Please select your home edition
Edition
Bakewell-White Yacht Design

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 .. .
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.

North Technology - Southern SparsInSunSport - NZBakewell-White Yacht Design

Related Articles

Sailor Jeanne Socrates, world's oldest non-stop female circumnavigator
70-year-old Jeanne Socrates arrives Victoria, Canada, as the oldest woman to sail solo non-stop around the world After many days of frustrating drifting, 70-year-old British sailor Jeanne Socrates has made it home to Victoria in triumph, becoming the oldest woman to single-handedly sail non-stop around the world without outside assistance.
Posted on 9 Jul 2013
UK Sailmakers gives Yassine a new mast for 150nm Laser sail record
Yassine Darkaoui wants to sail a 150nm course from Phuket - and has a new mast, thanks to UK Sailmakers In December we ran a story about how a young Moroccan sailor was in Thailand training to sail a 150nm course in a tiny Laser to break the world record. His problem was, his mast was broken and he couldn't afford a new one. Now, thanks to our Asia Editor Guy Nowell and UK Sailmakers Hong Kong representative, Barry Hayes, who read the story, things are looking up for Yassine Darkaoui.
Posted on 17 Jan 2013
Tall Ship Astrid - a circumnavigation of Africa
The Tall Ship Astrid will circumnavigate Africa, and the best news is YOU could join her for part of the voyage There's nothing finer than the sight of a tall ship with sails flying and the organisers of the Africa-Europe Challenge(AEC) are using a tall ship as their flagship. The Tall Ship Astrid, in what organisers are calling their Promotional Year, will circumnavigate Africa, and have already set out from the charismatic port of Malta. The best news is YOU could join a leg of the voyage.
Posted on 16 Jun 2012
Southernmost sailing voyages - who really has the record?
Andrew Troup corrects the records on the most southerly voyages by sailing boats. Recently a Ukrainian/Russian sailing boat, the 98ft steel-hulled Scorpius reached 77 degrees south and claimed a world record. This was greeted by a storm of protest from our readers, one of whom pointed out that in 1965 a tiny Moth was sailed at (but not to) 77.5 degrees. There were other claims too. Andrew Troup here corrects the records...
Posted on 14 Apr 2012
And the most southerly-sailing boat ever is...
Last week we said Ukrainian yacht Scorpius set a new world record in sailing furthest south - 77deg but we were wrong! Last week in Sail-World we told how Ukrainian-Russian crew aboard 30m sailing yacht Scorpius had claimed a new world record in sailing farther south into Antarctica than any other boat had gone, reaching 77 degrees. But we were wrong - well, in a way; because in 1965, Lt. Commander Steve Cockley, based in Mc Murdo Sound, had sailed a Moth, an 11ft (3.4m) dinghy, at 77.5 degrees S.
Posted on 1 Apr 2012
Laura Dekker completes solo circumnavigation at 16 years and 123 days
21 Jan: Solo sailor Laura Dekker has arrived Sint Maarten completing her solo circumnavigation at 16 years and 123 days This week (Saturday 21st January) Laura Dekker, 16-year-old Dutch/New Zealander solo sailor, quietly sailed between islands in pleasant seas into the Dutch island of Sint Maarten in the Caribbean, completing a solo odyssey around the world in a year and a day. There were merely dozens, not thousands, of people at the wharf to greet her.
Posted on 22 Jan 2012
Steve White - solo round the world the 'wrong way'
Steve White is to sail solo, round the world, non-stop and unassisted the 'wrong way', AND break the current record. Dee Caffari has done it, now Steve White is setting out to do it too. He's going to sail solo, round the world, non-stop and unassisted, AND the 'wrong way', AND break the current record.
Posted on 11 Sep 2010
Gipsy Moth Skipper and Mate Sacked
The Press Release was terse, brief, and lacking detail. Both the Skipper and Mate of Gipsy Moth IV have been sacked. The Press Release was terse, brief, and lacking detail. Both the Skipper and Mate of Gipsy Moth IV have been sacked.
Posted on 21 May 2006
Dee Caffari finishes Aviva Challenge
Dee Caffari, onboard Aviva, crossed the official finish line on 18 May 2006 at 17:55 pm Dee Caffari, onboard Aviva, crossed the official finish line on 18 May 2006 at 17:55 pm
Posted on 19 May 2006
Sir Francis Chichester’s Yacht Grounded
Gipsy Moth IV, the yacht Francis Chichester sailed around the world in, lies holed on a coral reef in Tahiti Gipsy Moth IV, the yacht Francis Chichester sailed around the world in, lies holed on a coral reef surrounding the largest of the Toumotu atolls, Rangiroa, with tropical storms forecast for the week ahead.
Posted on 2 May 2006