Vendee Globe - Record setting rookie first to hit Cape Horn

Francois Gabart, Macif - 2012 Vendee Globe
© Alexis Courcoux / Macif
Taking part in his first ever Vendée Globe Francois Gabart, the youngest skipper in the solo nonstop around the world race, passed the longitude of Cape Horn this evening at 1820hrs UTC (1920hrs French time) setting a new record for the passage from the start line in Les Sables d'Olonne of 52 days, six hours and 18 minutes.

Gabart, 29, solo skipper of Macif, broke the existing record, which was set in January 2009 by his mentor Michel Desjoyeaux, by a significant margin, four days, eight hours and 50 mins.

As he passed Cape Horn the young French skipper lead second placed Armel Le Cleác'h (Banque Populaire) by around 25 miles, approximately two hours.

Francois Gabart onboard Macif - 2012 Vendee Globe
Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendée Globe ©
It was hoped that Gabart would link up with Vendée Globe Race HQ in Paris for a live web broadcast from Cape Horn, but the combination of winds gusting from 25-40kts, very limited visibility and his need to keep a watch for the proliferation of ice which has been reported, meant such efforts had to be cancelled.

Michel Desjoyeaux, the only skipper to win the Vendée Globe twice, whose company manage Gabart's campaign, commented:

'I exchanged text messages with François, very short messages. He told me the visibility was under two miles, he's sailing ahead of a (cold) front and approaching Cape Horn. So he has his hands full right now.'

' It is a very emotional moment, but I'm afraid he doesn't have time to enjoy it because the data collected by CLS shows there's ice all over the area. It's hard to tell exactly what type of ice blocks, growlers and icebergs there is but they definitely need to be out on the deck and visually check. You need to stand next to the helm, even if the autopilot is on, because you can grab the helm if necessary or work on the sails if you need to change the heading of the boat very quickly. Radars aren't enough because they can't detect smaller objects.'

' They both have to be careful and not sail too close to the coast either.'

'I'm so happy for François, he's been so much in control of his boat and his race from the start onwards, he and Armel have led the race since the Southern Ocean. I'm sure they have had their own technical issues, but they managed to solve them and keep enjoying the experience and to have a blast.'

Vendee Globe website