Time passes … nothing happens

Every seconds that pass …

I am one week behind schedule with my regular posts. There’s a simple reason for that. Nothing of importance has happened. It looks like the boat in Hong Kong is 99% old. That was the most “affordable” Class40 in reasonable condition. All things considered this is for the best. Managing this boat ‘s refit remotely, in a land I do not know, would have likely been catastrophic.

Other opportunities will come by

The Les Sables – Horta – Les Sables race is in under way. The starting conditions are fantastic for the newer Class40 designs. The screenshot below perfectly highlights how much faster the newer boats are. The leading boat (1) shows a boat speed almost 25% higher than the older boat (11). Two boats in the racing fleet are for sale, with one signed up for the TJV. Both are Akiliria RC1 that had been prepared for the RdR 2018. One did not start and the other had to stop because his forestay broke.

Les Sables - Horta: check out the speed difference between these two Class40. Old vs new.
Les Sables – Horta: check out the speed difference between these two Class40. Old vs new.

I’m keeping an eye out on the race to see how well they’re doing. Other than the above there’s not much to report. I’m not ready yet to call it off on the Class40 boats. I look daily for what comes up on, craigslist and other boat boards. Nothing consequential has materialized there yet either. Waiting …

Globe 40 – La Grande Route

SIRIUS EVENEMENTS has announced a double-handed race for Class40 sailboats. It is quite an exciting development and I encourage readers to check out their press release and race plan. I had heard that there were ongoing conversations about an RTW race for the Class40. I had even heard that there were possibly two events brewing. So far only one has been announced and I think it’s likely to be the only one.

Although a RTW race, the course appears to be laid back, compared to a Vendee Globe or even Open40/Class40 predecessors such as the Around Alone and Global Ocean Race races. It will have 6 legs and will take almost 2 years to complete. You read that right: 2 years!

I’m not sure what to think of this. Can you imagine the middle aged husband with 2 kids saying: “honey, I’m going sailing, I’ll be back in two years”? It’s certainly not for my budget; it’s also not what I aspire to do. I wonder what sort of pressure it will put on the used Class40 boats market, if any.

In other news

Other than the news above, the owner of Anasazi Girl changed his price to $80,000, which is $25,000 more than I can afford for his boat. I’ve been in touch with one guy in Hong Kong about the boat out there. The prospect of managing the refit to sail that boat to San Francisco is quite daunting. Impulse #25 had signed up for the Bermuda One Two, but he turned around due to a blown solent and possibly mainsail damage/performance issues. That’s too bad; I was really looking forward to his progress (he was behind the other 4 Class40s that had signed up but by not much: I think 3 miles over 40 when I last checked). It does highlight the problem with (un)used boats: what’s going to break next?

For the foreseeable future, my sailing plans are crewing on the following boats: a moonlight marathon in San Francisco Bay (likely light air) on a J-92, another race in the Bay on a Farr 30, maybe a race to Half Moon Bay on an Olson 34, and the LongPac in a Cal 2-27 (pictured below, 6 years younger): a busy month of June/July.

That’s all for now …

Calm after the storm

After a flurry of activity a couple weeks ago, this past week was calm. I went to see Webb Chiles’ presentation at the Richmond Yacht Club. That was good fun and inspiring. On the same day, at the suggestion of a fellow SSS’er friend, I visited the Berkeley Marine Center. She thought I should share my plans with Cree Partridge. And so I did. With the boatyard’s staff having their lunch, I squared my butt in my little chair and proceeded to spill the beans about my ambitions.

To put things in perspective, on one side you have this guy who knows not much and claims he’ll do one of the hardest thing in solo sailing with an inadequate budget (me), and on the other side, you have this crew who’s been around and back, and then out again on oceans, with a vast amount of sailing experience. I felt naked as I proceeded. I had no plan for this meeting so I just went with the flow of my thoughts at the time. It was a good exercise. I don’t like sharing about this project with fellow sailors or anyone for that matter. It’s obvious that for now this is all just a pipe dream, and I don’t like the idea that I am to a certain extent a bouffon, more likely to make a fool of himself than to set a new world record. So I had resisted her invitation to visit with Cree.

Plant a seed

In any case, that is done and maybe something will come out of this. I’d welcome the opportunity to get support from professionals. As we were standing in the open hull of a carbon 40 footer racer being built, I was thinking to myself: so that’s what it’s like to be a pro-sailor building a custom boat with sponsor money. Just for that experience, I think it was totally worth it. I guess that’s what one feels when you get to the big stage, but you’re really only there to set the mic stand for the performer … We also got to see other very interesting boatyard projects.

California Condor, Antrim designed Class 40 built by BMC

That’s all for now. Things are in suspend mode for a month or so. I must admit the work grind is taking its toll these days …

We tried …

This week Owen & Clarke reached out saying that Pixel Flyer, an Akilaria RC2, might be receiving an offer this coming weekend. And if we wanted to bid we should hurry up. So we did and put together an informal proposal, just to see if there was common ground between my funds and the seller.

Pixel Flyer, Class 40 #112

There wasn’t. The best I could stretch to was 115k Euro and his asking price is 150k Euro. So my informal offer was rejected and that was that.

Then, I had noticed that an older Akilaria RC1, Class 40 #42, recently came up for sale in France. This boat was unable to complete the last Route du Rhum because of a forestay failure. The owner pretty much renewed almost everything on the boat, all the way to the engine. He wants 140k Euro. Again, I reached out with my funds and offered 110k Euro, without success, for now, as he wants a minimum of 125k.

Despite my offers being rejected, a few more boats came up for sale or charter, bringing the respective totals to 32 and 10, as indicated here. To this, you could add a couple Open 40, which I know are for sale. And, of course, the few new Class 40 that are being built for the next season.

If you’ve browsed this web site you know that I strongly prefer a boat that is mostly ready go, except for maybe a few specialists jobs (like rod rigging re-heading) and bolt on items (like a third auto-pilot). I’m not dismissing the complexity of these jobs. But, when repairs and enhancements add up, then the sailing becomes not so much sailing but fixing up the boat.

Opportunity knocks?

But then, there is this boat in Hong Kong, which I think appears to be fairly well maintained, although incomplete and dated here and there. I can’t afford to ship it back (I did ask for quotes and they were in the order of 30-45k). It was listed for 107k (Euro) and went under offer. The buyer found out that the boat suffered a grounding and the keel and keel-hull joint required significant repairs. He bailed out. The boat went back on the market for 90k. And then, man I don’t want to be this seller, the boat suffered an indirect lightning strike hit, which left all the NKE instruments dead behind. So now, the boat is listed at 70k.

That boat, going by the name of Aki, could be the ticket, except for a few things:

  • I can only afford to bring her to the US West Coast on her own bottom. Sailing from Hong Kong to here is no small feat. We’re talking the North Pacific, and read on …
  • Typhoon season is coming up over there, which means that if I take ownership of the boat, I’m now liable for all the stuff that could happen while being away.
  • To sail this boat back here does require some level of re-fitting. Managing boatyard work, when one is local and can stop by daily, is hard enough to get things done. Now, imagine, being remote for the whole time!
  • As with all boat projects, one never knows what happens next once you pull a screw off the boat. And yard work is as expensive there as it is here.

So, I’ve got an offer ready to go, with all the bells and whistles of assumptions, dependencies, etc. But I’m mulling it over.

Aki, for sale.

Other considerations

I’ve also just now been told that there is a significant improvement in speed between the Akilaria RC2 vs RC1, but not so much vs RC3. So that’s something to consider. That said, I looked at the latest Global Ocean Race, where mostly Akilaria boats enrolled (and certainly were the only to finish). That race was won by a well funded Akilaria RC2 in 150 days, 8.5 days ahead of a not so well funded Akilaria RC1. So the difference is in the order of 5%. I’m not sure that kind of speed advantage is worth the extra money, for me that is. Especially, since from my limited reading, the RC1 was said to be very seaworthy.

Marco Nannini on his Akilaria RC1, Financial Crisis

What’s going to happen next?

Loose ends

I said I’d try to post weekly so here’s an update. I like our logo. I think my wife did a great job with it (s**t, I sound like a prominent politician!). I’m not sure what to do with it for now. Maybe try a T-Shirt. Our website is getting very little traffic, with most of it coming from the SSS’s website. Our GoFundMe campaign saw a small donation.

Our logo …

Two more Class40 boats went on the market for sale. This brings the total of Class40 boats on the market to 31; there are also 9 available for charter. 4 sold in 2018; 9 sold in 2017 (likely to folks who wanted to do the Route du Rhum 2018, which saw a record 53 Class40 boats registered, with 34 finishing); 5 sold in 2016. It’s a puzzle, ain’t it? More boats get listed than sell, but the prices remain fairly steady, especially at the bottom end, which is where I lie in wait.

Oh, and the broker selling an Open 40, with whom I had been in contact since I think early 2018, reached out asking whether I was still interested. That boat would be a good choice too. It has been for sale since 2013 I think, when it was listed for 250k. It is now still listed for 100k and there is a possibility that the price will continue to come down. I offered 55k and he told me to go away.

Recent news indicate that the boat market is not being replenished by buyers in the younger strata of the pyramid age. Baby boomers continue to buy, mainly upgrading to bigger yachts. But the younger generations are not stepping in. This “should” mean a few things. First, boat prices “should” come down. Second, when I’ll want to sell whatever boat I acquire, the market will have shrunk even further. Regardless, boat prices seem to hold on, with fairly dated boats in need of major refit still listed for over 100k!

I wonder how it feels to be a seller, stuck between “If I hold on my price maybe the right buyer will show up” and “Every day that passes the boat loses value and costs me more”. Holding to a 40 feet boat here in San Francisco is about $6,000 just in berth fees. All that rationalizing is useless. It all comes down to me identifying a boat I can make work within my budget and making an offer.

There is one more thing to consider: labor and parts in the boat industry are skyrocketing. Here in San Francisco Bay hourly rates have hit $125/hr, most likely reflecting the high cost structure of operating a boatyard and the reduction in skilled workers. This would tend to make the value of a used sailboat even less.

Let’s put the wallet aside and talk about feelings too. I’m not sure if it’s clear to you but this project is a major undertaking. To put thing in perspective, I’ll use the usual anecdote that more people have gone to space than have circumnavigated solo non-stop aboard a small sailboat. Of course, there’s the natural elimination factor of “Why would anyone want to do that?!?!”. Still, you have to put this in contrast with the fact that there are 7 billion humans on this planet. And that sailing has been going on for a very long time.

Putting aside a few conversations, so far, this has been a solo undertaking, with a wife who is openly opposed to my undertaking this journey. There’s a lot of friction. I’m internalizing a lot of s**t for now. I’m not sure what is going to come out the other side. Overcoming internal, family and social pressure is sometimes the biggest hurdle to accomplishing something. Maybe that’s what it means to be an adult. No one is there to cajole me into success. I have to visualize myself aboard the boat in the middle of the ocean, experiencing a true connection with Nature to keep going … But the reality is: I’m not sure how long hope is going to keep me going. Sometimes I think that maybe I should just buy another small ULDB and keep trying the SHTP every couple of years. But then the cost of shipping the boat back brings the hard cost of these projects back forefront.

I’ll leave it that for this week.

New page added to the website

I don’t have much news this week. I did work on the website and updated this page that talks about what I call the human factor. I think it’s an interesting read.

If you’re reading this, one thing that’s pushing these Class40 boats outside my budget is the delivery fee. Most boats are at least 6,000 miles away. Shipping, trucking or sailing ends up being expensive, in the order of $30,000. If you know of someone who’d be interested in delivering (for a tiny fee or for free) a Class40 to San Francisco, or anywhere on the West Coast, even Hawai’i would work, let me know. Ports of departure could be France, UK, Adelaide (Australia), Hong Kong, Tenerife, etc. It’s not a cruise, far from it. These boats are as spartan as can be! I’ve been reaching to sailing buddies to see if anyone’s interested, with limited success so far.

Although the light at the end of the tunnel is not showing up yet I am trying to remain positive about the boat search.

Impulse, Class 40 #25

As I indicated here I was in Newport, RI yesterday to see Impulse, Class 40 #25. Here are the pictures and a few short movies from that trip.

The boat is in fantastic cosmetic condition, really beautiful. The owner did the work himself, with competent friends here and there. Following the grounding in 2014, which did lead to water ingress, the keel was taken off, the hull repaired, and numerous structural reinforcements were put in place. All the work looks impeccable. I crawled to the stern section to inspect the auto-pilot setup and came out clean. Now, the owner did clean the boat right before I arrived. He’s the first person I see do this, which says a lot about him. Of course, a proper survey out of the water would be necessary. But it was all good news. In addition, the coachroof is very large and high, which allows me to stand inside!

Then what?

My assessment here is still accurate. What I learned about shipping the boat pretty much kills the deal unless I want to take 2 months to sail the boat to San Francisco, including a Panama canal crossing. The keel was faired then fiberglass was laid over. To ship the boat requires taking the keel off, and that would be about 1 week of 2 guys working on the boat, twice. A back of the hand estimate lands us into 30k territory!

The boat was recently listed and I doubt the owner would consider the offer that I can make, knowing all the additional equipment I need to acquire, in particular in terms of sails. I think I will wait. Interestingly, the original plan for the current owner was to prepare the boat to try and beat Guo Chan’s round the world solo non stop circumnavigation of 132 days. Other plans seems to have lined up for him. So he wants to sell the boat to focus his resources somewhere else for the next 2 years.

Next for me is looking into this boat in Hong Kong, which also has a grounding history.

Planning a trip to Newport, RI

I’ve been looking at a few Class 40 boats. As we discussed before our budget is short of putting us into a position to acquire a Class 40 boat. I still think it’s worth the investment to go and check some of them. Since I plan to travel to the East Coast for work, I figured I should do a small detour to check this one.

Impulse, Class40 #25, a Tyker first generation.

This boat has some history, not all good. FR Nautisme built two, this one and #29. They had some good results, finishing 6th and 7th in the 2006 Route Du Rhum (out of 22), and 3rd and 4th in the 2007 Transat Jacques Vabre (out of 27). #29 sank in 2009, with the crew being airlifted out of the boat. I couldn’t find exactly what happened. #25 suffered a crippling grounding in 2014 and changed hands to the current owner. #25 raced in the 2014 Atlantic Cup and finished last on every leg, most likely showing that it is not exactly competitive anymore, although I suspect that something else was going on as the boat was far behind. As far as the class is concerned, this boat is likely a goner, meaning it won’t attract a buyer who wants to race her in the Class40 class.


As can be seen from the listing the current owner did a lot of work, mostly to the keel structure, the engine, the deck hardware, and then some electrical work as well, which is good. On the other hand, the boat is severely under-equipped. The “white sails” are old, and the boat would need to be shipped to the West Coast. By under-equipped I mean that there’s no redundancy in much if anything at all. Energy generation solely relies on the engine and a small alternator. The house battery bank is only 240 Amps. There’s only one primary auto-pilot (most likely original), no watermaker, and no telecom equipment besides VHF. Last, the boat requires new standing rigging. Even if I try to be conservative with my estimates, it looks like I need to budget for a minimum of $60,000, and that does not include new sails.

This is very common in the used sailboat market. Most used sailboats have outdated equipment. To put things in context, how much would you give for a 10 years old laptop or cell phone? On a 13 years old boat, the electronic equipment has reached its full depreciated value several years ago.

In addition, I have to think about who will buy the boat from me when I return and for how much. When putting all this together the asking pricing appears to be on the high side. From what I learned, I do not think that the owner is looking for a quick transaction. Note that I counted about 27 Class 40 boats available for sale. And another 9 available for charter, out of a total of 150 registered boats. Almost 25% of the Class is looking to change hands, at least temporarily.

I do like the looks of the boat though …

Impulse in the yard

Safety and boat choice

This post was inspired by a conversation with a sailing buddy.

To circumnavigate Earth on a small sailboat I must first start and then finish. To start all I need is a boat, any boat, and time. Completing the course, now, that’s a very different conversation. History is full of boats that completed serious feats of navigation but appeared, in hindsight, not fit for the course they completed. They were lucky. Planning for a circumnavigation I can’t put all my eggs in the lucky basket. I need to make choices that maximize my chances of completing the course. A key choice is the boat.

My buddy thought that a good old bluewater cruising boat would be the better choice, the one most likely to guarantee success. He was talking about boats like a Valiant 40, a Fast Passage 39, a Freya 39, a Fairweather Mariner 39. The rationale is that they have a reputation for being strong and sea-kindly. The reality is that the sailboat building industry has made significant progress over the past 30-40 years. The pinnacle of offshore sailing safety now can be seen in a Class 40 boat. However, because they’re seen as fast racing boats, and fast boats must be fragile, the perception seems to be that they are not as safe as good old boats.

A Fast Passage 39.

Why a Class40?

Class40 boats are built to withstand storm conditions in the Bay of Biscay in November. Their construction is very strong and has numerous safety features directly incorporated in their design. The early generations boats were built for Category 0 racing. Some of the benefits of their construction include:

  • Reserve buoyancy: the boat keeps floating a little longer when filled with water;
  • Twin rudders: if one is lost there’s another one. They also provide much better control;
  • Crashbox: if the boat hits something the damage may be contained to the crashbox;
  • Watertight bulkheads, forward and aft: if a section of the boat is flooding these can be closed to prevent complete flooding of the boat;
  • Very large righting moment, giving the boat lots of power to punch through waves, minimizing the risk of being rolled;
  • Speed, which allows more chance to navigate around difficult weather patterns;
  • Water ballasts: allowing more control of boat stability;
  • Designed for short-handed handling, which keeps boat handling manoeuvers simple;
  • Coachroof, to remain protected from oncoming waves;
  • And that’s all that I have learned so far.
A Class40 sailing upwind.

Good old bluewater boats

There are a few benefits to the good old boats, which I am very much considering:

  • They can be sailed without electrical power, using a windvane, a sextant and paper charts. Not so for a Class40, which is power hungry, mainly because of the electrical auto-pilot needs. I don’t know of anyone who has tried to solve this on a Class40. The approach taken is always redundancy and repairability.
  • Seakindliness: a Class40 is a fast boat that will power through waves and bang on the other side when sailing upwind, and downwind they can have unnatural jerky movements. All this can combine into an uncomfortable ride, which over time can be taxing on the skipper. A tired uncomfortable skipper can then make wrong decisions or spiral into depression, leading to the end of a dream. On the other hand, the thinking is that a good old boat is much more comfortable in a seaway. What I think is more real is that a Class40 is pushed hard to sail fast, but if it was depowered and sailed at the same speed as a good old boat, it would be close to as comfortable, not banging upwind, and with the auto-pilot on a lower setting not as jerky downwind.
  • When it comes to appendages below the water, which are always at risk of hitting something and possibly creating major damage to the hull’s integrity, a Class40 boat has a very deep bulb keel. Although they are designed to be strong and withstand collisions, some of the good old boats may have a stronger keel setup. And they are less likely to hit something fast, because, well, they are slower than a Class40.
A sextant.


If we look at statistics in ocean races, the Golden Globe Race would be a good place to start. Unfortunately only very few boats finished the course, with most boats abandoning the race because of significant damage. On the other hand, in the Vendee Globe, most boats (45% if I look at the past 5 editions) abandon because of equipment failure. These are IMOCA 60, not the same as a Class40, but they do share a lot of the same design features.

In 2018 I spoke with the owner of a Pogo 12.50, very similar to a Class40. He had sailed from the French Polynesian Islands back to Panama, going upwind for 30 days. He said that at the end his boat “had not moved”; everything was still as new. The ride was not comfortable, but I do not think I recall anyone saying that sailing upwind for 30 days was comfortable. Isn’t there a saying that goes like this: “gentlemen do not sail to weather”?

In the final analysis, the main consideration is not the boat alone, but the combination of boat, boat preparation, and skipper. A poorly equipped Class40 doesn’t stand much of a chance. A good old boat that has not been refitted from the inside out doesn’t stand much of a chance either. And if the skipper cannot manage the boat in all conditions, then one should hope that the boat knows the way …

Final words

As for me, if had $400,000, I would buy a used Pogo 12.50 and equip it with simple systems with double redundancy and spare parts galore. If I had $250,000, I would buy a used Class40 and equip it just the same, but with used stuff. And if I had $150,000, then I wouldn’t know what to do. Oh wait!

Then what? This?

Odds are …


There’s nowhere to hide. Odds are not particularly in my favor. For sure, my project of circumnavigating Earth on a small sailboat faces many hurdles. I’m not delusional. I know it. I estimate the odds of starting the circumnavigation to be 1 in 10 (for no particular reason, and the odds of finishing without stops 1 in 4 (so far only one Class40 in 4 attempts has succeeded in completing a circumnavigation solo non stop). That’s about 2.5% of success. In other words, success is marginal at best.


I’m reading Dodge Morgan’s book “The Voyage of American Promise“. In there he mentioned D.H. (Nobby) Clark of the Guinness Book of World Records. He would have said: “Ninety five percent of those who say they are going to sail around the world do not get their boats in the water; ninety five percent of those who get their boats in the water do not get underway; and ninety five percent of those who depart do not complete a circumnavigation.” That’s a 0.0125% chance of success. Not great by any standard.

Fifty Fifty

Those are only anecdotal odds. Let’s look at some facts. I think of this project along three axis: the boat, the skipper and luck. There’s no way out of simply being lucky. There are too many risks over which one has no control: collision with submerged containers or a whale, freak weather events, a rogue wave, catastrophic failure of equipment, debilitating sickness, etc. Plans can be devised to help manage the dangerous situation; experience and good planning come in handy here. For example, having antibiotics aboard can help control an appendicitis. But most likely a stop would be required to prevent the situation from spiraling down. Although, here, I must admit that some of the first solo circumnavigators had some serious grit about them (read Vito Dumas’ book; he’s not the only one).

It is hard to quantify the odds of not being unlucky. Looking at the Vendée Globe results for the past 5 years, with top professional sailors and very large budgets, I can see that about 45% of the sailors have to retire.

Fifty fifty. That sounds like a great boat name.

Now, that’s only for boats who started the Vendée Globe. In effect, we also need to quantify the odds of actually leaving in a well prepared boat, with a well prepared skipper. And that’s an all different conversation …

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