About The skipper
Where does your passion for sailing come from?
I grew up near the coast in South Africa and have had an affinity with the sea for as long as I can remember. I was largely self taught and crewed for free for tens of thousands of miles because I had such a passion to sail. My first experience of extreme sailing conditions was while sailing off Mozambique, where storm force winds and the prospect of no rescue service made it very real. But rather than feeling scared, I felt in awe and it ignited a spark in me which I have carried with me ever since. I always dreamt of owning my own boat after crewing on other people’s boats, and realising I had an aptitude for it.
What lessons have you learnt from sailing?
You are never in control… but you manage risk.. and a sailor is always learning. Another valuable lesson was told to me by a famous old school sailor/pirate who said ´the sea is your friend, stay away from the land´… and over the years I have come to realise this!
What brought you to like single-handed sailing?
It has been a childhood dream, I enjoy the solitude and making my own decisions. Joshua Slocum’s book was very inspiring and I’ve always wanted to follow in his footsteps and have similar adventures. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much experience because of life commitments but I hope this can change!
What prompted you to sign up for this event?
I bought my boat to sail solo around the world, 16 years ago! However, not long after, I met my future wife and had children, which meant I had to put my dream on hold. I felt it would have been irresponsible to give up my job and financially commit to such a major project….until now. Having an event like this has given me the opportunity to do it.
How do you plan to prepare for this event?
I’m comfortable on the sea and with sailing in general, so my preparation is more focused on getting my boat ready… The boat requires a full refit, which I will do myself. In addition, I have lived with rheumatoid arthritis for 25 years. Although it is well managed with medication, and has not affected my ability to work in the yachting industry, I also have to be realistic and ensure that my health is as good as it can be and that my doctor is supporting this venture.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge?
Getting the boat ready is going to be a huge challenge…it has been sitting in a shipyard in Ireland since 2006 and has not had any maintenance in that time. Managing my RA at sea will be difficult, but I believe that this will be as much a mental challenge as physical. Remaining psychologically strong will be critical to push through the difficult times. During the race, I think attrition will be a big factor for all competitors, so not pushing too hard is, in my mind, going to be crucial, because finishing the race is the most important thing.
Tell us about your boat or the boat you would like to have.
My boat is an old aluminium cutter built in Argentina in 1978, German Frers design. She is very sea-worthy and rumour has it, she was built for the Argentinian Navy Whitbread team. As soon as I saw her, I knew I had to buy her, even though she was in a poor state of repair. I could see the potential.
Do you intend to link this personal challenge with a social message?
I have had Rheumatoid Arthritis for half of my life, so I would hope that by doing this, anyone who suffers from an auto-immune disease and sees or hears about my efforts might realise that life can still be lived, even when the pain is bad and you can’t imagine doing anything other than staying in bed! I hope to work with my RA specialist and bring a message of hope and inspiration to other sufferers… I guess if there are any people who have sailed solo around the world with RA, the numbers would be very few and far between.. perhaps I would be one of the very few who have sailed non stop solo around the world with a handicap like this.
Sailing Milestones and Palmares
I have been fortunate in my work as a Super-yacht Captain to sail to many beautiful destinations on beautiful yachts, both power and sail, in all the major oceans of the world, but not a lot of racing. Generally my sailing life has been about keeping very expensive yachts in good condition, and not breaking them, which is the polar opposite of what racing sailors do! Hopefully that will be a help in finishing the circumnavigation, and as the saying goes, you can be the fastest boat on the water, but it means nothing if you don’t finish.