There are very few Americans who have competed in, and completed, singlehanded round-the-world races. Former Bay Area resident Bruce Schwab was the first American sailor to complete the Vendée Globe in 2004/05. There are now three Americans competing in the singlehanded Global Solo Challenge. Both Ronnie Simpson and and Cole Brauer have returned to the Atlantic by rounding Cape Horn, and David Linger from Seattle, aboard his Class 40 Koloa Maoli, is about 600 miles from rounding.
The tracking map from the Global Solo Challenge above shows the difficulties faced by racers as they navigate Cape Horn and the weather systems. To us, they look like an expanded version of the breeze and wind holes in the recent Three Bridge Fiasco. Cole Brauer aboard First Light is the pale blue boat in the upper right, Ronnie Simpson aboard Shipyard Brewing is the fuscia boat approaching the calm blue 1200 miles behind Cole, and David Linger aboard Koloa Maoli is the green boat to the west of Cape Horn, another 1500 miles behind Ronnie.
Ronnie’s rounding of Cape Horn came in the dark at 0330 UTC, with heavy seas and winds of up to 60 knots. Ronnie reported to the Global Solo Challenge that Shipyard Brewing rounded with no mainsail and just a storm jib. He made a wide arc around the Cape in the heavy breeze to stay off the continental shelf’s shallower waters. He got no breaks following the rounding. North winds were powering down the eastern coast of Argentina, causing him to sail through the Beagle Channel and stay close to the coast to avoid the stronger, adverse winds offshore.
Ronnie and Shipyard Brewing are also representing US Patriot Sailing in their quest to be one of the very few Americans to successfully race solo around the world. He was forced to make a pit stop in Hobart, Tasmania, for repairs, but was able to turn around in about four days to retain his third-place position. Now back in the Atlantic, he’s heading to warmer weather on the 1600-mile leg home to the finish line in A Coruña, Spain.
Running in second place in the race behind leader Philippe Delamare aboard Mowgli is the only female competitor in the race: Cole Brauer. Cole has given an outstanding performance, rocking the race aboard her Class 40 First Light. She is now 4800 miles from her goal of becoming the first American woman to complete a solo race around the world. At 5′ 2″, 100 lbs and 29 years old, she’s a fresh face of female empowerment on the racing scene. Cole grew up in Maine, but she sailed at the University of Hawaii, and sailed under the Golden Gate when she competed in the Pacific Cup in 2018. Her frequent video posts of her race have given the sailing world a new window into the world of solo ocean racing, and are surely going to inspire more women to get into sailing at all levels.
After rounding the Horn, Cole is now hoping to find the right breeze to fill her sails and allow her to catch up to race leader Mowgli. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, president of the International Association of Cape Horners, and Dee Caffari, the first woman to sail solo nonstop around the world in both directions (eastward and westward), both congratulated Cole on her successful rounding of the Cape. Her approach to the legendary cape began with meticulous weather monitoring.
Every rounding of Cape Horn has its challenges — most often too much wind, along with simply finding the right weather window to proceed. Her January rounding of the treachorous Horn was remarkably smooth given the notorious reputation of the Cape. Now, both Cole and Ronnie battle flukier but warmer conditions as they head north.
Farther back, the third American on the course is David Linger on Koloa Maoli, who is currently approaching the Cape with 600 miles to go. He’s played a conservative game to keep his boat and himself safe while making solid, steady progress around the world. Amazingly, all three American racers had their boats in Maine last summer as they prepared to sail to A Coruña for the start.
Of the original 16 starters, three competitors have retired: Juan Merediz and Dafydd Hughes as a result of autopilot issues, and Ari Känsäkoski following his dismasting north of the Crozet Islands.
Like the Three Bridge Fiasco, the Global Solo Challenge is a pursuit-style race with boats having staggered starts, meaning they will place in the order they finish. All three Americans started on October 28. Cole Brauer is currently in second place, Ronnie Simpson in third and David Linger in seventh. Race leader Philippe Delamare is a solid 2600 miles ahead on Mowgli. Regardless, it is impressive to have three Americans participating and exciting to watch Cole Brauer’s outstanding performance as the first American woman nearing completion of a solo round-the-world race.
You can follow the race here.