THE ORIGINS OF
THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CAPE HORNERS (IACH)

PART 2

 

"Up Spinnaker!" - A New Generation on Deck

At the mid point of the last century the great days of the commercial square rigged ship, passaging the oceans in trade without auxiliary power, came to an end. The last ship carrying a potential UK member of AICH was Pamir in 1949. Some of the great ships converted to training ships, Passat and Pamir converted by Germany in 1950, Padua, which became the Russian training ship Kruzenshtern, being another. In 1957 the Pamir was overwhelmed by a mid Atlantic hurricane. This tragic loss serves to remind us that the power of wind and wave cannot always be endured ... even by a great square-rigged ship. This was the end of an era - but we still had young men and women with the salt of the ocean in their blood and the spirit of adventure in their genes and a new age of Cape Horn began.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s non-stop single handed 1968/9 circumnavigation in Suhaili had all the elements, which make up the spirit of Cape Horners and he was invited to join the UK section. As he was also a master mariner, he became a full member. Others like Sir Alec Rose were to follow him. The President at that time was Captain Malcolm Glazier. Malcolm had run away to sea at the age of thirteen and, in later life, was a frequent crew/guest aboard a racing yacht owned by a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron. This dual experience put him in a position to be able to evaluate the credentials of yachtsmen who raced across the Southern Ocean. It was his firm view that although the skills and demands (particularly of work aloft) might be different, the courage and determination required of the individual were very similar.

In 1971 two yachting journalists proposed a yacht race around the world; the race to be fully crewed under Royal Ocean Racing Club handicap rules. The brewing company Whitbread became the event sponsor and the race was organised by the Royal Naval Sailing Association (RNSA). Thus was born the first race around the world for fully crewed yachts, the 'Whitbread Round The World Race'. The race started on 8th September, 1973 from Portsmouth, England with a fleet of 17 yachts from France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Poland and the UK. The race instructions simply required the yachts to pass the 3 Capes (Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn) to port and stop at Cape Town, Sydney and Rio de Janeiro. The potential dangers of the race were emphasised when three crew members drowned in the southern oceans. The great ships which had rounded Cape Horn in trade, of course, had no engines and it was an appropriate link with the past that although the yachts could be fitted with engines, under RORC rules those engines could not be used for propulsion during a race. A total of 19 yachts participated in one or more legs of the race, 14 completed all 4 legs.

The AICH (UK) section met to consider what should be done; could these new generation sailors be considered to be Cape Horners? The answer was no - not in the square rig sense - but in another, and new way, they were. A new category of ‘Yacht Member’ was added to the rules and as the yachts in that first Whitbread Race rounded the Horn, the crews were invited to apply for membership. A new category of ‘Friend of Cape Horners’ was added to the rules at the same time. Two years later (1975/76) the original architects of the first round the world race gained a sponsor and a second race with only one stop, Sydney, sponsored by the Financial Times was managed by the RORC. A by-product of this race, The Clipper Race as it came to be known, was to see if the record time for a circumnavigation London - Sydney - London, set by the three masted square-rigger Patriarch in 1872, could be beaten by a modern yacht. Great Britain II won the race beating the 1872 record by some five days. Two years later again (1977/78) the second RNSA/Whitbread was staged and a regular pattern of races around the world was established. The ‘Yacht Member’ and ‘Friend’ categories were not adopted by AICH and remained unique to AICH (UK), other nationalities crewing in the yacht races being able to join the UK section. Yacht Members did not have voting rights at Congress although part of each subscription was forwarded to AICH annually.


‘The Way Forward.’

We move forward to 1996. By this time, the natural passing of the square-rigger men and the increasing number of new-age events led to a preponderance of Yacht Members in the AICH (UK) Section and the Presidents of the other AICH Sections were approached by UK as to the possibility of changing the rules so as to make the Yacht Member category part of the ‘Amicale’ constitution. The Presidents debated the issue at the 1996 Congress and concluded that ... the rules should remain unchanged. There was logic to this; the 1937 constitution of AICH was based upon an inherent agreement that when Congress anticipated it could no longer (so to speak) muster a crew of square-rig Cape Horners to hoist the flag, the flag would be lowered for the last time. It was also agreed in correspondence after the 1996 congress that if the UK section wished to continue beyond the final flag lowering, it could do so ... but not as AICH (UK). The name "Amicale Internationale des Capitaines au Long Cours Cap Horniers” would be laid to rest with the flag.

A committee meeting of AICH (UK) was convened in 1996 at Faversham and a ‘Way Forward’ proposal was drafted. The first step in the way forward was to canvas and collect the views of the UK membership. One hundred and twenty members responded to the questionnaire and unanimously agreed that the UK section of Cape Horners should continue beyond the passing of square-rigged ships and those that sailed in them. This became Rule (b) of the new IACH constitution and the answers to other questions became a manifesto for the committee.

At the founding of the AICH (UK) section back in 1957 it was agreed that it should be known as ‘The International Association of Cape Horners (UK Section)’ abbreviated to (IACH UK), rather than the French ‘Amicale’ and the 1996 ‘Way Forward’ meeting, supported by the questionnaire, decided that there was no reason to change the name. The only minor alteration was to drop the ‘UK Section’ and add ‘Incorporates AICH (UK)’. It was agreed that rounding Cape Horn, as a Cape Horner, should continue to be a sailing equivalent of climbing Mount Everest. The IACH rules were framed so that stunts and commercial ventures should not diminish or lower the value of past or future achievements.

Out of respect for the AICH Congress wish to one day finally lower the Amicale flag (which happened in St Malo in May 2003 when the flag was lowered at the end of the final AICH Congress) a new flag and associated regalia was commissioned for IACH. Mark Myers, a past President of the British Society of Marine Artists, designed a logo to an IACH requirement which specified that it should included three primary elements: ‘the past, the present, and the unchanging’. Mark produced a design that depicts: a square-rigged ship, an ocean going yacht ... and an albatross. Those elements form the insignia of IACH.

It was agreed, as part of the way-forward concept, that one of the most useful functions of IACH would be to look toward the future ... a future when, perhaps, middle-aged one-time shipmates would begin to wonder where their contemporaries had got to and might want to stage a reunion. To this end it was agreed to revitalise the membership list. Questionnaire responses showed that it should include telephone numbers. Keeping this up-to-date is just one of the tasks assigned to the Membership Secretary. It is worth paying the subscription just to have, and be part of, such a ‘who’s who’ of yachting. The annual supper party (usually) aboard Cutty Sark at Greenwich has become a popular crew reunion venue.

The IACH expects that during the next few years the membership will increase as the IACH attracts new members from all over the world. The IACH inherits the aims of the "Amicale Internationale des Capitaines au Long Cours Cap Horniers", they are the same as they were back in 1937, except now they apply to yachts and their equally skilled and adventurous crews. The chivalry of Cape Horners should continue far into the future.