Hey everyone, in case you haven’t seen or heard yet about the latest feat of offshore sailing, we want to let you know because it is pretty amazing.
A new solo around the world record has been set. 42 days 16 hours, 40 minutes, and 35 seconds set by Francois Gabart aboard the maxi-tri Macif a couple of months ago. That is right, around the world sailing solo in 42 days almost 43 days.
Skippering the 30m MACIF trimaran, Gabart crushed the previous time taken by Thomas Coville on December 25 2016 (49 days, 3 hours, 4 minutes and 28 seconds) by 6 days, 10 hours, 23 minutes and 53 seconds.
The MACIF trimaran will have covered a true distance of 27,859.7 miles, with a true average over this course of 27.2 knots.
He spent 42 days alone at sea, but for Frenchman Francois Gabart it was a lightning dash as he became the fastest person to sail solo non-stop around the world.
The fastest time for sailing solo around the world in a monohull is 74 days three hours 35 minutes, set by Frenchman Armel Le Cleac’h in winning the 2016-2017 Vendee Globe.
How many people have ever sailed solo around the world?
A solo circumnavigation is arguably the ultimate expression of self-sufficient seamanship and endurance, just as it is (for many) the ultimate expression of pure competition and a pinnacle of semi-masochistic adventure.
And the fact is that sailing single-handed non-stop round the world continues to be a very rare feat. To date, less than 500 people in history have ever accomplished it. With good reason: the mammoth skill and arduousness of keeping a boat going in all conditions without any help.
Getting started in solo sailing
Once the decision is made to sail shorthanded, the main thing to concentrate on is the ease of handling of your boat. You will be assuming all the roles: skipper, dial trimmer, navigator, bow-person, engineer and chef. The ultimate goal is to make each of these positions as simple for yourself as possible. One of the best ways to figure out where to begin this process is to go out on your boat on a calm day and go through the motions of sailing the boat as if you were racing or cruising; hoisting sails, steering, trimming and navigating and see where you run into problems. Can you reef your mainsail by yourself? Is the spinnaker pole too much to handle on your own? Can you reach the sheeting positions from the helm?
Generally speaking, if you’ve never gone out shorthanded before, this first outing may be a disaster. Simple things – like not being able to reach the main traveler while you’re steering – can be very problematic when you’re by yourself, so take notes as you flail around and start investigating ways to make your life simpler.
These changes may be as simple as moving a halyard clutch or two or a little more involved such as converting to a single-line reefing system; the goal throughout should be to make the boat easier to sail. Your local loft can also help you with this list and ideas how to best solve the problems and set the boat up for solo sailing.
Safety and communication
Sailing without a full complement of crew creates serious safety considerations that must be considered. There is always increased risk involved with fewer hands than normal on board whether it’s a solo weekend trip or a solo ocean crossing. Jacklines (stout webbing straps running bow to stern that are clipped into the tether on your harness) should always be in place and used even in the calmest weather. The advice “One hand for you, one hand for the boat” should be followed to the letter. It’s also important to make sure you have the appropriate life preserver for the conditions and events. This might involve investing in a few designs for different circumstances and weather. There are pros and cons to the different styles of deck vests, so do your research and consult a specialist to decide which ones will be right for you.
You will also want to create a sail and communication plan and share it with a trusted contact on shore. A sail plan should include a rough estimate of where you plan to sail along with an estimated time line. It should also include a communication and check-in plan, as well as an agreed upon course of action should you fail to check in. Onboard wifi and satellite phones, while more expensive, are reliable methods of communications if you’ll be far offshore, otherwise, a trusty cell phone can do the trick (Just make sure you have battery!)
Before venturing out, consider attending one of the Cruising Club of America’s Safety at Sea Seminars (a requirement for many popular offshore races such as Newport-Bermuda or the Transpac) where you will learn about the basics you’ll need for staying safe offshore.
Going solo doesn’t mean going alone
Finally, one major misconception about singlehanded and shorthanded sailors is that they’re introverted loners who go it alone for a variety of escapist reasons when in truth, you would be hard pressed to find a more supportive and engaging group of men and women who are always happy to share their knowledge with newcomers. Getting involved with local shorthanded sailing clubs like the P.S.S.A. on the west coast and the Bermuda 1-2 community in the northeast is a great way to meet like-minded sailors and ease your way into this type of sailing.
Singlehanded and shorthanded sailing is a unique challenge that is not to be taken lightly but one that will push you as far as you are willing to go. For some, that could be a solo passage to Bermuda and for others it could be as simple as going for a day sail without any assistance. Whatever your motivation, it’s a special kind of sailing that can be highly addictive and extremely satisfying. Consider yourself warned.
As you see from all involved in solo sailing, you can appreciate how amazing that Francois Gabart sailed solo around the world in a record shattering 42 days, 16 hours, and 40 minutes is spectacular.
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