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 …

Author: Skipper

Wannabe circumnavigator. http://pjsails.com/a-skipper-looking-for-adventure/

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