THE ORIGINS OF
THE INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CAPE HORNERS (IACH)
"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.
Knox-Johnstons 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 whos
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.