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Southern Spars - North Technology

Solo sailor circumnavigates the Americas- injured short of the Horn

by Nancy Knudsen on 4 Jan 2012
A good day heading for the Horn SW
[Sorry, this content could not be displayed] Matt Rutherford set sail from Annapolis last June in a 27ft Albin-Vega sailing boat, with an unimaginably difficult task ahead - to solo circumnavigate the Americas. As Christmas and New Year came and went, he was still going strong - from east to west through the North West Passage, down the Pacific and is now approaching Cape Horn - but it's not without some hiccups.

Read his recent account, posted just after Christmas, of injuring himself while attempting to turn off his wind generator:

I got a bit dinged up about a week and a half ago. It was blowing 30-35kts and these squally rain showers where consistently passing by producing 40kt winds. If there’s too much wind my wind generator disconnects (somehow) from my batteries and without that load it starts spinning out of control. You can tell when this happens because the sound that the wind generator makes changes drastically. So I went outside to tie off the blades and stop the generator from spinning. It sits on an eight foot pole, and because of the 40kt winds my boat was heeled over something awful. I had very little sail up so there was nothing I could do about that. Anyway, it’s a precarious job but I managed to tie off the wind generator. In order to get from the back of my cockpit to the companionway I have to step over the lines that run from my wind vane to my tiller. I’ve done this 1,000 times and could do it blindfolded. The problem was that it was 2 or 3am and the thick clouds blocked out the moonlight so I was sailing in pitch black darkness. As I went to step over the line a wave came out of the darkness hitting me with a solid wall of water. I had one foot in the air so it easily threw me across the cockpit. I came down hard on a winch right in the ribs and I must have hit several other things as I was dinged up in a half dozen places. I was alright after a few days but it hurt to take a deep breath for a while. The point is, when things go wrong on a sail boat it happens very quickly. One moment I’m sleeping peacefully in my sleeping bag, a few minutes later I’m sprawled out in the bottom of my cockpit with the wind knocked out of me, covered in water, trying to figure out what just happened.

Well, all in all, all is good. I’m happy to be down here. It’s an exciting place with an infamous history. I’m 1,240 miles from the Horn and right on schedule. The winds will pick up as I get closer to the Horn. It looks like I might have a gale in the next few days. So happy holidays, drink some egg nog for me and have a good new year.


All sailing adventurers do it for the love of the adventure, but many of them also do it for a worthy cause and Matt Rutherford is no ordinary sailor. Leaving a troubled youth behind he taught himself to sail and this led to a life on the sea and to a life dedicated to helping others.

Through his voyage he is raising money for the Chesapeake Regional Accessible Boating organisation, CRAB. A major part of this adventure is to raise awareness of and support for disabled sailing programs and sailors. To this end Matt is accepting pledges on a per mile basis (25,000miles!) with the initial funds going for the boat and all remaining funds to go to the CRAB organization.

[Sorry, this content could not be displayed]He transited the North West Passage in August/September with little fuss. Matt's voyage might seem to be very difficult on such a small boat, but he is also a very experienced sailor, having previously crossed the Atlantic solo in both directions in a 32ft Pearson, and with many more maritime miles under his keel on other voyages. This time the boat he is using, the 27ft Albin-Vega, has been donated by CRAB specifically for his challenging adventure.

To learn more or to join in and become part of this amazing adventure go to the http://www.solotheamericas.org/!website. To donate or become involved in some other way, contact Don Backe CRAB executive director at donbacke@aol.com.

Below is an Albin Vega 27, the small yacht that Matt is sailing around the Americas

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