>Who will be the youngest to sail around alone?

>Jessica Watson, sailing around the world from Australia, has crossed the equator and back in the last few weeks and is now headed south on her way to The Horn, the southern most tip of South America.  You can follow her on Google Earth.  With more than 4,000 mile to go, she won’t be there for about a month.  The good news is that she should round The Horn in the middle of summer, good timing as it’s one of the nastiest places on earth to be on the water.   Jessica’s blog is apparently the most popular one in Australia and has a very loyal following, regularly getting 200+ comments on each post.  Interestingly, she seems to have an avid following of women. Perhaps it’s just all the “mothers” out there that are fretting about her and how she is doing.  At 16 years old there are many who feel there’s plenty to worry about as she makes her trip around alone.

Another young woman, Abby Sunderland, hopes to set a record and be the youngest to do a circumnavigation alone under sail, will soon leave from Encinada Mexico.  Abby, the daughter of a shipwright,  also has an older brother Zac who briefly held the record as the youngest to sail around alone. Abby decided when she was13 years old that she wanted to break her brother’s record.   No doubt, Abby was inspired by her older brother’s voyage.  If she is successful, at least she can keep the record in the family.

Jessica is making her voyage in a 30 year old classic sailoat design and Abby Sunderland, on a refurbished Open 40 ocean race boat.   As an interesting side note, Abby’s brother Zac was briefly the youngest to circumnavigate alone when he completed his voyage a few years ago at the age of 17.  His record was eclipsed just a few weeks later by someone from England who managed to finish shortly after Zac, and who was just a few months younger.

The part of this exercise that I find fascinating, setting aside the question of how young is too young, is that Jessica is making her attempt in a 30 year old design that is not capable of going much faster than 5-7 kts while Abby is going on a very modern design that is capable of speeds upwards of 25kts.   A key issue of all this will be if they are able to complete their voyage at all. I wonder if it may turn out to be the classic tortoise and the hare question.  Will Jessica’s slow, easy going, older design ultimately outrun a much faster, but tougher to sail, Open 40?   A key consideration will be fatigue as the faster boats are very hard on crew, and keeping spirits up and not breaking gear — or worse — is a major consideration in this sort of voyage.

This is an interview with Abby in Portmouth RI when she was purchasing her Open 40, erewhile Wild Eyes.  It gives you an idea of what sort of boat it is.

And this is a tour of Jessica’s boat, bumptiously Ella’s Pink Lady.  You can really see just how different these two boats are.

With regard to different designs, I can tell you that sailing our current boat Pandora, a modern SAGA 43, with a long waterline and fine entry is a very different experience than sailing our last boat, an older style design, Tartan  37′ with long overhangs and a shorter waterline.  Pandora’s motion is much less lively but does reqire more dilegence when it comes to reefing the sails to keep her sailing in her best trim.

Jessica’s boat Ella’s Pink Lady is a Sparkman & Stephens 34, a very seakindly design, more analogous to our T37, that’s been proven over many years of ocean sailing.  On the other hand, Abby’s Wild Eyes (the name certainly suggests a different temperament), is an extreme-purpose built boat designed to go as fast as possible.   Abby’s boat, built to the Open 40 class design, is a boat built to break records, but certainly not designed for comfort.  It’s all about getting there as fast as possible.  This link is an example of just what this class is all about.

Abby will be leaving soon from northern Mexico where she has moved the boat.  Her site isn’t fully functional yet but her blog is up and running. 

This will be an interesting pair of voyages to follow in the coming months.

Oh, and one more thing…

This video of the BMW Oracle new racing yacht that’s going to compete in the America’s Cup soon.  Now, this is what real money will buy.  Is this what the America’s Cup is all about?   Perhaps not, but it’s fun to look at.

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