Solo at sea for New Year's Eve - Who's Who

Solo sailing - a very special time
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Along with the hundreds of cruising sailors who will spend New Year's Eve on their sailing boats, and welcome in 2010 either at anchor or making passage, there are a number of solo sailors, far from land, doing their thing the way they know best.

Some are famous sailors, some are becoming famous by their exploits, some want to be famous, and others don't want anyone to know they are there. However, they all share one thing - a love of being at sea, solo, which must be the greatest sailing experience of all.

When you are breaking open your first bottle of champagne to welcome in the New Year, spare a thought for the solo sailors of the world:

Minoru Saito
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Minoru Saito:

Minoru Saito has just restarted his record 8th circumnavigation after his yacht was disabled and nearly lost during a three-day gale off Cape Horn. He is in the 12th month of his circumnavigation on a leg that has taken him deep into the Southern Ocean, a distance of more than 16,000 nautical miles from his Yokohama start.

April 12, on Day 192, Saito came within hours of losing his yacht, the Nicole BMW Shuten-dohji III, off the rocky coast of Chile at Cape Horn, the stormy final resting spot of hundreds of ships over the centuries. Assisted by a factory ship, a three-day, 400-nm tow followed a dramatic rescue after the 75-year-old skipper steadfastly refused to allow his yacht to be set adrift and scuttled on orders of the Chilean navy.

In November, following repairs in a small Chilean fishing harbor in Punta Arenas, he resumed his westward 'wrong way' route that has been attempted by just a small number of solo sailors. However, he again had to return to Punta Arenas when there were problems with some of the repairs that had been done.

Now, in the last couple of days, he has started again. His record of eight solo circumnavigations remains the chief goal of the voyage, along with the 'oldest around-alone' world record when he finishes at the age of 76.

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Dilip Donde
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Dilip Donde:
Commander Dilip Donde is a member of the Indian Navy, and departed in August for a planned nine month circumnavigation on his 47ft yacht Mahdei. For New Year's Eve he is approaching Cape Horn, and is coping with the failure of both his autopilots in recent days.

Donde's voyage has been sponsored by the Navy, and this is the first solo circumnavigation by an Indian national.

His journey is not a non-stop journey. the Mahdei started in Mumbai, and he has since sailed to Freemantle (Australia), Christ Church (New Zealand) and Christchurch. His next planned stop is Port Stanley, followed by Cape Town and then back to Mumbai.

Unfortunately, he will now be obliged to undertake some of the most challenging of the circumnavigation with only the use of the wind steering vane or by hand steering. This means much more 'on deck' work in the freezing conditions of the Southern Ocean.

The mission will cover a distance of nearly 21,600 nautical miles.

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Scooner Anne - ESPN Shoot - 11/27/05
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Reid Stowe:

Reid Stowe is one solo sailor just about to realise his dream.

When Reid Stowe sailed out of New York Harbour with his partner Soanya Ahmad, on his 70ft gaff-rigged ketch, the Anne, he was beginning an attempt to remain for 1000 days at sea out of sight of land.

Soanya lasted 306 days, but then became so very very seasick in the south Indian Ocean that she asked to be taken ashore.

As the closest land to the Anne was Western Australia, the Commodore of the Royal Perth Yacht Club agreed to collect Soanya, and the rendezvous was made around 17nm off Rottnest Island. Coincidentally, Soanya was taken ashore by the Commodore and no other than the current holder of the longest-time-at-sea record holder, Jon Sandeers.

When Soanya made landfall the reason for her extreme seasickness became apparent - she was pregnant.

Since then Soanya has run Mission Control for Reid's voyage, and handles the website.

Reid kept sailing, and is currently at 975 days - only 25 days to go to achieve his dream.

He reports that the gear is 'in good repair but worn out' and that he has to treat his sails very carefully. He also has plenty of food - no doubt improved by the fact that Soanya left the journey mid-voyage.

Reid is planning an arrival back into New York Harbour in April 2010, and a huge welcoming crowd is expected.

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Geoff Holt
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Geoff Holt:
Geoff Holt is luckier than the other solo sailors, because he will have company to celebrate the New Year. 'Having company' when you are solo sailing seems like an oxymoron, but Geoff is a quadriplegic and while he is SAILING solo, he has on board a cameraman and a carer to cater to his needs.

Geoff will be spending New Year at sea unintentionally. When he left Lanzarote in the Canary Islands on 10th December, in an attempt to be the first quadriplegic to sail the Atlantic Ocean solo, he thought the journey was to take around 17 days. However, fuel problems on the boat caused a significant delay in the Cape Verde Islands. Since then they have been experiencing very light winds, and now expect to arrive in the British Virgin Islands on around the 4th January.

The vessel he is sailing is a 60ft (18m) catamaran called Impossible Dream, and by the time he reaches the BVI's he will have sailed over 27,000 miles. Impossible Dream is owned by the disabled outdoor sports charity of the same name and uses hydraulic push button technology to operate the sails.

Geoff's intention is to return to Garden Bay, Tortola, where he was paralysed while diving.

Before his accident he was a very experienced sailor, with more than 30,000 miles to his credit, and three Atlantic crossings.

Geoff is also raising cash for the Ellen MacArthur Trust, which uses sailing as a way of helping young people to recover from cancer

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Jessica Watson 01
Bob Carter
Jessica Watson:
16-year-old Australian Jessica Watson will be spending New Year's Eve alone, but in recent days has been in radio communication with Dilip Donde, fellow solo sailor from India, who is fast catching her in his larger sailing boat.

Jessica, sailing a lolly-pink 36ft boat called Ella's Pink Lady, garnered the attention of the world's main stream press when she collided with a cargo ship on her first night at sea.

Now at sea for over 70 days, her welcome to 2010 will be a damp and cold one, as she approaches closer and closer to the most dreaded of all the Capes in the world by cruising sailors - Cape Horn.

Jessica has around 1500 miles to go to the Horn which she will round in the height of summer to take advantage of the best possible conditions. However, even in the height of summer she is still likely to experience winds of up to 100 knots, and long following seas up to 20 metres.

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