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Call of the Ocean: The finish of the journey around the world

by Zew Oceanu 18 May 06:22 BST
The finish of the journey around the world © Chris Rock

The Polish sailor, Szymon Kuczynski, has just finished his solo around-the-world journey without making any stops to ports, on the smallest yacht in the history of sailing – Maxus 22 (6.36m/20ft 10.4in) built in the Polish Northman boatyard. He circled the globe around the three capes in 270 days, 10 hours, and 29 minutes.

The sailor left Plymouth on the 19th of August 2017 to go around the world in a non-stop journey around the three capes. In October his yacht Atlantic Puffin sailed into the Southern Ocean where he remained for 128 days. These were the coldest days of the journey, it was often snowing with temperatures below 5 degreesC (41 degreesF).

In time, the extremely difficult ocean sailing started to affect the state of the equipment, which started breaking down - the anemometer has been damaged, along with the main solar panel and the electrical autopilot. However, when planning the journey, Szymon thought of every possible scenario, and so he was prepared to solve any equipment-related problem by himself. There were tools and materials for repairs on board, spare solar panels, a tripled autopilot system (electric, hydraulic, and a self-steering device), and many more. Above that he could communicate with land via an inReach tracker, telephone, and a satellite modem. Thanks to that the yacht's position could have been followed at all times and Szymon has been able to send information from on board.

On the 29th of October 2017 the sailor passed the Cape of Good Hope, and on the 5th of December 2017 the Australian Cape Leeuwin. In the beginning of the year 2018, the Atlantic Puffin entered the Drake Passage more than one month ahead of schedule.

He was being chased by a big depression. When talking about the weather he had on the 4th of February, while passing Cape Horn, he said: "In the last three days I encountered two gale force winds. The one at Cape Horn was a force 9 with 6-7 meter swell. The last weeks were tough, with strong and even gale winds, very cold – 2-5 degreesC (36-41 degreesF) inside the cabin. It was raining and snowing." After the good news of the "Sailing Everest" disappearing behind his back, Szymon informed about a problem, that could have jeopardize the entire expedition. As a result of another "knock down" (which is a sudden strong listing of the boat) the mast has been seriously weakened. It was therefore a priority to get away from the inhospitable environment of the Drake Passage as fast as possible, while taking care not to break the mast.

After hearing the news, the shore team along with the rigging specialists from the Northman shipyard immediately prepared a multistage proposition of how to secure the mast. In order to stiffen the column Szymon implemented additional support in the form of dyneema fiber stays and in the place of the failure he fitted an element that would make further deformation impossible.

The Maxus 22 happily left the danger zone, however the need of unburdening the mast resulted in the reduction of the amount of sails the yacht could carry to forward sails only, and when using only the inner staysail and storm jib the speed decreased significantly.

The weather conditions in the next three weeks of the journey allowed for the proper and strong securing of the damage i.e. the mast has been strengthened with an additional laminate overlay. After that the sailor could return to using all of the sails he had. Thanks to that the Atlantic Puffin quite swiftly passed the doldrums and returned to the northern hemisphere in April 2018.

The last part of the journey has been a big challenge for Szymon. After a few months he had returned to warmer waters, where the speed of the sail has constantly been slowed down by floating colonies of seaweed and the fouling of the bottom of the boat. Despite the previous problem with the mast, the sailor had a chance to beat the record set by Alessandro di Benedetto, who in 2010 circumnavigated the world on a 6.5m (21ft 3.9in) yacht in 268 days. Therefore Szymon has focused his attention on that additional objective and planned on reaching the finish line in Plymouth as fast as possible. In order to seize every opportunity for improving his time he frequently changed sails and steered manually instead of setting the yacht to steer itself.

The yacht crossed the finish line in Plymouth on the 15th of May 2018 at 07:29 UTC. On the finish line Szymon has been greeted by his family, friends, fans, and representatives of the Northman shipyard. In the last miles of the journey Szymon summed it up: "I feel great, when I think of meeting all the familiar faces and the great food, which I hope is waiting for me on land – it makes my already great humour even better. I have completed my plan from beginning to finish, despite the mistakes I made. This journey, as well as the previous one has proven to me that problems on board are usually a consequence of small mistakes and neglect. Thankfully I did manage to cope with them. I was good fun and a fantastic adventure! I want some more!"

Journey Statistics:

  • Time: 270 days, 10 hours, 29 minutes.
  • Miles travelled: 29 044
  • Average speed: 4,5 kt
  • Maximum speed: 14,9 kt
  • Books read: 143
Yacht Atlantic Puffin
  • Type: Maxus 22
  • Producer: Northman Yacht Shipyard, Poland
  • Project: Jacek Daszkiewicz
  • LOA: 6.36 m (20ft 10in)
  • Beam: 2.48 m (8ft 1.6in)
  • Sail area: 23 m2
  • Draught: 1.40 m (4ft 7.1in)
  • Displacement: 1350kg (ballast 500 kg)

The route of the journey can be followed on an online map here.

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