The only Spanish sailor entered in the Global Solo Challenge, Juan Merediz, is courageously and passionately leading this campaign to fulfill his dream of completing a solo round-the-world circumnavigation. On this journey of dreams and hopes, his boat, Waypoint, is the first starting and reference point for this great project. “It’s the first time I have a boat, so imagine how much I’m in love with it.” Juan talks about and describes his boat openly, with the experience of a true sailor, and with all the passion that his Mediterranean heart can express. “I’m happy that my family is the primary support for me; it’s a great help,” indeed, the other pillar of his life is his family.
Juan had clear ideas about which boat to choose for the GSC, a first-generation Class40 Pogo 40S, the same model chosen by the French Gouin.
“I believe a Class40 is perfect, as it’s an ocean-going, fast, and easy-to-handle boat, but at the same time challenging if you want to fully make the most of its capabilities. I found this boat quite randomly on the Class40 website. I got in touch with the owner Cargo Damir, a Croatian entrepreneur, to whom I will always be grateful for his crucial help that has made it possible for me to be here today. I visited him in Split, and there was immediately great harmony between the two of us.”
Waypoint is Class40 number 69, designed by Finot-Conq and built at the Structures shipyard. It was the flagship of the yard in the years when it was introduced as a model. Merediz’s boat is a slightly modified Class40, sportier, optimized in terms of weight, and in its most competitive version. She has a good track record, having won the Quebec – Saint Malo in 2008, skippered by Halvard Mabire. It has made at least four other Atlantic crossings and many Mediterranean races, such as “Roma x 2” and the “500 x 2”. It has changed owners three times before landing in Spain.
“We are changing the flag from Croatian to Spanish, but I wanted to keep the name that Damir had given the boat, Waypoint, the same name as his boat rental business in Split. In fact, the Class40 was his, and he did not charter it out but used it for pleasure and competition. It was his jewel; he liked this boat a lot, and I think it’s right to continue to call her by her original name.”
Juan has brought the boat from Split and spent most of his time preparing her, making modifications mainly related to onboard electric systems. Other changes focused particularly on trimming, rudder angles, and mast trim, all for the purpose of making the boat as fast and safe as possible. Currently, Juan is working on the installation of five watertight compartments, as required by the race regulations.
Determined to prepare his boat to face every challenge and not just the extreme conditions of the Great South, Merediz aims to make his boat fast, safe, and well-balanced, regardless of the stretch of sea to be navigated. For Juan, the choice of the type of boat, which must maintain stability of course and speed, is fundamental for the safety and speed of the journey.
Waypoint maintains the distinctive features of a Class40. This 40-foot vessel, equivalent to 12.19 meters, boasts a maximum beam of 4.41 meters. Although considered a small-sized boat for a circumnavigation, it has a surprisingly large draft of 3 metres and a 19-metre tall mast. Whilst the hull is entirely built in fiberglass, Waypoint has a carbon mast and bowsprit, while the boom is made of aluminum. Its displacement, in terms of weight, is 4800 kg, making it an ideal choice for solo navigation.
Merediz, in addition to boasting a rich track record of ocean races and a role as a captain of pleasure boats, is also a sailmaker and personally oversaw the making of Waypoint’s sails. “After the mainsail and the jib broke, I found myself forced to replace them. The completely new mainsail was created with a membrane provided by PowerPlast, an Italian company from Ancona specialized in processing, assembly, and realization of fabric for future sails. I am immensely grateful to Piermario Timpanari and Alessandro Gherardi of PowerPlast, innovators and holders of significant patents in sail production. My mainsail is an astonishing creation, conceived and made specifically for my needs. For the jib, I adapted a sail from a larger boat. Additionally, I have a large 200-square-meter spinnaker and a code zero. I’m also using the other sails already on the boat, which are still in excellent condition.”
Juan is very pleased with the performance of his boat and finds she has several strong points.
“My boat has the ability to be very simple if circumstances require it. It’s seaworthy, resilient, and fast, but at the same time, if both the boat and the skipper are in suitable conditions, it’s very efficient. In a day, she can easily cover 240 miles, and speed is an important factor to manage low pressure systems and position oneself best. I’m in love with my boat. If I were to start my project from scratch again, I would still choose the same type of boat. It’s fantastic: easy to handle, but performant when I want to push more.”
The weakness, according to Merediz, lies more in the skipper who sometimes doesn’t understand the messages that the boat sends and in his ability to prepare it.
“Once at sea, there will be no more time for further modifications. Therefore, I am convinced that the preparation of the boat is absolutely crucial. What does preparation depend on? As always, on the budget available but not only, also on the ability to manage that money or the lack of it. However, in the end, you must be sure that there is no weak point because there can’t be any for a round-the-world trip. There can be aspects of the boat that are more or less efficient, but you can’t have doubts about a halyard, a rope, a sail, or the safety of the boat. A round-the-world trip is very long, so the most important part, not only for me but for any team, at any level, is always the preparation of the boat.”
In this perspective, Juan has focused the refit on safety and the optimization of the rudders and adjustments of the mast and maneuvers. “Focusing on safety, we paid particular attention to the buoyancy volume, and we increased it from 3 square meters to five. One of the crucial elements is also the five watertight compartments that we will install while taking the boat out for the final review. The rest involves preparing spaces for storage inside the boat more logically and efficiently. This way, I can move what is possible and make the boat balanced, fast, and safe.
Other modifications concern the optimization of the boat’s speed. I adjusted the angle of the rudders that were dragging too much, and this was a handicap. I reinforced and extended them to make their handling more sensitive and ergonomic. I adapted the sail adjustment to my taste, and the rest is about regular maintenance. I don’t have a real cabin on board, but I will have some sort of textile protection made with sail fabric.”
Juan has chosen not to modify or extend the coachroof, as other competitors with the same Class40 have done. This decision was made not only for budget reasons but also to limit the weight increase. Having already sailed in the Deep South, Juan is aware that much time is spent inside the boat due to the cold. Consequently, he designed a simple fabric protection, easily removable, allowing him to quickly adjust the sails and take shelter, avoiding long periods outside.
For energy management, Juan has opted for both renewable energy solutions and more classic ones. “I installed high-quality solar panels, replacing the old ones that were in poor condition. Currently, I have a theoretical capacity of 750 watts. In agreement with Marco Nannini, the organizer of the GSC, I decided to integrate a second alternator, which I have already ordered, to use the engine as a generator. I also contemplate using a wind generator, not having enough budget for a hydrogenerator, although I consider it a very good piece of equipment. Therefore, my strategy includes using a wind generator and solar panels when possible. In areas with low light, I will presumably rely on the diesel engine’s alternator. This will be my energy solution on board.”
Merediz, the only Spanish navigator in the Global Solo Challenge, truly wishes to chart a new course, still fraught with obstacles for him, hoping to see other Spanish sailors engage in endeavors of this level. Many people who believe in him and these values and want to fly the flag of Spain high are involved in his project.
“My team consists of many people who are supporting me, all in a very personal way. My family is the primary pillar of my support. It is very gratifying to have my son Hugo, 18 years old, by my side in preparing the boat. Hugo is acquiring skills, but mainly he is assisting me with routine tasks on the boat, such as cleaning the winches, entering and exiting the port, general work on the vessel, and training. The support of the whole family is fundamental in this challenge.”
“The GSC is not only the immense sacrifice that the race itself implies but also what lies behind it in the preparation for such an endeavor. Being able to commit with my father is a great inspiration to me, and in the end, it makes me realize that with dedication and tenacity, any dream we set our minds to can be achieved. It’s like a wave that pushes us all so that the project is shared, like a common dream,” comments Hugo, Juan’s son.
Juan’s partner, Rosa, also had a message for him: “I want to see you in A Coruña, for the second time, returning from your lifelong dream.” And she tries to extract a difficult promise to keep for a sailor: “And if possible… Then, stay home for a while.”