Ireland's sailing, boating & maritime magazine

St. Patrick's Day - Cape Horn style

17th March 2009

While Ireland basked in Spring sunshine and the sailing season got underway in ideal conditions at home the Green Dragon team were expecting to celebrate St Patrick’s Day by rounding Cape Horn tonight. “It must be fate that the Green Dragon, a project born out of Ireland, has reached the most famous sailing landmark of them all on Irelands National Day. The crew of Green Dragon would like to wish everyone a very Happy St Patricks Day from Cape Horn!  It is morning here and we still have 175 miles to go but we will be rounding the Cape at nightfall on St Patrick’s Day. Once we round the Cape we will be pointing at the Emerald Isle for the first time since we left Cork in August. Happy St Patricks Day and see you all in Galway in May!” Explained Skipper Ian Walker as they made their final gybe onto port towards the Horn this afternoon.

Celebrations will have to wait as they are expecting some difficult conditions as they approach Cape Horn as Ian Walker explained. “The forecast is for 40 knots and we will have to stand off the Cape to avoid the worst wind and waves. This will cost us an hour or two in the race which is frustrating but Cape Horn is no place to be cutting corners in rough weather. Right now we are approaching 57 degrees south, the furthest we have been south all race. Conditions onboard are miserably cold and damp. The air and water temperature is about 7 degrees, it is 25 knots and everything onboard is a struggle. Nothing is more of a struggle than getting out of a warm sleeping bag, putting on cold, wet thermals and standing your watch on deck for 4 hours in the freezing cold. With deteriorating weather the next 24 hours seems like it may be our biggest challenge yet.”

For every sailor, the achievement of rounding this notorious Cape situated in one of the most remote areas in the world, is never diminished, no matter how many times they do it. Ireland’s Damian Foxall and Justin Slattery have rounded Cape Horn on many occasions including once before on St. Patricks Day. “It was four years to this day that I came around the Horn on St. Patrick’s Day sailing together with Steve Fossett and Justin on Cheyenne so it is quite a coincidence. Last time I celebrated it was with a pint of beer and apparently there are a couple of bottles of Guinness down below” recalled Damian Foxall. Listen to Damian Foxall’s full audio here.

It will be Skipper Ian Walkers first rounding of the Horn, which marks the border between the Pacific and the Atlantic Oceans. “I have dreamt about rounding Cape Horn since I was a little boy and this is the moment. I wish it was going to be a nice sunny day and we could go in close to the rocks and take lots of footage and photos, but sadly it will be windy, rough and dark. Cape Horn is going to give us something to remember it by. Any celebrations will be put on hold until first light tomorrow.”

Bowman Justin Slattery is on his fourth circumnavigation of the globe, so it is not unusual for him to be away from his homeland on St. Patricks Day. Asked what he would be doing if he was in Ireland today, “If I were in Ireland I would be hanging out with some friends and going to the pub. With lots of parades and parties, it’s a pretty exciting day. St Patrick’s day is a big Irish Day, good atmosphere. It does make you think of your family and friends back at home. This is a very demanding race in terms of time away. You spend a lot of time at sea in this race with very short stopovers. I miss my family back home in Ireland.” Listen to Justin Slattery’s full audio here.

St. Patricks Day has also bought out the reflective side of Green Dragon’s skipper Ian Walker. “This seems a good time for me to reflect on my fantastic crew and their total commitment to the cause. Not once has anybody shirked a watch, even when ill, everyone has done exactly what has been asked of them by Neal, Damian or I. Each would put their body on the line to help another and each wants nothing more than for the Green Dragon to succeed. Thank you guys, I owe you a lot.

And to all our supporters both private and commercial who have helped the project. To the syndicate who funded the construction of the boat “Happy St. Patrick’s Day”. The Dragon is still in great shape and clearly keen to get back to Ireland. To our commercial partners, thank you for your continued support in these difficult times. And to our worldwide band of loyal followers thank you for your support your mails and your encouragement.”

Ericsson 3 was first to round Cape Horn this morning at 12:22 GMT taking maximum points at this the second scoring gate of this leg. Her sister ship passed at 16:48 GMT while the Dragon is expected to pass through the scoring gate in fourth place. Team

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