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Cape Horners Launch Register of Solo Circumnavigators

The International Association of Cape Horners (IACH) has taken on the mantle of maintaining an official register of those who have completed solo circumnavigations via the Three Great Capes — Good Hope, Leeuwin and the Horn. Thirty-three potential Cape Horners are preparing for the start of the ninth Vendée Globe solo nonstop round-the-world race from Les Sables-d’Olonne, France, this Sunday, November 8.

The List

The list includes 155 solo nonstop circumnavigators and 143 who have completed true circumnavigations around the three Capes with stops. IACH compiled the list from one put together by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston; historian DH ‘Nobby’ Clarke; the World Sailing Speed Record Council; and information culled from books and the public domain.

Commenting on the new register, Sir Robin said, “It seems totally appropriate that the IACH now becomes the holder of the list of solo circumnavigators passing south of the Three Great Capes. This is a valuable resource.”

Jean-Luc VDH and Sir Robin
Sir Robin Knox-Johnston congratulates Jean-Luc Van Den Heede (left) after VDH won the 2018/19 Golden Globe Race. Sir Robin was the first sailor to complete a solo nonstop circumnavigation, back in 1969.
© 2020 Christophe Favreau / PPL / GGR

Jean-Luc Van Den Heede is the father figure of French solo sailing and a serial Cape Horner who has rounded the infamous Cape 10 times, the last time while leading the 2018/19 Golden Globe Race. He agrees with Sir Robin. “To list all the sailors who have turned around the world alone with or without stopovers has been a huge task. It is a very important part of the history of navigation. I hope a lot more names will be added over time.”

Click here to check out the IACH Register of Solo Circumnavigators.

Circumnavigation Records

Frenchman François Gabart holds the current record for the fastest solo nonstop circumnavigation. He set his time of 42 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes, 3 seconds in 2017 aboard the maxi-trimaran Ultim MACIF.

Maxi trimaran MACIF
François Gabart holds the current record for the fastest solo nonstop circumnavigation aboard the 99-ft trimaran Ultim MACIF.
© 2020 Jean-Marie LIOT / ALEA / MACIF

Fellow Frenchman Armel Le Cléac’h set the time to beat for the Vendée Globe monohulls. He set his time of 74 days, 3 hours, 36 minutes in his IMOCA 60 Banque Populaire during the last race in 2017.

Armel aboard Banque Populaire
Current Vendée Globe monohull entrants will attempt to best Armel Le Cléac’h’s record.
© 2020 Vincent Curutchet / DPPI / Vendée Globe

The oldest solo circumnavigator is Australian yachtsman Bill Hatfield. At age 79, Hatfield competed a westabout route in his 38-ft monohull L’Eau Commotion in 2018 with a time of 414 days. The youngest is fellow Australian Jessica Watson. In 2010, Watson, at the age of 16, completed a nonstop solo Southern Hemisphere circumnavigation via the three Great Capes  in her 34-ft yacht  Ella’s Pink Lady. But she failed to sail the full 21,600-mile orthodromic distance set by the WSSRC to claim a full circumnavigation.

History and Membership Criteria

All who complete a circumnavigation via Cape Horn are welcome to join the exclusive International Association of Cape Horners and claim an official certificate to commemorate their achievement.

The Amicale Internationale des capitaines au long cours Cap Horniers was founded in 1936 by a group of French Master Mariners based in St. Malo to form a bond between those who had sailed around Cape Horn in square-rigged ships. Those are now history. The last commercial sailing ship voyage was in 1949 when the Pamir and Passat sailed from South Australia bound for Falmouth. In 1969, the British chapter of the association became the International Association of Cape Horners (IACH). It amended the membership criteria to read: “To promote and strengthen the ties of comradeship which bind together the unique body of men and women who enjoy the distinction of having voyaged round Cape Horn under sail.”

Full membership, currently £20 a year, is open to those who have rounded Cape Horn under sail as part of a nonstop passage of at least 3,000 nautical miles that passes above the latitude of 52° south in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and is completed without the use of engines for propulsion.

Associates are those with an interest in Cape Horn but whose experiences do not meet the full membership criteria. One of the latest Associates is Susie Goodall, whose yacht pitchpoled and dismasted 2,000 miles west of Cape Horn during the 2018/19 Golden Globe Race.

This modernizing approach has opened membership to all those who have raced around Cape Horn in events like the Whitbread and Volvo Ocean races, Sir Chay Blyth’s Global Challenge events, the Jules Verne Challenge, and solo events such as the BOC Challenge, Vendée Globe, Five Oceans and Golden Globe races. Membership is also open to the many who have cruised around the infamous Cape under sail.

“Sailing around Cape Horn, the Everest of ocean sailing, has always been a badge of honour. I commend anyone who has achieved this great feat to join the IACH,” says the Earl of Portsmouth, the association’s president.

Apply by visiting: Click here to download membership flyer pdf.

West Coast Circumnavigators

Latitude 38 has long maintained a list of circumnavigations beginning (and ending, obviously) on the West Coast of North America. Check it out at

If you feel that your name should be on the list and it’s not, please email us your details. Include your name(s), port of departure/return, months/years of your voyage, boat name, and boat model. If you’d like to include a brief tale and a few photos of your adventure, we welcome that too.

The most recent attempt that we’ve covered in our pages is Philippe Jamotte’s planned westabout solo nonstop voyage, aborted just south of the equator. (Philippe hopes to arrive back in Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay, in the next couple of days aboard his Class 40 Changabang.)

Philippe Jamotte
Philippe Jamotte aboard Changabang in Berkeley before his departure from San Francisco Bay in October.
© 2020 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Nicki

Planning departure from San Francisco Bay this weekend on a solo nonstop circle is Whitall Stokes aboard Sparrow, Brad Van Liew’s old Open 50. We previewed Whitall’s plans in the December 2018 issue of Latitude 38. Whitall delayed his attempt by one year.

We’ll have more on the Vendée Globe and Whitall Stokes in future posts.

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