An article today in the local Australian newspaper about the giant welcome being organized for 16-year-old Jessica Watson in three weeks on Sydney Harbor when she will become the new youngest solo circumnavigator got me to thinking back to my recent meeting with David Dicks in Perth and our own trips that now seem like a hundred years ago but were actually only fifteen…
…A long time to me considering I was 19 at the time! Here’s a sample of a draft, I’ll contribute more in the months ahead…
‘’Give me a spirit that on this life’s rough sea
Loves to have his sails filled with a lusty wind,
Even till his sailyards tremble, his mast cracks
And his rapt ship runs on her side so low
That she drinks water, and her keel plows air.”
Conspiracy of Charles, Duke of Bryron
Moonlit waves, cast afire by the prince of tides – the moon and her soul-mate – the starlit sky, conspire to waver my resolve to stop and claim the fabled age record. For me, the pursuit of a record is the means to a more ominous but gratifying cape to round, befriending that stranger of the subcubconscious…the ‘real’ me.
For sixteen months, I’ve been a constant sentinel to nature’s magic. The growing intoxication with this simple existence at sea, allows me to forget the finish and to savor what remains of the world. The call of the sea had blinded me years before, ever since I’d stepped back ashore as a young boy. To cope with land, I’d cherished and developed my passion. My love through much evolution – like a pearl, became something others would pay to see through.
To find my way home to the sea, I had to do ‘it’ younger than anyone that had gone before. My passion had to become something of a hard physical currency, to satisfy the hungers of the material world. They needed tangible proof of my devotion. To justify the wager, they needed the inspirational value of a first, or rather, the water smudged marks of a world record.
To reclaim the happiness I’d long remembered, I would have to discriminate far too many stops in beautiful places for the sake of a time record. The money was on the table – to see me circle the Earth younger than anyone in the history of sail, and I couldn’t have been happier!
…Now twenty thousand miles later, I nurse “Mai-Miti” through her longest passage.
Passing north of the Galapagos Islands, steep waves crash down the length of the deck as we crawl upwind. The only way to progress in the face of the unfavorable seas, wind direction and current is to push my hard-driven bride near one hundred percent. But I try not to push Mai Miti past her tolerance as one critical gear failure could spell the finish of the record.
I prefer to spend my excess time advantage over Robin Lee-Graham’s record to better insure a successful finish. It was French triple solo round the world race winner – Christophe Auguin who said, “only push when you must”.
While I pace myself on the last stage, I dream of a circumnavigation without stops. The proximity of the finish dictates our heading but it’s the voyage i’ve come to love.
For the moment i have a several thousand mile lead over 17-year old Australian David Dicks from Perth, Western Australia. An ocean in back of me in the Atlantic, David and his S&S 34 – “Seaflight”, were rounding the ‘antipodal’ (halfway) mark of their nonstop circumnavigation at Bermuda, during the middle of hurricane season.
As David threaded his way past several storms, the pronounced rotation of developing cyclones was discernible on the weather maps north of me…with still five thousand miles to reach ‘home’.
One hundred years after the first solo circumnavigation of the world by Joshua Slocum in 1895-98, a global race was underway between two teenage sailors. Chances were that we’d both lower Robin Lee Graham’s 21-year age mark for circumnavigating the world alone. When you got right down to it, it never really was just never the record that got us out there in the first place but rather simpily being at sea -no matter, David Dicks and I were in a race to do so – one going eastward and the other west…
*Official records cross all meridians of longitude, the equator twice, are completely solo without ever taking aboard crew and approved by the:
(WSSRC) ‘World Sailing Speed Record Council)
Outright Youngest Solo Circumnavigation Records as of 2010: http://www.worldsailingrecords.com
“3 X Americans, 3 X Australians & 1 British”
1970 – American Robin Lee Grahm, 5 year circuit, age 16-21 (Official youngest with stops)
1996 – American Brian Caldwell, 16-month circuit, 19-20 (Outright Youngest with stops)
1996 – Australian David Dicks, 8 month circuit, 17-18 (Outright Youngest solo & nonstop with assistance)
1999 – Australian Jesse Martin, 10 month circuit, 17-18 (youngest solo nonstop without assistance – not outright)
2009 – American Zac Sunderland 1 year circuit, 16-17 (Outright Youngest with stops)
2009 – British Mike Perham 1-year circuit, 16-17 (Outright Youngest with stops / *several months younger than Zac)
2010 – *Pending: 2010 Australian Jessica Watson 8-month circuit – Outright youngest solo, nonstop & unassisted- age-16