Alex Ransby, who's suffering from juvenile onset arthritis, is making final preparations for his non-stop, singlehanded, round the world voyage
To sail singlehanded non-stop around the world is unanimously regarded as the Everest of sailing, yet when he sets off on 16 November 2002, Alex Ransby aims to become the first disabled person to accomplish this awesome feat. Alex has been suffering from juvenile onset arthritis since his early teens (Ankylosing Spondylitis). It is a chronic degenerative disease that effects the major joints of the body; in Alex’s case this will result in the need for a hip replacement operation shortly after completing his epic voyage.
Alex Ransby is a qualified boatbuilder and accomplished yachtsman. Having sailed since childhood, he has always dreamed of sailing around the world. Keen not to be beaten by his condition and all too aware of the problems faced by fellow sufferers, Alex recognises that by realising his dream, he can offer hope and inspiration to the 40,000 youngsters in the UK alone, who must live with arthritis every day of their lives. Alex says: “By sailing around the world alone, I hope to encourage young people everywhere to reach for their dreams with confidence in the belief that anything is possible.”
Alex will be sailing Hipjoint, the 40ft yacht he designed and built. She is similar in many aspects to Aqua Quorum, Pete Goss’s Open 50 that achieved notoriety during the 1996-7 Vendee Globe race when she and her skipper dramatically rescued a fellow competitor in a Southern Ocean storm. This similarity is no coincidence. Aqua Quorum was designed with the understanding that the singlehanded sailor is always the weak link in the relationship between man and boat: Alex having sailed the famous ‘little yellow boat’ and wanted the layout on Hipjoint to be familiar and easy to use. The hull has been constructed using Canadian Red Cedar and uses SP Systems epoxy to minimize weight. With a 3m keel and a 20m fractional rig, she will prove a fast and powerful boat. The hull is divided into watertight bulkheads meaning that the living space is far smaller that on most 40ft boats. Some state-of-the-art technology will be helping Alex on his journey: electronic navigational charts and weather routing software provided by Seatrack, will assist his voyage planning while regular transmissions via a Sat C terminal managed by Oceanweb will enable followers to view his position at regular intervals throughout the day. On board GMDSS can be activated in an emergency alerting coastguards and nearby vessels to distress and should on board power be lost, a backup EPIRB supplied by Jotron would continue to assist any SAR operation though Alex hopes that these are purely precautionary measures.
The route will take Alex and H.S.A. Hipjoint down the west coast of Africa, round the cape of Good Hope and then into the Southern Ocean, rounding Cape Horn and a further 1,000 miles of the Southern Ocean before sprinting across the Atlantic to home.
This route is the fastest, but also the toughest and means he must venture into the most inhospitable environment on earth – The Southern Ocean. All year round, murderous low-pressure systems form on the frozen continent of Antarctica and as these huge storms track east, unchecked, they whip up mountainous waves and Icebergs are a continual threat.
As part of his sea trials, Alex and H.S.A. Hipjoint will sail along the south coast with stops in Brighton, Plymouth and Bristol at the end of October. The Grand Departure is scheduled to take place on 16 November from Gunwharf Quay in Portsmouth, subject to weather conditions. Two lifeboats, each with places for 10 people, will escort Hipjoint out of the Solent.
Throughout Alex’s voyage, there will be several means of following his progress: Hipjoint is fitted with an Oceantracker, enabling interested parties to see her position on a chart on the internet. The data will be automatically updated four times a day, but authorised users can make individual polls in real time. Alex will carry an Iridium phone and will keep in daily contact with his shore team. The voyage will also be documented on video and digital camera and Alex has secured a publishing deal with Penguin for a book upon his return.
The partners are all parties who have contributed to the project, be it in form of financial or equipment sponsorship, or time and effort to make things happen.
H.S.A (health insurance)
Chichester Nuffield Hospital (part of not-for-profit network of 43 hospitals)
Wyeth / Centrum mulitivitamins
Seafresh (food retailers)
Equipment and services sponsors
SP systems (composite material technology)
Lewmar (specialist deck fittings)
OceanWeb (global marine Internet and communications solutions)
Southern Spar Services of Southampton
Joseph Thompson of Sunderland
Jotron (marine safety electronics)
The Shout Experience (corporate hospitality)
Henry Lloyd (clothing)
Dee Cee Upholstery (bespoke upholstery)
Belstone Fox Marketing & PR