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'Second time lucky' hopes for solo circumnavigating sailor

by Nancy Knudsen on 20 Aug 2013
Andrew Halcrow - another try at a solo circumnavigation. photo by Hans Marter, Shetnews .. .
Seven years after his last foiled attempt to circumnavigate the globe single handedly on his 32ft home made boat Elsi Arrub, Scotsman Andrew Halcrow is preparing to set off to try it all over again.

In late 2006 Halcrow sparked a major international rescue operation when he burst an appendix while crossing the vast Southern Indian Ocean.


Bad luck, you might say, and such an event is one of the long range cruising sailor's worst nightmares. The likelehood of a timely enough rescue in such circumstances is almost non-existent. But luck was with him all the way after that first incident.

He phoned his wife, who told Shetland Coastguard, who told Falmouth, who told the Australian Maritime Rescue Authority (AMSA). They sent a spotter plane, who found him four and a half hours later, 300 miles off the Australian coast. They told the nearby bulk carrier Elegant Star, who picked him up and delivered him to a hospital in Albany on the south coast of Western Australia, where he had a life saving operation.

Halcrow recovered and returned home to Burra in Shetland. At that time, with his boat abandoned and probably sunk at the other end of the world, insisted he had no intention of ever embarking on a similar journey again.

But his luck had further, much further, to run. Months later, Halcrow was stunned when he got news that his much loved yacht had been found still afloat. He was reunited with Elsi in May 2007 when she arrived back in Scotland onboard one of Streamline’s cargo ships.


'But I still didn’t plan to do it again,' he told the Shetland News recently. 'The thing that kicked it off was when Elsi became a little bit neglected, and I knew I had to do something with her to keep her going. So, last summer I decided to shot blast the deck and paint her up,' he said.

So, after overhauling the 26 year old vessel he had originally built for a five year cruise around the world, he realised the desire to complete the non-stop challenge still burned inside him.

'When I finished that and she was looking really good, it was almost a case of her being all dressed up with nowhere to go.'

Having already sailed halfway around the globe in his first aborted attempt, the 54 year old is convinced that this time he is better prepared mentally, although he freely admits that 'you tend to forget the bad bits'.

And although he is embarking on a single-handed trip, he insists the journey is a team effort and would not be possible without his wife’s support.

'Alyson will be the essential onshore part of this challenge. She has backed me the whole way through and made many sacrifices to enable me to achieve my ambition.

'This trip would not be happening at all if it were not for her and I cannot thank her enough for that,' he said.

He has spent the last few months planning his route, this time leaving at the onset of winter to head down to South America before rounding Cape Horn (the 'wrong' way) to cross the Pacific.

This time he plans to sail through the Torres Strait between Australia and Papa New Guinea, then cross the Indian Ocean past the Cape of Good Hope back into the Atlantic Ocean.

'There will be bad weather because I have to leave in November and come back in the winter.

'I will be off South Africa during the winter, but I will be doing a lot of sailing in really good weather in the trade winds right across the Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

'There is an outside chance of a cyclone in the Pacific, but if I plan not to go through that area until May I should avoid that,' he explained.

Halcrow still has much to prepare and he will take his yacht down to Falmouth for final preparations, including removing the vessel’s engine, installing renewable power sources, stocking up on food to last for a year and ensuring that his modes of communication – a satellite phone and an HF radio – are in perfect working condition.

He plans to set off from the English Channel in early November and hopes to be back in the UK about 12 to 13 months later.

He said: 'If I don’t do it now, I am never going to do it. I dinna want to be sitting in an old folks home, being 90 years old and thinking I really should have done it.'

That's the spirit, Andrew, sweet sailing!

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