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“Intrum Justitia” 1993/94 Whitbread Round the World Race © PPL Media Ltd

History of the International Association of Cape Horners

The International Association of Cape Horners (IACH) was founded in Portsmouth in 1957 as a UK associate to the French Amicale Internationale des Capitaines au Long Curs Cap Horniers, formed in St Malo in 1936. Both organisations shared a common goal to promote and strengthen the ties of comradeship which bound together the unique body of men and women who enjoyed the distinction of having voyaged round Cape Horn under sail in commercial square-rigged ships.

The last commercial windjammer to round the Horn was the German built Finnish 4-masted barque Pamir in 1949 during a 128 day voyage from South Australia to Falmouth UK, carrying 3,780 tons of barley. Sadly, owners found that they could no longer operate these sailing ships at a profit against the efficiencies of motor-powered ships, and Pamir’s last voyage ended 3 centuries of trade around the world under sail.

The tradition of sailing before the mast is now maintained by numerous square-rigged ships devoted to sail training which provide character-forming voyages for young people in races and events organised by the Sail Training International. The last sail training ship to complete a circumnavigation was the Polish fully rigged ship Dar Mlodziezy which sailed out to join the 1988 Australian bicentennial celebrations and back via the 3 Great Capes.

Concerns grew that affiliated Cape Horner Associations around the world including those in Australia, Holland, Germany, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and Sweden would die along with the commercial sailing ships until the UK section highlighted the first pioneering solo circumnavigations during the late 1960s and early ‘70s by Francis Chichester, Robin Knox-Johnston, Alec Rose and Chay Blyth and suggested admitting modern-day yachtsmen to bolster membership. This amendment was rejected out of hand by the Association in France which led to disappointment within the UK Section. The late Duke of Edinburgh, then an honorary member, telegrammed the committee in 1973, saying:

THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR KIND MESSAGE OF GREETINGS. YOU WILL BE HAPPY TO KNOW THAT THE ROYAL NAVAL SAILING ASSOCIATION OF WHICH I AM ADMIRAL, IS ORGANISING THE PRESENT ROUND THE WORLD SAILING RACE. THE BOATS WILL BE FACING THE DIFFICULTIES OF CAPE HORN EARLY NEXT YEAR WITH THE SAME COURAGE AND DETERMINATION AS SHOWN BY BRITISH CAPE HORNERS OF EARLIER DAYS.

Without spelling out his preference, The Prince, who later became Patron of the International Association of Cape Horners (IACH), made his feelings clear about including yachtsmen. He subsequently instructed the Royal Mint to strike a commemorative bronze medal for every crewmember who completed the third leg of the first Whitbread Round the World Race around Cape Horn in 1973/4, and later presented the prizes at the award ceremonies for the first and second Whitbread Races.

Due to a dying membership, The French Amicale Internationale des Capitaines au Long Curs

Cap Horniers was forced to lower its flag in May 2003. It was then left to the UK Section of the International Association of Cape Horners (IACH) to maintain its traditions ‘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.

Independently, a new organisation, the Cap Horn au Long Cours (CHLC) was established in France with the specific aim of preserving and enhancing French Cape Horners’ heritage. This supports the work of the International Museum of Cape Horn Long Haul Sailing in St Malo and other maritime museums in Bordeaux, Dunkerque, Nantes, Paimpol, Rouen and Saint-Tropez, which all have permanent displays relating the history of old French Cape Horners.
Meanwhile, the International Association of Cape Horners (IACH), based in the UK opened its membership to modern-day Cape Horners of all nationalities. The sole requirement for applicants is to have rounded Cape Horn under sail as part of a non-stop 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. https://www.capehorners.club/main/eligibility.php
Crews of other sailing vessels rounding Cape Horn, where the voyage does not conform exactly to these requirements, may apply for their voyage to be approved. Each application is vetted and approved by the Committee to confirm that the voyage complies wholly with the spirit, if not the precise detail of the requirements for a qualifying rounding.
The International association of Cape Horners (IACH) , publishes a bi-annual journal, The Cape Horner, organises an annual reunion lunch, and maintains a register of solo circumnavigators to have rounded the 3 Great Capes. The Association is currently compiling a similar register of those who have completed a circumnavigation via the 3 Great Capes aboard fully crewed sailing vessels.

AN INTRODUCTION BY THE LATE CAPTAIN MARTIN LEE

In 1936 the Amicale Internationale des Capitaines au Long Cours Cap Horniers was founded in St Malo by a group of French sailing ship Master Mariners. Their rules were quite specific about membership of this unique association including the words ‘having sailed round Cape Horn in square rigged sailing ships’.

These vessels are now history. The last commercial voyage was in 1949 when the PAMIR and PASSAT sailed from South Australia for Falmouth for Orders. There are still many of us on deck from those old days and it is our privilege to hand on this maritime heritage to a new generation of sailing mariners who also round the dreaded Cape under sail alone.

Our rules are just as specific as those original ones and our objects are just the same. To quote from the British Section rule book of 1969:

‘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.’

Membership of the International Association of Cape Horners will certainly carry on this long tradition.

Captain Martin Lee
President.
November 2001

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Footnote:
This introduction was written by Captain Martin Lee when he was President and Chairman of the International Association of Cape Horners. At the time of his death on December 20th 2004, he was the only surviving founder member of the British Section of the AICH. He joined as a Full member in October 1957 at the age of 27 with a master’s certificate, with square rig endorsement, dated July 27th 1956. Martin was elected to the committee at the first AGM on November 1st 1957. He held various committee posts and, in 1982, was elected President, a post he held until his death. He was very active as President of both the UK section of the AICH and subsequently of the IACH. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the need for a Cape Horners association for those who have sailed round Cape Horn in all sailing vessels both square and the fore and aft rigs of the modern yacht.

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