August 1, 2010

Which record next?

HERE WE GO AGAIN. A Dutch court has okayed 14-year-old Laura Dekker’s bid to become the youngest person to sail around the world. The court virtually handed over responsibility to her parents — and I don’t think there’s any possibility that her parents will hinder her ambition. At this point, young Laura does not plan to make it a non-stop voyage in her 38-foot ketch, however.

The youngest non-stopper so far is Australian Jessica Watson, of course, who was 16 when she sailed her S&S 34 back into Sydney a few weeks ago. Her rival, you will recall, was 16-year-old Abby Sunderland, of California, who had to abandon her Open 40 in the Southern Ocean after a capsize and dismasting.

I expect this urge to be the youngest will eventually tend to be self-correcting. You may remember that a 7-year-old girl who was attempting to establish a flying record was killed, along with her father and instructor, when her Cessna stalled and crashed after take-off at Cheyenne Airport. Similarly, there is presumably an age at which children are not capable of sailing around the world alone. I guess Laura Dekker and the rest of them are going to help us to establish it.

You’d think humans have been sailing around in boats for long enough now that all the records would be well established. After all, the grand-daddy of them all, Joshua Slocum, was the first person to sail around the world alone and he did it well over 100 years ago. But no, people keep trying new stuff.

Webb Chiles, for example, solo-sailed his 18-foot Drascombe Lugger, Chidiock Tichborne, almost all the way around the world — and she was a dinghy, an open boat without any pretense of a cabin. Chiles was a man who knew how to suffer.

And then Australian Serge Testa sailed his home-built, 12-foot, aluminum boat, Acrohc Australis (Southern Thing) clean around the world alone in the 1980s. It took him 500 days. She is still the smallest sailboat boat to circumnavigate.

But Testa’s cockleshell was quite a big boat compared with Hugo Vilhen’s. In 1993, Vilhen crossed the Atlantic in a boat just 5 feet 4 inches long.

And now we have Alessandro di Benedetto claiming the record for the smallest boat to sail non-stop around the world. Di Benedetto, born in France of Italian parents, took 270 days to complete the circumnavigation in a 21-foot Mini racer called Findomestic Banca. The interesting thing is that she was dismasted in ferocious weather west of Chile as she was approaching Cape Horn. In a commendable feat of seamanship, Di Benedetto managed to rig a 20-foot jury mast that took him all the way back home to France.

What’s next? Well, despite all the records, the field is still wide open. How about the smallest boat with the youngest skipper in the fastest time, non-stop, with eyes closed and hands tied behind back? It’s getting to that ludicrous stage, isn’t it?

Today’s Thought
Government and co-operation are in all things the laws of life; anarchy and competition the laws of death.
— John Ruskin

Boaters’ Rules of Thumb #77
Flag dimensions. Your ensign should be 1 inch on the fly (horizontal) for every foot of boat length overall. The hoist (vertical) should be about two-thirds of the fly. The staff needs to be about twice the length of the hoist. Courtesy flags should be about 5/8 inch on the fly for each foot of boat length.

“Hi Fred. Sorry to hear your business burned down yesterday.”
“Hush, man! Not yesterday. Tomorrow, man, tomorrow.”


oztayls said...

What's next? Mmmm, a really good one will be to circumnavigate the globe with a boat that can't change tacks. That would really impress me.

Which tack would you choose?

Aaron Headly said...

Some families have a less competitive approach to cruising:
Crafton family enjoys rare closeness after seven years together at sea

I would have loved to grow up like that.