Cape Finisterre

Submitted by jono on 15 Apr 2018.

A tough decision whether to attempt to get round Cape Finisterre yesterday. In favour of going: wind guaranteed, swell not huge, Cape approx 15nm away - doesn't sound far. In favour of choosing to wait: no real wind arriving until the afternoon due to become too strong later, forecast direction a headwind, swell quite big enough. Shouldn't influence decision but does: more and bigger swell on the way.

In the end I decided to head out and see. If, by 13:00, still more than 10nm to go - then head back.

On the water: conditions pretty good. But since a headwind requires a zigzag course to reach the target, despite a board speed averaging 6-8 knots, that's at best only 3-4 knots in terms of velocity made good.

13:00: A mile or so off a headland, wind increasing, 11.5nm to go. Some wind-sea developing, but still OK for sailing back.

Rest sail in water for a think. Observe the swell surge climb the rocks, then cascade back down. Bring up weather forecast on phone. Gust forecast - that's the one to check for - on Windfinder: 25 knots. From memory I know Windguru's earlier gust forecast had been 30 knots, but don't re-check. Directly upwind, target is in sight. Before I know it I am pressing on.

Try to sail fast. Remember to drink. Remember to eat chocolate bars. Keep sugar in system: less likely to make mistakes.

GPS distance to target: now below 10nm. Below 10 is good. On a good day and wind angle, 10nm is an hour away.

More downhaul and outhaul on sail: kill a bit of power, reduce drag. Visual to target suggests 4-5nm, but GPS says 6.5nm.

Wind increasing. Wind-sea getting bigger. Board going slower. More downhaul and outhaul. Finally, within 5nm. That's nothing. Apart from it's not.

A 'good few' more tacks. Then an outcrop beyond what is revealed as a false Cape comes into view: the real Cape, and an island just short of the tip. Now I remember the geography. Sea increasingly agitated, but - thankfully - given the wind strength, surprisingly, mostly unbroken. Still a young sea. Turn off and stow GPS, its job now done. Final-approach chocolate bar.

Sail (Severne Turbo GT, Expedition build) heavily downhauled and outhauled. Thankful to be on such good gear. Boom: solid and unflexing. Sail: new materials, good materials, and now with a professional repair to the land-inflicted damage from a few weeks back. Mast: has got me this far, is well cared for... and... some things you just have to hope will be OK.

Press on. Real urgency now. Keep the thoughts that I don't want to be here at bay. Steer and trim to protect daggerboard from jarring; protect the board from slamming. Body-check the occasional white horse.

Past the island. Way past. Don't want to lay it short. Another half-k. Another. That must do it. Now tack. No. Wait for a lull first. Now.

Good line. Improvement in sea state. The groundswell no longer rebounding off the Cape, but sweeping past, and me too. Free off. Ease back to half power, peel off round the corner to a different and less threatening world.


Thank you to Javier and Sandra for spotting my arrival and kindness and hospitality that followed. And for washing my under-drysuit clothes, which got soaked, because I left the drysuit zip open.

Definitely one of the nervier sails of the expedition.


Today, I took a walk to see the final section of the Cape. Stunning bit of coastline. The lighthouse itself is just out of sight, a bit past the island (the swell was smaller yesterday):

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