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Cabo Horn 35 MKII

History of the CABO HORN 35 class

The Cabo Horn 35 was one of the most important projects in the career of B & G Yacht Design. The plans were developed during the late eighties, when the office was operating in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, a few years after starting its activities.

At that time Roberto Barros, the founder of the office, had returned from a thrilling adventure in the Falkland Islands, when his home-built thirty-foot double-ender Maitairoa went aground in a deserted beach of East Island (read the story in our articles section: “Maitairoa in the Falklands. An adventure in the Falklands with a happy ending”). The events related in that article are part of a book written by Roberto and his crewmember, Roberto Alan Fuchs, telling the adventures of this outstanding cruising boat. In the book’s appendix Roberto Barros informed he intended to build the then just introduced Cabo Horn 35 as his next family boat. However, it was written in the stars that this dream wasn’t going to come true. A severe recession in the Brazilian economy prevented him from assuming the risk of starting an enterprise which could end up in failure. Actually Maitairoa was sold a few months before the crisis, with the intention of financing the construction of the other boat. After spending part of the income just to survive during the worse of that depression, at the last moment Roberto Barros gave up building a Cabo Horn 35, considering more prudent building a smaller boat instead.

However the design found its own path in the hands of other supporters. This happened so quickly that the office hardly could believe. When our staff was still developing the project, we received the visit of two friends, the chemical engineer João Carlos Muniz de Brito, and the civil architect, José Feliciano. They intended to build two Cabo Horns together, literally one outside the other, the first one made in wood-epoxy and the other in single-skin fibreglass. This way of building two boats in partnership, however unconventional, is quite acceptable, and resulted in two extremely well built hulls, a glory for the just born class The only drawback in their decision was the time required for the two boats to be concluded. João Carlos had to wait for his friend to finish fairing the plastic hull outside surface before both boats could be turned over, the same delay occurring with the superstructure.

Cabo Horn 35 Yahgan sailing in Loreto, Bahia, Brazil. Courtesy: João Carlos Brito

Meanwhile the French/Brazilian dentist Ricardo Lepreri acquired the plans, and not having to wait for anybody to make another Cabo Horn 35 on top, managed to build his boat ahead of the two other ones.  

 Taua, Ricardo’s Cabo Horn 35, was the first boat of the class to be finished, and also to accomplish an overseas crossing. To our amazement, soon after launching, he hoisted sails in Santos, her home-port, bound for the Caribbean, becoming the first Cabo Horn 35 to reach the northern hemisphere. When in Martinique Ricardo was insistently temptedby a local yachtsman to sell his boat with an almost irrefutable offer, which he bravely resisted. When returning to Brazil Ricardo called at Angra Dos Reis, Southeast Brazil, when he took the decision of retiring from his career as dentist and established a charter business on that lush and green tourist resort. Next he built a second Cabo Horn 35 just for his charter business, and since then he operates from there, having bought a property with private pier in one of the canals where he keeps his two boats when they are not in service.   

Cabo Horn 35 Tauá in Bracuhy, Angra dos Reis, Southeast Brazil

Tauá’s largely commented nautical adventures were a decisive factor for the quick growth of the class. In very short time our office began receiving orders for the plans from the most different parts of the country and a few from overseas, and since then the class never stopped expanding. The two friends João Carlos and José Feliciano didn’t take long to finish their constructions, as expected being João Carlos the first of the two to launch his boat, José Feliciano taking a little longer to conclude his Tuareg. By then, with three boats in the water, the class was no more just a hopeful promise, but already an acclaimed design.

For seventeen years in a row João Carlos is living aboard Yahgan. During all these years he is finding it to be terrific. Courtesy: João Carlos Brito

At first the interior layout concept of the boat with the saloon placed aft caused an awesome sensation among visitors, some loving it while others finding it totally unacceptable. Even though the idea of placing the saloon in the aft quarters weren’t ours, being probably a French creation, for sure employed before us by the renowned naval architect Philippe Harlé, in Brazil there wasn’t a single yacht with such arrangement. Perhaps for its unusual layout, or for its “off-the road” looks, the project aroused great interest of the specialized media with instant effect in sales. In a short time our office was booming with orders for the plans. That was how the design became popular in such a short span: three boats in the water a couple of years after the introduction of the plans, ample coverage from the local yachting press, a member of the class completing a flawless offshore trip in its first year in the water, and many builders spread in various states of the country and abroad. The rise in popularity of the class was so fast that in the first five or six years since its introduction there were already twelve boats sailing and a similar number of others under construction. Then to find an answer for the ‘love or hate’ attitude of our potential clients, we designed a boat of similar size, the also very successful design Samoa 34, with a marketing oriented for those who didn’t like the Cabo Horn 35 concept. The ascension of sales of this new design was matched with an equivalent decline in Cabo Horn 35 new builders. At any rate, it was understandable that if you row against the tide of prejudice, your way becomes thornier. However, it was by the Cabo Horn 35 flotilla own merits that this trend changed somehow. When boats of the Cabo Horn 35 class became nationwide renowned for their accomplishments, a clear boundary between the two models took place: those who wished a boat for ultimate adventures, like rounding Cape Horn or sailing in any latitude, leaned towards choosing the Cabo Horn 35, while average sailors with more tropical cruising ambitions tended to give preference for the Samoa 34 design. Since both designs are equally praised by their owners, all we had to do from then on was to advise potential builders about the advantages of each of these two stock plans for the purposes they were intended to perform.

Let’s, then, recount a summary of the history of the Cabo Horn 35 class. João Carlos knowing how well Tauá had behaved during her round-trip voyage to the Antilles, had plans of sailing intensively his boat too. In an e-mail he sent us in December 2009 he told us a briefing of his boat’s activities since its launching:

“Yahgan is in the water for a little more than seventeen years and during all this time she took me in safety  to the Brazilian Northeast coast for three times, with other two trips to the State of Santa Catarina and various other short passages between Cabo Frio, in the State of Rio de Janeiro, and Ilha Bela, São Paulo. I live aboard since 1999 and I can assure you that she is simply perfect for this demanding usage, with plenty of lockers to store all my clothes, personal belongings, spare parts and stores. The galley and heads are of generous dimensions, being the heads very comfortable and the galley placed in a privileged position. Most of my trips I had done single-handed and always with a conservative approach. In spite of my natural lack of self confidence, I always trusted absolutely in my boat’s structural integrity, besides being rewarded with a special level of comfort for a solitary navigator. Since I use intensively my automatic pilot, the rudder’s efficiency and the boat’s balance, together with its high stability, make me feel confident in any sailing condition”

Even though his verdict is unquestionably assuring, he isn’t the only one to praise the virtues of the plan, since his opinion is shared with all other owners. However if there is a Cabo Horn 35 that best represents the class for its prowess, this boat is undoubtedly Utopia, formerly named Guruça. This boat was built in fiberglass over a male mould by the amateur Fausto Pignaton in his own workshop in Guarapari, a small town some 250 miles north of Rio de Janeiro. Amazingly, as it had happened with Tauá, soon after Guruça launching Fausto started a long distance cruise bound for the Caribbean. In spite of being a newcomer in the sport of sailing, soon he was adapted with the cruising lifestyle to the point of involving his boat in the charter business.

Since he spent a whole year in the West Indies, during the hurricane season he chose the Saint Martin lagoon as “hurricane hole”, considering that statistically in the past that haven was considered quite safe. However Lady Luck wasn’t at his side. That very year, hurricane Louis, the fiercest ever, devastated the island, and in a universe of 900 boats Guruçá was among the 80 which endured the catastrophe, suffering minor damages only. This was no small feat. We must say, however, as the old adage go: “wooden (in his case, fibreglass) ships, iron men”. In spite of a local warning for all dwellers of boats anchored in the lagoon to abandon their boats, Fausto refused to leave, enduring the whole storm aboard his Cabo Horn 35. He had the guts to produce a video, filmed from inside his windowed pilot-house, which we were fortunate to watch a few months later. In spite of not being a religious man, when the lagoon waves began to break on his boat’s front wall windows he uttered so many “oh my God” that we can reckon how was his state of mind by then. Among the harrowing scenes he described, there was a forty-foot cat taking-off upside-down not far from his mooring, while a large yacht came adrift in his direction, obliging him to leave the shelter of the cabin in a desperate attempt to save his boat from a frontal collision. He left the cabin wearing shorts only, but had to retreat to the companionway, since the shorts inflated like a balloon. He stripped it in a blink and went naked to the forepeak to try to push the drifting yacht away from his bows with the assistance of a boat hook. When he realized the impossibility of avoiding an imminent mishap, he opted for letting his chain go, allowing Guruçá to drift, only assisting her to go aground on an empty patch of mangrove.  A fortnight after the tragedy Fausto had managed to bring Guruçá into Bristol fashion, ready to attempt the return trip. This he had done single-handed, sailing non-stop from Saint-Martin to Fernando de Noronha, Brazil, most of the time close-hauled, making the whole passage in twenty-one days. Back in his country Fausto soon became a celebrity, being invited for T.V. interviews and having his saga being published by the most important local yachting magazines. Guruçá became an object of desire, and soon the boat fell in the hands of another owner, the helicopter pilot Marco Cianflonne. Marco, an adventurer by heart, wanted this Cabo Horn, which he re-baptized Utopia, to accomplish a round the world trip single handed, and this was what he managed to do in great style. If a cat has seven lives, we don’t know to say how many this fantastic boat has. During his round the world voyage, Marco hit a rock at full speed in Indonesia, was caught in the terrible tsunami that devastated Thailand, had been attacked by whales in the South Atlantic and arrived in his country unscathed. The report about his trip you can read in the Cabo Horn 35 home-page, CLUB, an extract from an article he wrote for an important magazine. In 2010 Guruçá is as good as new, and is ready to attempt any other challenging adventure.

Utopia around the world. Photos M. Cianflonne. Click on figures.

Presently there are dozens of Cabo Horns 35 sailing or being built, most of them in Brazil, (see photos in the class home-page), while two units are being built abroad, one in Navarra, Spain, and another in Busan, South Korea. In 2006 the office decided to upgrade the design, improving two details that deserved being reconsidered: enlarging the canoe body aft sections and transom, with the aim of increasing a little the reserve buoyancy in that area, and changing the angle of the pilot-house fore walls, making them steeper to improve visibility when the sun is low on the horizon. And that was all we changed, since a proven boat like this had to be preserved for the next generations of cruising sailors.

In 2010 we are reintroducing the plans as Cabo Horn 35 MKII, which we are confident it will keep being the ultimate thirty-five-foot cruising boat for radical offshore adventures.