October 16, 2023
Reaching to Cape Horn, woman holds 4th place
By David Pendered
Dec. 14 – The only female skipper racing in the Globe40, the round-the-world sailboat race, is in fourth place as the five-boat fleet reaches toward Cape Horn this weekend, after the tough slog from Tahiti that’s offered winds of up to 50 knots and following seas with waves rising more than 20 feet.
There’s no public word from Canadian skipper Mélodie Schaffer. She’s the trained biomedical engineer who rediscovered the joy of sailing a few years ago. She came home from a race and told her family she was going to sea, bought a boat in 2021, found a crew and entered the round-the-world Globe40 last summer.
The global tracking systems placed on the boats show Schaffer and her one crew, Paul Stratfold, are closely following the course of the boat now in first place. Both tracked south of the rumb line from Papette, Tahiti toward Cape Horn and both tracked a tad north of the line after passing a virtual gate off the coast of Chile. The fleet is required to pass north of the gate to ensure skippers don’t dive into the more dangerous winds and waves to the south.
Schaffer’s boat simply isn’t sailing as fast at this time as the lead boat. On Wednesday evening, Schaffer’s boat was traveling about 0.4 knots an hour slower than the lead boat. She’s 449.6 nautical miles behind the lead boat and has about 944 nautical miles to the next port, Ushuaia. Schaffer’s sailing the Whiskey Jack, though the boat’s former name is still painted on the side, StormTech.
Schaffer also is about 8 miles ahead of Gryphon Solo II, in last place. And on Thursday evening, Shaffer’s boat was traveling about 0.5 knots an hour faster than the boat in last place.
If Shaffer’s in communication with anyone on land, the messages are not being posted on her Instagram account, threeoceansventures. Nor has the Globe40 race committee posted anything from Schaffer or any participant other than Fran Budel, skipper of the boat now in second place. This message went up on Dec. 12:
- “Hi everyone, heavy weather coming up. We want to say to all of you, be careful, be safe and, meantime, try to sail fast. Hang on! Greetings Frans and Ysbra.”
The words of caution are well warranted. The fleet is skirting a weather front that is creating rough conditions in the southeast Pacific Ocean.
The current weather map by PassageWeather.com indicates fleet is being driven by winds of up to 30 knots. The wind is coming from the left rear quarter of the boat. Following seas of upwards of 20 feet are coming from the right rear quarter of the boat.
These are moderate conditions, compared to a route the boats were prohibited from taking in the waters south of the virtual Chilean gate. The bigger winds and seas are tempting to competitive skippers, but these more sporty conditions could cause damage to vessels and injuries to crew.
The weather report Thursday indicates conditions facing the fleet have moderated since Globe40 released a statement Monday that states:
- “After negotiating the Chilean Gate, a deeper than forecast secondary depression rolled over the top of the fleet yesterday serving up an average of around 35 knots of breeze, gusting up to 50 knots. It was a tense moment for the GLOBE40 teams, who are now some 1,000 miles or so from Cape Horn, which they’re set to reach on Friday 16 December.
- “During these critical moments, it’s the spirit of solidarity which takes precedence over any sporting objectives for a few hours, as evidenced by the message sent to the other teams by Frans Budel, skipper of SEC HAYAI.”
The Globe40 started June 26 with a departure from Tangier, at the Strait of Gibraltar. The fleet has passed beneath Africa, above Auckland and is headed around Cape Horn. After a stay there, the next stops are in Brazil and Grenada. Next stop, the finish in Lorient, France.