Combine a passion for sailing and the dream of circumnavigating the globe with the 40-year experience of a Bulgarian professional sailor and skipper, add a high-performance and sturdy boat like the Farr 45, and you get Pavlin Nadvorni‘s project aboard Espresso Martini for the Global Solo Challenge.
Pavlin’s passion for the sea has deep roots that trace back to his childhood. “I began sailing when I was just eight years old, and now, at 55, I can say it’s been a 47-year journey. The Global Solo Challenge has been a dream that has accompanied me for almost my entire life. Both my career as a professional skipper and my unconditional love for sailing have naturally led me here. The desire to circumnavigate the world solo has always been a constant companion. Despite the thousands of miles I’ve sailed, equivalent to about five trips around the world, this journey holds a special place in my heart..”
Nadvorni was one of the first competitors to sign up for the GSC in January 2021, drawn by the event format that suited his character and vast experience. “Other races had crossed my path, but none truly captured my heart. I was looking for a balance between traditional navigation with a sextant and challenges like the Vendée Globe. When the Global Solo Challenge was announced, I realized it was the perfect choice for me. Within a week, I assessed the logistical, financial, and personal aspects and signed up.”
The Bulgarian skipper crossed paths with his boat, Espresso Martini, even before conceiving the idea of participating in the 2023 Global Solo Challenge. The story of how Pavlin came to find this boat is captivating and has undoubtedly cemented a deep and special bond between them.
“After the storm Emma that had devastated the United Kingdom, I read an advertisement on eBay offering a boat stranded on rocks in North Wales. Even though I already had three boats, including a Beneteau purchased the previous year, something compelled me to contact the recovery company. Incredibly, the boat had escaped severe damage, resting on its cradle at Pwllheli. After an on-site inspection, I closed the deal and made the necessary repairs. Together with other friends, experienced sailors, we sailed to Bulgaria. The boat performed exceptionally well, even in the challenging conditions we encountered in the Mediterranean. Had it remained in Wales, it probably would have been destroyed due to the high repair costs. But now it’s here. It’s extraordinary and will take me sailing around the world.”
The name of Pavlin’s boat hides a rather amusing story and reveals much about the life philosophy of this Bulgarian skipper. His entire project can be likened to a winning cocktail. “Before I bought the boat, it was already named Espresso Martini. So, being the superstitious sailor that I am, I didn’t want to change it and asked the previous owner if I could keep the original name. He agreed, as long as I changed the flag, which I already wanted to do.”
“The “Espresso Martini” is a cocktail made from vodka, espresso, and other coffee-based liqueurs, and we’ve prepared it several times onboard. I’ve always liked this name for the lightness and carefreeness it expresses. The same way, in my opinion, one should face life, accepting our imperfections and recognizing that no one is infallible. The only perfection is found in a higher being, somewhere distant from our world. The boat’s name perfectly reflects this philosophy of mine. That’s why it was so important for me to keep it.”
Espresso Martini is a 1997 Farr 45, born from the genius of Bruce Farr, a New Zealand naval architect who left an indelible mark on the sailing world. Built by Carroll Marine in the United States, Espresso Martini’s design gave it a sturdy and durable structure. Bruce Farr, active for over five decades, innovated yacht design, transitioning from dinghies in the ’60s to becoming a global leader in the design of racing and cruising boats. With successes in the America’s Cup and the Whitbread Round the World Race, and collaborations with prestigious shipyards like Beneteau and Jeanneau, Farr is a legend in his field, even honored with the Order of the British Empire. Thanks to his innovative design and the CAD technology he embraced from the outset, his designs continue to dominate international sailing events.
“I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Farr Design Studio. When we carried out the first refit of the boat once we arrived in Bulgaria, they were incredibly helpful and prompt in providing us with all the information we needed, such as drawings and certificates. Their support was crucial. Making modifications without having the boat’s original drawings would have been extremely complicated.”
Espresso Martini was originally conceived as a crewed racing boat, and not specifically for solo oceanic competitions. Therefore, during the preparations for the GSC, Pavlin had to make compromises to adapt it to a challenge of this magnitude.
“I approached the preparation of my boat starting from the principle that it’s more important to complete a race than to worry about the ranking. There will be many weather challenges in the round-the-world journey, and you must be able to rely on your boat. For me, the priority is to have a solid boat rather than one that is exclusively fast and competitive. So, safety and reliability are fundamental for me.”
Pavlin’s Farr 45 is made of kevlar, with a mast, boom, spinnaker poles, and bowsprit in carbon fiber. “During the first refit between 2018 and 2019, I got to know the construction materials in-depth. In preparation for the GSC, I ensured that the boat complied with the regulations and also reinforced points that I considered critical. These modifications increased the boat’s original weight by about 600 kilograms, especially after making improvements and reinforcements to the five watertight bulkheads. Initially, for crewed races, I had added two spinnaker poles. Now I’ve installed a bowsprit to use gennakers, while still keeping the two spinnaker poles onboard.”
Pavlin also reinforced the entire deck, originally a sandwich construction. He particularly strengthened the bow section and the area immediately behind the mast, inserting frames made from a mix of carbon fiber and kevlar. This helped make both the hull and the deck more resilient, reducing the risk of damage from violent impacts. He also added a baby stay, with the consequent installation of a chainplate near the first bulkhead. Lastly, he had to significantly reinforce the area near the stern to accommodate the auxiliary windvane steering and the support for the heavy Solas life raft, mandatory by the GSC rules.
“Initially, I had considered the idea of installing a rigid sprayhood, a fiberglass roof laminated directly onto the deck, and I had even already built it. However, reflecting on the scenario where a ten-meter-high wave could flood the cockpit with five tons of water, I began to doubt its structural strength and pondered the potential risk of damage to the underlying deck. In the end, I opted for a fabric sprayhood, putting safety first.”
The Bulgarian skipper, at the beginning of the refit for the GSC, faced another significant question: Keep the wheel or change it to tiller? “Due to the boat’s structure, opting for a tiller would have required significant structural changes, like moving the mainsheet traveler on the deck, from its current position at the base of the cockpit. On the other hand, I see various advantages in the wheel to steer the boat: it offers extra protection for the skipper, reducing the risk of falling overboard, makes the boat more manageable in extreme conditions, and provides steerability in challenging conditions. Moreover, its two-meter diameter ensures balance similar to a tiller but with greater stability. Having sailed in winds up to 60 knots, I am confident in my choice to keep it.”
Pavlin is enthusiastic about the refit carried out on his boat, which was already a solid boat thanks to Bruce Farr’s design and the skilled construction of the Carroll shipyard. The boat’s robustness is further increased by an aluminium alloy structure that includes crucial elements like floor bearers and stringers, the mast base, the engine support, and the keel, all glued to the hull. This solid frame is the foundation upon which the boat is built.
However, Pavlin also identified and addressed some weaknesses: “In its crewed racing configuration, the boat had some points where water would get in. I resolved the issue and now have a ‘dry’ boat, a crucial detail for such a long journey. There are aspects of the boat I can’t change: the large sail area and the height of the boom create challenges for solo handling, especially without electric winches. But thanks to an efficient lazy jack system that facilitates mainsail adjustment and my physical preparation, I’ve already been able to successfully race solo against crewed boats. Every boat has its inherent challenges; understanding and adapting to them is the key.”
For onboard energy management, Pavlin, drawing from a friend’s experience who had to abandon a race due to electronic failures, placed great emphasis on the need to have a variety of options in case of issues.
“I’ve diversified energy sources: I have a backup generator, in addition to a spare alternator and starter motor. I’ve installed a hydro generator and solar panels that provide me with up to 540 watts, with seven backup solar panels in addition. But I don’t rely solely on solar power: in case of issues with the electronics, I can still rely on a wind vane, which also serves as an emergency autopilot. It’s already onboard and ready to use and, while heavy, it’s extremely versatile. My primary navigation system is equipped with two electric autopilots and a secondary computer. Having run a boat repair business in Bulgaria for twenty years, my relationships with suppliers have been crucial in the refit process.”
We asked Pavlin how he intends to manage his own physical energy. Pavlin, despite being an experienced sailor and professional skipper, had done little s