—April 17, 2018
Late last year, French sailor François Gabart set a new world record for sailing solo around the world. Gabart completed his 27,859.7-nautical mile journey in 42 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes and 35 seconds, beating by six days a previous record that had only been set one year before and thought unbeatable.
Little doubt that some intrepid sailors are already starting to strategize the means for breaking the latest “unbreakable record;” however, any sailor trying break such is going to need some serious coin given that Gabart’s boat, a 98-foot maxi-trimaran named “MACIF,” is considered one of the most technically advanced sailing yachts plying the oceans. While the MACIF sailing program has not disclosed the cost of the boat itself, the programs’s annual budget for Gabart’s sailing campaigns is $5 million.
Such known and unknown spending is likely petty change for Baron Benjamin de Rothschild, who backed the building of a 100 foot maxi-trimaran that was launched just a few months prior to Gabart’s departure record-setting voyage departure. Still undergoing sea trials, “Gitana 17” was designed to foil at over 50 knots and cover 900 miles per day. As MACIF averaged 27 knots and had a top one-day distance run of 851 miles, Gitana 17 appears to be a likely challenger to the Gabart/MACIF record. The question remains as to which sailor Rothschild will tap to sail his toy into the record books (Current skipper Sebastian Josse is a likely choice), and whether Rothschild will wait until the next solo around the world race (2019), or seek the record alone.
For those of us of more modest means, there remain at least one solo around-the-world sailing record that can be broken without having to spend millions. That is, the record for sailing the smallest boat around the world without docking on land.
That record is currently held by Alessandro Di Benedetto, an Italian, who successfully completed his voyage on a 21.3-foot boat in 2010. A 78-year-old Swedish sailor, Sven Yrvind, had planned to challenge the record in a boat half that size, but apparently
recently had second thoughts and is now only planning to take his homemade boat from Ireland to New Zealand. A life-long boat builder with ocean crossing experience on exceptionally small boats, Sven certainly had the chops, but perhaps age and health were a growing concern.
But really, in the realm of sailing around the world is the quest for breaking a record really worth it? How much of the world did Gabart or Di Benedetto have the pleasure of enjoying during their respective record breaking, and how comfortable do you suppose they were while doing it? I would surmise “hardly any” for the first, and “not one bit” for the latter.
Bottom line is that achieving a circumnavigation by sailboat—no matter how long it takes or how many stops in port along the way, is the sailor’s equivalent of Mount Everest. In fact, only about 300 people complete a circumnavigation in a given year. Less than 300 people have completed the voyage solo, starting with Nova Scotia native Joshua Slocum, who sailed around the world alone on a 36.9-foot gaff rigged sloop from April 1895-June 1898. Far fewer have done it non-stop.
Given that my wife doesn’t enjoy overnight passage making, it appears that my bucket-list circumnavigation is going to have to be solo. But I could care less about any records, and would thus make it a voyage to see the world and enjoy the sailing—“non-stop” be damned. And I doubt that I’d be solo all the time, as the wife and others have expressed the desire to fly into exotic ports of call to join me on occasion. The biggest challenge might be navigating a course that captures all the natural wonders of the world that I would love to see….
So perhaps there is a record I might be able to break after all. How about, slowest circumnavigation by sail?
—Originally Published by Slidemoor