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Yassine Darkaoui: off on a long trip, again.

by Guy Nowell, Sail-World Asia 16 Dec 2018 01:08 PST
Yassine Darkaoui - the Long Trip © Yassine Darkaoui

In 2014 Yassine Darkaoui attempted to beat the long distance single-handed dinghy record – variously reported as being 50nm (Asia), 300 nm (Tania Callas, in Mexico) and 798 nm (Christian Kargl, Croatia) but with overnight stops.

On that occasion, Darkaoui sailed 211 nm in 77 hours, on a route from Ao Yon to Phi Phi and Koh Racha and back, returning to Phuket more than once to collect food and water from a support boat anchored off Ao Yon.

Squalls were his worst enemy. “Every time I saw a squally coming, I had to change my route. For the first maybe six hours I was scared, because I had a bad experience sailing around Racha before, and I was thinking I should stop. But after that, I started getting more comfortable and I decided I should stay and enjoy it.”

“It is part of the game, to feel scared and cold. It was scary because a lot of fishing boats don’t have lights. When there were storms and lightning, it was a bit scary because the dinghy is a very small boat. Many times I didn’t have cellphone reception, and it was impossible for me to call [for help].” Darkaoui ended up returning to Ao Yon after suffering severe pain and bleeding buttocks, caused by the humidity, the salt water and the rain. He says he also suffered hallucinations.

“I had to wait a lot because there wasn’t much wind, and it was very difficult to sail. I had to sit in very uncomfortable conditions. Physically I was okay, it was more about the pain – it was just too much. I was bleeding. The last 15 or 20 kilometres I had to kneel, because I couldn’t sit anymore. I knew I already had the Asian record and the time record, so I decided to stop.”

Now Darkaoui is off on another adventure, having found support from the Hua Hin Sailing Club in the shape of a new, fully rigged, Laser. “A few months ago – July or even earlier - I decided to go for another long journey on a Laser. Instead of finding sponsors first and then training for the challenge, I started with body and mind conditioning, and will move soon to Hua Hin for a couple of weeks of sailing training. I already have one sponsor, and I’m actively looking for another - I sell spots on my sail. Once I find the second one I'll settle in Hua Hin for few weeks, using the time to prepare body and mind better, and also "learn" more about the Gulf of Thailand.

The distance that Darkaoui intends to use as a benchmark is 800km. “My journey will be from Hua Hin to Sattahip (same as the King of Thailand sailed 1966), and then down to Koh Chang, back to Hua Hin, then Sattahip and finally back to Hua Hin to finish where I started.”

“I'm doing this as a personal challenge, looking for the ‘natural high’. For water, Darkaoui will carry a small Katadyn desalinator, and for food he will prepare a paste made with different nuts and local leafy vegetables. He intends to fish along the way. “Raw meals, of course.”

“What will be, I think, most challenging is finding the turning marks (Sattahip and Hua Hin) especially if the weather and visibility is poor. Rain and darkness won’t help. And on the leg from Koh Chang to Hua Hin – well, that is 300km across open sea, and I am going to have to look out for commercial traffic.

Interested readers will be able to follow his forthcoming journey online through YBTRACKING, and Yassine’s blog can be found at www.alwayshigher.asia. His Facebook page is "Always higher 4.0"

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