobart. His charging issues have now left him with no power at all, unable to start his engine and taking turns at the helm and resting whilst hove-to, with no autopilot or other means of self-steering. He has approximately 200 miles to go, and we can only feel his struggle, although Louis has a reputation for his unwavering patience and resistance. Once he reaches Hobart he should be able to restart within a few days as despite the severity of his current situation his repairs are quite simple to carry out and all the spare parts have been pre-ordered.


Alessandro Tosetti on Aspra has had a total change of pace after Cape Town and once he reached the roaring forties he seems to have pushed the limits of his comfort zone and saw him sailing very good daily runs for days on end drastically improving on his South Atlantic performance and hesitance to enter the band of stronger winds. It’s good to see him having raised his own bar.


To his north, moored in Port Lincoln, Edouard the Keyser certainly feels the pressure of the time ticking ahead of his re-departure deadline on the 2nd of February. Whilst his broken rudder was rebuilt in record time and is in transit to Australia, his broken electric inboard engine appears to be a greater problem which needs to be resolved as soon as possible to keep alive the hope of restarting.


At the back of the fleet Kevin Le Poidevin has seen more wind than any of his forecasts had anticipated and he must have felt rather tired whilst celebrating a 200 miles day run under very little canvas, mainsail with 4 reefs and a heavy weather small J4 jib.

Trials and tribulations never end during a circumnavigation and must be accepted with patience and resolve. Wind and sea state affect every skipper’s daily life and decision, there is no break in the constant need to find a balance between speed and risk mitigation. Cape Horn feels like a miraculous milestone where these problems can finally be put behind, only to discover new challenges like light winds and a difficult path to the north. The long route is far from over.

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