Please select your home edition
Edition
Pantaenius EU 728x90

Matt Rutherford solo around the Americas- Exclusive interview

by Nancy Knudsen on 16 May 2012
Matt arriving at the end of his ten month voyage SW
Last month 31-year-old Matt Rutherford arrived back into Annapolis in Maryland to become the first solo sailor to circumnavigate North and South America. He did it an ancient 27-foot Albin Vega called the St. Brendan that many would have believed would never make it around. I interviewed Matt this week on his incredible voyage

He told me that after acquiring the boat, he spent a mere $27,000 on readying it for the journey, and it cost him $8000 while travelling, mostly to pay for his satphone time. During his ten months voyage - 314 days - he had every sort of weather and every sort of challenge. He sailed, non-stop, an incredible 23,000 miles. He was almost run over by a freighter and had to fire shotgun rounds into the air so drunken fishermen would steer their boat clear of his boat.
'I never thought I would give up though,' he said, 'I was too determined to think seriously about giving up.'

The boat was not purpose built and, after gale conditions, an icy pathway through the North West Passage, vast lonely miles down the Pacific and the huge waves of Cape Horn, his boat was showing some wear.

'But after Cape Horn I started to think I would make it all the way around,' he told me this week, 'I was happy to have completed the two most dangerous parts (the Arctic and Cape Horn).'

Seven thousand miles before he reached home, his engine died, leaving him with merely solar and wind power to charge batteries on the boat. There was a leak below the waterline which he found impossible to fix. Then even his solar panels and wind generator died, leaving him with no power to charge batteries or phone.

I asked Matt what were the qualities that he thought got him through when the going got tough. 'Seamanship is crucial,' he said, 'and the only way to learn seamanship is through experience, you can't learn seamanship from a book.' Then he quoted Ernest Shackleton, famed Antarctic sailor and explorer who in one exploit traveled in an open boat from Elephant Island to South Georgia, a distance of 700nm in 14 days, to save his crew left behind on Elephant Island.

'Shackleton taught me how to suffer with a smile on my face.'

But it wasn't all suffering. Matt described sighting Narwhals in the Northwest Passage as his most memorable moment in the voyage. 'Baffin Bay was nice,' he said, with typical understatement, 'with all the beautiful icebergs. Cape Horn was pretty.'

What about loneliness, I asked him. 314 days is a long time to spend alone. His reply is typical of the response of the long distance cruising sailor. 'Loneliness on land is different then loneliness at sea. On land there are people around so if your lonely you wonder, 'Why doesn't anyone want to talk to me'? At sea there is no one around to talk to so it isn't as bad. Being alone doesn't bother me.'

Would he do anything differently if he were starting now? His answer was a terse, 'I would get better solar panels.'

Summing up his voyage, Matt downplayed the sheer enormity of the voyage he had just completed. 'The ocean can be difficult,' he said, 'but for the most part my circumnavigation of the Americas was a pleasant and enjoyable experience.'

But that made it sound as though anyone could do it, while to the sailing world it was an incredible feat. 'Yes,' he agreed, 'We are all capable of incredible feats, all you have to do is believe in yourself'

Lee Tawney, director of the National Sailing Hall of Fame, was less reticent about Matt's achievement. 'It's like Edmund Hillary going up Mount Everest without Sherpas,' he said on Matt's arrival back into Annapolis.

There are no 2012 inductees into the National Sailing Hall of Fame as yet, but here's betting Matt Rutherford's name will be among them this year.

Selden 660x82RS Sailing 660x82KZRaceFurlers

Related Articles

America's Cup - New York Yacht Club makes a smart early move
New York Yacht Club's announcement of an entry in the 36th America's Cup may have seemed to some as a premature move. New York Yacht Club's announcement of an entry in the 36th America's Cup may have seemed to some as a premature move. Coming just seven days after the Protocol joint announcement, most would have expected the club with the longest involvement in the America's Cup to have at least waited until the concept drawing of the AC75 was published, at the end of November, before confirming their intentions.
Posted on 6 Oct
America's Cup - Dan Bernasconi on shaping the AC75 'Beast'
Dan Bernasconi, Technical Director of Emirates Team NZ is leading the design team charged with developing the AC75 rule Dan Bernasconi, Technical Director of Emirates Team New Zealand, has turned his hand from leading the team charged with developing the quickest America's Cup multihull on the planet to performing a similar feat with a monohull. First step in the process is coming up with a concept boat, and then writing a class rule to accommodate that type. The 75ft monohull has been given various monikers, bu
Posted on 5 Oct
America's Cup - Dalton opens up on boat and options for next Cup
The Protocol for the 36th America's Cup will take place in Auckland on the morning of the 29th September Italian media are reporting that the announcement of the Protocol for the 36th America's Cup will take place in Auckland on the morning of the 29th September. Dalton confirmed the details of the yacht will be revealed two months later on November 30, but would not say if it will be a foiling monohull as speculated in the media.
Posted on 18 Sep
Pulling G’s with Beneteau – Pt II
Just a little while ago we pulled some Gs with Beneteau’s Mr Product, aka G3. Just a little while ago we pulled some Gs with Beneteau’s Mr Product, aka G3. You can go back and read Part One of the story of Gianguido Girotti, as and when you may like. However, for now we’ll push on with the incredible semi-foiler Figaro 3, and the new Oceanis 51.1, along with what they represent for the brand as a whole. It is a very interesting tale, especially as Beneteau...
Posted on 31 Aug
JATO ignited as SuperFoiler prepares for take off (Pt II)
When we left SuperFoiler last time, the JATO rockets had been lit, and we were rapidly approaching the time for rotation When we left SuperFoiler last time, the JATO rockets had been lit, and we were rapidly approaching the time for rotation (lift off). You can catch up with Part One of SuperFoiler and the JATO rockets, but for now we get to talk speed, the crew on board, and finally the commercialisation of it all. Buckle up!
Posted on 28 Aug
Pulling G’s with Beneteau – Pt I
In a car, just the one G will have you straining at your seatbelt. In a car, just the one G will have you straining at your seatbelt. Over nine (+ve) in an aircraft, and without a G-suit, you will be unconscious. So at three G’s, and pulling no punches with them either, we not only enjoyed our opportunity to sit with Gianguido Girotti (G3), we got to learn a lot as well!
Posted on 23 Aug
JATO ignited as SuperFoiler prepares for take off (Pt I)
When small military transports have to take off from impossibly short runways with a belly full of cargo When small military transports have to take off from impossibly short runways with a belly full of cargo akin to Mr. Creosote, they reach for the JATO bottles. Aircraft like C-7 Caribous and LC130 Hercules strap rockets, yes rockets, to the underside of their wings to gain valuable extra thrust, which surely helps keep the pilots' heart rates below the red line.
Posted on 22 Aug
A Q&A with the RORC’s Nick Elliott about the 2017 Rolex Fastnet Race
I caught up with Nick Elliott, RORC Racing Manager, via email, to learn more about the world-famous Rolex Fastnet Race. When one stops to consider the world’s best ocean races, the Royal Offshore Racing Club’s Rolex Fastnet Race, which starts on Sunday, August 6, 2017, is never far from mind. I caught up with Nick Elliott, RORC Racing Manager, via email to learn more about the race’s history and evolution, its challenges, and the amount of work that goes into pulling off this world-famous regatta.
Posted on 1 Aug
Ian Walker - Musto Ambassador on the Volvo Ocean Race, America's Cup
Ian Walker on his Volvo Ocean Race win, why food and clothing are so important offshore, his views on the America's Cup We speak to Musto ambassador Ian Walker about his Volvo Ocean Race win, why food and clothing are so important offshore, his views on the America's Cup, his new desk job, sailing for fun, and 20 years of the John Merricks Sailing Trust.
Posted on 23 Jul
Black Jack Yachting. Bigger boat. Bigger team. Even bigger performance
Throughout the iterations of maxis called Black Jack, a strong, consistent and talented team has been their focus Throughout the iterations of maxis called Black Jack, a strong, consistent and talented team has been their focus. Some were sail makers, like Skipper Mark Bradford and also Vaughan Prentice from North Sails’ Brisbane loft. Others were riggers, such as Bruce Clarke, and there are even boat builders, like Gary van Lunteren, as well as Ash Deeks.
Posted on 20 Jul