With the VOR having kicked off leg one recently I’ve been thinking about the different kind of sailors I know. ..Rock star racing sailors, coastal cruisers, casual sailors, day sailors, dinghy sailors, dead serious sailors, drunken sailors, solo sailors, multihull and maverick sailors.
And then there’s me, the world’s worst sailor who for some strange reason has happened to spend many years on all sorts of sail boats. From classics to carbon fibre racing machines I’ve confounded many crew by making all kinds of boating blunder’s and sailing snafu’s. Only last week I tried to silence a B&G alarm by setting off the fire alarm, the week before I managed to get myself and a fender stuck between the spokes of the helm while trying to get the thing from starboard to port. “Fabulous fending Dani!” I’m happy enough chewing the fat on the rail, slurping gatorade and eating mini mars bars but don’t ask me to tie a bowline or fetch a boat hook from the fore peak ‘cos you’ll get both the blank look and the big eyes. (He wants what?) I don’t like hearing raised voices either. It frightens me and I think we’re about to sink.
All of you that have ever spent even one second on a yacht with me I can see you nod and I can hear you snigger. Seriously, all the way from Australia, so stop.
In any case it comes as no surprise that the world of ocean racing and solo sailors completely eludes though totally fascinates me. Like a homebody who gets Michael Palin to bring the world to their living room I regularly get 50 knot Southern Ocean swells right here on my Santa Catalina sofa by re reading Naomi James’ ‘Alone around the world’ and Moitessier’s ‘The long way’ and all while snuggled up in a thick fleece with frequent breaks not to have to adjust sails but to pad back and forth from the couch to the kettle in slippered feet.
Anyhow with this blog I’d like to give a shout out to my four favourite sailors and take my proverbial south western hat off to them by listing some of the super human and incredibly daunting things they’ve done while I was watching dvd’s and eating chocolate biscuits.
1) Let’s start with Dutch Laura Dekker who at an age where my main concerns were how to get out of P.E. and why my hair wasn’t straight started her 27,000 nautical mile voyage around the world. She was 16 when she finished her 518 day trip which made her the youngest person to have ever sailed solo around the globe. Laura Dekker was born aboard a yacht off the coast of New Zealand and first sailed solo at six years old, (six!) and at ten began dreaming about crossing the planet.. I love that during her trip she found a new hobby: playing the flute, which she said was easier to play than a guitar in bad weather!
2) Another female pioneer is seasickness suffer-ess Naomi James who was the first woman to circumnavigate the globe by herself. She completed her voyage on the 8th of June 1978 after having spent 272 days at sea. During the cruise, 16m ‘Express Crusader’, endured a few minor distresses like losing her mast, capsizing and having no radio for a couple of weeks, so small stuff really 😉 Actually Naomi James was not the sole soul aboard – she had a cat named Boris, which unfortunately fell over board off the coast of Africa.
3) One of my favourite Frenchies is long-distance sailor Bernard Moitessier who christened his 12m ketch Joshua in honour of Slocum. It was on this boat that Moitessier competed in the 1968 Sunday Times Golden Globe Race (predecessor of the Vendee Globe), making fantastic time, only to abandon the race near the end, blowing off the chance to win the first non-stop singlehanded round-the-world race. What? Yup, he kept on sailing halfway around the world again to Tahiti to “save his soul.” Without breaks and mostly in the roaring forties this voyage resulted in Moitessier setting the record for the longest nonstop passage, sailing a total of 37,455 nautical miles in 10 months.
4) Then there’s the colourful Jean Le Cam, he broke an Atlantic record in 1982, won the Transat in 1994, the 1,000 miles of Calais and is three times winner of the Figaro, so boasts a pretty serious sailing CV. He brought big smiles to everyone’s faces during the 2013 Vendee when we saw his dark curls go wilder everyday and met his set of soft animals who did the journey with him. We watched on webcam how they regularly fell over and how Le Cam would put them back in place while talking us through his days at the office. His gang of furry fluffies all made it up to the stage with him as well on arrival in Sables-d’Olonne. Gold.
Of course these amazing people and what they’ve done has helped shape what sailing and racing is today and although they couldn’t be more different to whom I am and what I can do I’d just like to finish of with mentioning that if you need someone to coil a line the wrong way around the winch, to speak on VHF without pushing the button or to repeatedly throw an increasingly heavy line not on the dock but in the water, look no further, I’m your woman. And while I tuck into a slice of hot pizza and crack open a smooth Rioja, the VOR guys and girls are gearing up for short sleeps, freeze dried food and wet and windy weather. I might take this vino out to the terrace but if it gets too nippy I’ll just slip back into my house, the one that never moves, moans, heels, slides or shudders.. Thank god.
Good luck all you VOR people, I admire you, you’re amazing!