There are many different ways to sail around the world. Toby Hodges talks to World ARC crews in Colombia to find out how they prepared for the adventure
The World ARC is a 25,000nm whistlestop tour of the globe, equivalent to cramming a lifetime of cruising into a year, and the organisers smooth the way with paperwork and guidelines and a planned itinerary. But it’s still a circumnavigation and each boat is on its own out at sea.
It was an ideal opportunity to find out how skippers prepare for such intense liveaboard cruising on a sail around the world. What extra equipment did they need? What spares did they carry? And what made them decide to go in the first place?
Here are six very different case studies, from the thoroughly prepared to the last-minute entry. Skippers offer their advice to those who might aspire to do the same.
1. 25 years in the planning
Oyster 575, Juno
In the chart table of the Oyster 575 Juno there is a faded brochure of a 1986 Holman & Pye Oyster 55. Since Paul Frew picked it at the Southampton Boat Show he has dreamt of sailing an Oyster round the world. “So you could say I was planning this for 25 years,” he declares.
“It helps to have a boat in mind as it becomes something you imagine and focus on,” Paul’s wife, Caroline, adds. “It makes it more tangible.”
The Frews have owned a series of cruising yachts, from a 22ft monohull to a 52ft Catana catamaran, but Paul Frew insists these were just a “dress rehearsal” for his Oyster. They purchased Juno a year after her launch in 2011.
Frew is one of the most meticulous and well-prepared owners you could hope to meet. He has a spare for almost everything on board, “to the Dyson and Nespresso machine,” he says. He mentions an entire auxiliary autopilot, for example, including course computer and pilot drive, ready to “bring on at the flick of a switch”.
His advice for those preparing to go long-distance cruising is to spend as much prep time as possible. “I wrote everything down: lists and lists, so that I knew I had done as much as I could,” he explains.
Frew’s meticulous preparation of Juno can be linked to his career; he was a venture capitalist and ran a software business. “I have applied myself to this as I have to my job in the past,” he says. “I do all the jobs I can on board myself so I know if something goes wrong I can fix it.” I heard similar advice from several owners. “I worked my way through all the main systems and carry spares for everything – really because I’m not an engineer so I want to be prepared.”
These words will resonate with many. As yachts and their systems get larger and more complex they may actually put people off going long-distance sailing. But Frew gets a kick out of fixing things, proudly explaining how he changed the top swivel and bearings on his inmast furling.
He cites crew as the most complicated logistic to arrange. Juno will be crewed by five most of the time, all good friends. “We know them and know we won’t fall out,” says Frew. “It’s not all about sailing experience, you must be able to get on with your crew.”
Frew says he wouldn’t have done anything differently. “Juno is the right size and I know her inside-out. There is masses of space, but we can handle her with two. I worked my way through all the systems so I’m as prepared as I can be without being complacent.”
2. Loaded with technology
Amel 54, A Plus 2
A Plus 2 had to be one of the most lavishly equipped of the World ARC yachts I saw. Owner Jean Metz had loaded his Amel 54 with equipment. His navstation is like a meteorology centre; there are eight different independent chart systems, with eight GPS receivers, plus paper charts and a sextant. “I think I have every one on the market,” laughs Metz. He carries three computers, two spare laptops, three iPads, three routers, a wi-fi booster, and three different satphones including Fleet Broadband and an Iridium handheld.
His reasoning is intriguing. “I don’t want to be bored by electronics,” he says. “When something goes wrong I get out another one and come back to fix the broken one another time.” Fair enough!
Jean and Christiane Metz are French nationals who live in the Swiss mountains. Semi-retired from the pharmaceutical industry, they are keen skiers. Jean also races prototype cars in endurance events around Europe. They are sailing the World ARC by themselves. “Endurance car racing and off-piste skiing helped me prepare for it,” says Metz. “I like so-called risky things, but if you are really prepared for that then you know more or less where the main risks are.”
“We worked on safety a lot,” he adds, showing me how he made up a series of short inboard jackstays for safety on deck. “I’m critical of normal-length jackstays, because they extend enough to allow you to hang overboard. So like in the mountains we use two lines on short inboard wires, so that you are always clipped on by one.”
Before the ARC in Las Palmas, Metz was surprised how unprepared some yacht crews were. “You don’t take your car and go and do Le Mans straight away.” For his preparation, Metz spent six hours a day for a year.
The principal things he added were twin poles and a hydrogenerator. “Now we can pole out the genoa and gennaker and do up to 15 knots downwind – and comfortably go 15° each side of 180°.” As well as the Watt & Sea generator Metz also added six 100W solar panels which, when combined, supplies half the energy they need.
“But with three computers and three satphones, the genset still runs six hours a day!”
3. The traditional ocean cruiser
Rival 38, Luna Quest
It was the eve of Eric Faber’s 72nd birthday when I spoke to him and he told me he had always dreamt of doing a circumnavigation. When his wife died two years ago he decided it was time to set sail.
He planned to sail across the Atlantic and back solo, but on meeting Yorkshire-born Julia Horner in the Caribbean, Faber found a partner who wanted to continue west with him.
“I wanted an ocean-going boat that was not too large to prevent me from doing it alone,” he says. An encapsulated keel and tiller steering topped his list and he found Luna Quest in Turkey ten years ago. The running rigging was replaced, new sails added, the engine fully serviced and the boat rewired, so she now looks in mint condition.
Faber carries a Hydrovane, a wind generator, solar panels and two towed generators so he need never run the engine for power.