New Contessa 26 Book


A new book published for the 50th Anniversary of the Contessa 26 (the type of vessel I sailed around the world! …A few excerpts regarding my ‘lap’ below 😉

“…The first 50 years is a milestone in anyone’s terms, but for a boat design to achieve all she has and still be very active as a class is very significant.  The Contessa 26 conceived by Jeremy Rogers in his yard in Lymington is as actively cruised, raced and loved by its owners now as it was when it first burst onto the sailing scene in 1966.

As part of the celebrations to commemorate the history of this amazing little yacht the UK Contessa Class Association will publish a 96 page full color hardback book compiled from owners contributions in time for the AGM in Lymington on the 14th November 2015 at the RLYC…”

…Much more in the book about the many other sailors that have used the Contessa for their own dreams!


…The youngest solo world girdler in those days was Brian (BJ) Caldwell. His boat, Mai Miti Vavau, was another of J.J.Taylor’s Canadian boats. When I asked Caldwell why he chose a Contessa 26, he replied. “…Because it was the best value for a solo boat for the budget I had at the time. I was looking at an Albin Vega 27 but it was more expensive and didn’t come with as much equipment such as a wind vane and solar panels.


I had a top day of 186 nautical miles while sailing northwest of the Galapagos Islands and my next best were across the Indian Ocean when I had consecutive 140-146 nautical mile days.”  But, unlike Tania, Caldwell was already an experienced sailor. He had started ocean voyaging when just 9 years old, cruising aboard his Father’s yacht.

He said:
“After growing up cruising in the South Pacific with my family, we returned to our home-port in Honolulu when I was 15 years old. My dream was to keep sailing, so I set my sights on the record for the World’s youngest solo circumnavigation. In 1995, exactly one hundred years after Joshua Slocum’s departure (on the first ever solo circumnavigation) I departed. Sixteen months and 27,000 miles later, I became the youngest solo circumnavigator.”

Caldwell’s’ voyage really stands out because of the speed with which he achieved it; a testimony to his own determination and the Contessa’s extraordinary performance capabilities. He covered the first 3,400 miles leg in 34 days. The next 4,400 miles took just 40 days as he and his Contessa 26 sped into the record books.

BJ Caldwell made his mark on the Class and the world by becoming the youngest sailor to complete a solo circumnavigation .

He writes:
Once I’d decided to go for the youngest solo circumnavigation, it was time to find the ‘tool’ or rather, the boat for the voyage. Instead of re-inventing the wheel, it would need to be a balance of proven reliability and a meagre budget to maximize my chances of leaving on schedule and finishing before my 21st birthday.


Thus, when we found a Contessa 26 for sale in Hawaii that
also included a Monitor wind-vane and solar panels for the right price – $10,000 – it was a no-brainer…The fact the design had already completed a solo circumnavigation with Tania Aebi was a major factor in to her pedigree.

She served me well, enduring a rollover in the Indian Ocean near Mauritius, and a proper gale off the coast of South Africa. Whenever there was any wind, she would always make a 100 + mile/24 hour run which enabled me to sail 4,400-nautical miles nonstop from Vanuatu to Cocos Keeling in 40-days. My best day’s run was 186-nautical miles with favourable current and multiple 140+ nautical mile days without current.

My circumnavigation with ‘pit-stops’ lasted 16-months all up with 264-days sailing time in total. While I later owned an Albin Vega 27 and currently an S&S 34, the Contessa 26 was the perfect solution for a small budget to empower the dream of cutting the dock- lines with limited finances at a young age. Would I do that 16-month circumnavigation again with Maimitivavau? Absolutely, perhaps a hundred more times…Once is truly not enough!



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