The Cape Horner’s Club

Passage Maker - - Gear Products - BY ADRIAN FLANA­GAN

The South­ern Ocean and Cape Horn beckon mariners from afar, evok­ing a dual sense of won­der, ad­mi­ra­tion, and fear. In the in­tro­duc­tion to his new book, The Cape Horners’ Club, Adrian Flana­gan writes the fol­low­ing of the 500-mile stretch of wa­ter that fun­nels the oceans be­tween South Amer­ica and Antarc­tica at the Drake Pas­sage:

“For mariners, Cape Horn was once a nec­es­sary trial, ly­ing as it does on the short­est and there­fore most prof­itable com­mer­cial ship­ping route be­tween Europe and the Far East. For yachts­men, though, Cape Horn rep­re­sents the ul­ti­mate chal­lenge. Storm­lashed for 300 days of the year, it is a place of un­remit­ting fury, a place that tests sea­man­ship in the hard­est school of all.”

Flana­gan’s book is many things, but it is pri­mar­ily an homage to the place that is a wild and woolly con­ver­gence of wind and sea, and con­se­quently one of the dead­li­est bodies of open wa­ter on the planet. The book is also a shout-out to a few of the hardi­est souls who have braved these wa­ters over the cen­turies—pi­o­neers who have sub­jected them­selves to the South­ern Ocean’s capri­cious vi­o­lence.

Of course, the best sto­ries are writ­ten from first­hand ex­pe­ri­ence, im­bued with the com­plex emo­tions in­volved in travers­ing such a no­to­ri­ous body of wa­ter. Over a decade ago, Flana­gan and his wife at the time, Louise, sailed around Cape Horn dur­ing a 2005 cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tion that started in Southamp­ton, Eng­land. By the time they reached the Cape in Fe­bru­ary 2006, they were greeted by Force 10 winds and 9-knot in­shore cur­rents, as Flana­gan de­scribes in vivid de­tail. Un­like many who had voy­aged these same wa­ters be­fore them, they did have the mod­ern se­cu­rity blan­ket of ad­vanced GRIB weather fore­cast mod­els and state-of-the-art safety equip­ment. And they made it home to tell the tale.

Hav­ing suc­cess­fully rounded the Cape, Flana­gan be­gan think­ing about all those who had ven­tured be­fore him. He won­dered if they, too, had imag­ined their own death on a moun­tain of waves or if the ex­pe­ri­ence had al­tered their lives or out­look on life as it did his. The Cape Horners’ Club is a can’t-miss study of the mind­set of the die-hard ad­ven­turer.

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