Single-handed sailing

Single-handed sailing

The sport of single-handed sailing is sailing with only one crewmember (ie. only one person on board the vessel). The term is usually used with reference to ocean and long-distance sailing, and particularly competitive sailing.


In sailing, a hand is a member of a ship's crew. ["The Sailor's Word-Book", Admiral W.H. Smyth, p. 364; Conway Maritime Press, UK, 1991. ISBN 0-85177-972-7] [ [ "Nautical Glossary"] , from Marine Waypoints.] Single-handed therefore means with a crew of one; ie. only one person on the vessel. The term "single-handed" has been adopted into more general English, meaning "done without help from others"; however, it has also come to mean literally "with one hand". [ [ "Compact Oxford English Dictionary"] , from Ask Oxford.]

In the sailing community, the term crewed (or sometimes fully-crewed) is used to mean sailing with a crew of more than one, in order to distinguish events permitting larger crews from their single-handed equivalents (even though a solo sailor is also correctly referred to as a vessel's "crew"). Hence, for example, "Bruno Peyron ... has taken part in almost all the large crewed and single-handed sailing events since the 80's." [ [ "Stena Sovcomflot Sailing Team"] , from Nokia Oops Cup.]

The term double-handed is used to refer to sailing with two persons on board. There are a number of double-handed offshore races, and some races feature a double-handed category.

This use of "hand" to mean a member of a ship's crew may derive from the days of sailing ships, where the crew had to work high in the rigging without the benefit of modern safety harnesses; it was an essential precaution that each sailor should hold on with one hand at all times, while working with the other. This meant that each crew member represented one hand for the ship's work, and gave rise to the saying "one hand for yourself, one for the ship". [ [ "Covey Crump — "hand"] , Commander A. Covey-Crump, RN, 1955; from the Royal Navy.] This saying remains excellent advice for sailors today, particularly single-handers.

Sailing alone

Many dinghy and other small-boat sailors sail single-handed over short distances, or in protected waters, with little difficulty; indeed, the smallest classes of boat (such as Optimists and El Toros) can realistically only accommodate a single crewmember. The term single-handed sailing, however, normally refers to voyages which would normally be undertaken with crew, such as sailing over longer distances, over multiple days, and in larger boats; this is a much more challenging activity, particularly for those who do it competitively.

What it is

Single-handed sailing simply means sailing on some voyage with just one person on board. For cruising sailors, this may be prompted by an inability to find willing and compatible crew; by a desire to "prove oneself" by undertaking a major challenge; or simply by the type of personality that favours a solitary life. However, a single-handed voyage may include stops, and indeed may be undertaken as a series of short hops; so life for single-handed cruisers can be almost as social as for crews.

Many significant voyages, such as ocean passages, have been made single-handed; and a number of people have circumnavigated the world single-handed. [ [ "List Of Solo Circumnavigators"] , from the Joshua Slocum Society International.] "Single-handed" does not, in general, imply "non-stop"; so a single-handed circumnavigation counts as such even with stops, as in Joshua Slocum's great voyage.

The racing scene

Single-handed sailing has become a major competitive sport, and there are a number of prominent single-handed offshore races. The "Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race" (or "OSTAR") and the "Route du Rhum" are all trans-Atlantic single-handed races. Round-the-world yacht racing began with the single-handed "Sunday Times Golden Globe Race". Two modern round-the-world races decscended from this event are the "VELUX 5 Oceans Race" (or "Around Alone"), which is run in several stages with stops in between; and the "Vendée Globe", a non-stop race around the world, and perhaps the ultimate event in single-handed sailing. Many single-handed races make use of Open 50 and Open 60 boats.

Stringent rules apply to single-handed races and speed records. As with any sailing races, the voyage must be completed under sail, and the boat must be operated and powered by wind and muscle-power alone (no electric/hydraulic winches). An exception is often made allowing electronic auto-pilots. Some races are carried out in stages, where repairs and resupply may be carried out at the intermediate ports of call; in "non-stop" races and record attempts, no outside assistance is permitted, whether in the form of a tow, repairs, supplies, or whatever. However, anchoring to make repairs under one's own resources is generally permitted. [ [ "What Constitutes a Singlehanded Voyage?"] , from Karen Thorndike.] [ [ "Rules 2005-2008"] , section 21, "Sailing Rules", from the World Sailing Speed Record Council.]

In terms of safety, very stringent entry requirements apply to major races. The crew must meet requirements for both past experience and training, and the vessel and equipment must meet specified standards. [ [ "Main rules for the Vendee Globe 2004"] , Vendee Globe official website.]

One issue that arises with single-handed round-the-world racing is that of verifying that the competitor has actually sailed around the world. In practice, faking such a voyage, along with all of the detailed logs, workings of celestial navigation sights, radio check-ins at various places, and so on, would be virtually impossible; however, in the Golden Globe Race, one competitor did actually attempt this — although the attempt drove him to madness and suicide. ["A Voyage for Madmen", by Peter Nichols. Harper Collins, 2001. ISBN 0-06-095703-4] ["The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst", by Nicholas Tomalin and Ron Hall. Hodder & Stoughton Ltd., 2003. ISBN 0-07-141429-0] Today, racers in major offshore races are required to carry location beacons, such as Inmarsat-C with GPS, or the Argos System; these beacons report each boat's position continuously to race headquarters. [ [ "IMOCA Year Book 2004: G.4: Marine radio / navigational position-fixing device"] , from IMOCA.] [ [ "Argos Applications: Tracking Sailboats"] , from CLS.] This is primarily for safety, and to be able to provide daily race reports; however, it also allows the organisers to ensure that racers are following the correct course.


Complete competence with sailing and seamanship are of course required for single-handing, as is a high degree of self-sufficiency. ["One Hand for Yourself — One for the Ship", Tristan Jones; Sheridan House, UK, 1990. ISBN 0-924486-03-1] Physical fitness is of particular importance for single-handing, as all of the tasks (such as sail changes, etc.) which would ordinarily be handled by two or more persons must be accomplished by the lone skipper. This includes sail adjustments and changes, such as wrestling the jib down and off the foredeck in a sudden storm, an arduous task at the best of times.

This is true many times over for competitive sailors; for example, Ellen MacArthur's "Kingfisher" monohull, in which she completed the 2000 Vendée Globe, has an upwind sail area of 237 square metres (2550 ft²), as compared to a conservative recreational round-the-world yacht such as a Westsail 32, which has a sail area of 59 square metres (630 ft²) — despite that these two boats have virtually the same weight, at around 9,000 kilograms (20,000 lb). [ [ "About Skandia"] ,] [ [ "Westsail 32"] , a review by Jack Hornor.] With all sail handling being by the muscle power of one person, this huge sail area directly translates to physical effort while sailing, and the much greater power-to-weight ratio makes simply handling the boat a major challenge. In addition, while a recreational sailor might let a change in conditions slide for an hour or two, a racer will respond to every wind shift with a sail adjustment or change, resulting in much more frequent exertions.

One of the greatest challenges facing a lone sailor is sleep, since a good watch must be kept at all times while at sea. Most single-handers use the technique of napping for 15-20 minutes at a time, using a timer to wake them up for periodic look-arounds; with the relatively slow speed of a sailboat, this allows most hazards to be seen in time. Again the challenge is greater for racers, given their higher speeds and more intense activity, and some racers have carried out considerable research into getting the maximum benefit from short cat-naps. [ [ "Life on Board"] , from Team Ellen.]


The greatest nightmare for the single-handed sailor is the danger of falling overboard. In fact, this may be the greatest danger for any ocean sailor, given the slim chance of recovering a crewmember lost overboard in the open ocean, particularly if the rest of the crew is asleep at the time (as will usually be the case for small crews). [ [ "Overboard Emergencies"] , by John Kretschmer, from] However, the nightmare scenario of floating in mid-ocean while watching one's boat sail away under auto-pilot makes many single-handers very cautious. Staying on the boat (by careful and thorough use of handholds, lifelines, and tethers) is undoubtedly the best approach for any sailor, but some single-handers tow a rope astern, as a last desperate chance if they should fall in. ["Singlehanded Sailing", Richard Henderson; page 196. A&C Black, 1988. ISBN 0-7136-4498-2]

There is some controversy about the legality of sailing single-handed over long distances. The navigation rules require that "Every vessel shall at all times maintain a proper look-out by sight and hearing as well as by all available means appropriate in the prevailing circumstances and conditions so as to make a full appraisal of the situation and of the risk of collision." [ [ "Navigation Rules and Regulations — Rule 5 — Lookout"] , United States Coast Guard.] Single-handed sailors can only keep a sporadic lookout, due to the need to sleep, tend to navigation, etc., raising the possibility of a collision with an unseen vessel. [ [ "Keeping a lookout is easier said than done"] , by Bill Schanen. Sailing Magazine. Retrieved February 13, 2006.]

Notable milestones

The pioneers

No-one knows when the first single-handed voyage was made; it is possible that early Polynesian sailors, who were proficient navigators, may have been first to make a significant single-handed offshore voyage. The recorded history of single-handed voyages begins with an American sailor, Josiah Shackford, who is reported to have sailed from France to Surinam, in South America, although this has not been reliably authenticated. Another unauthenticated — and somewhat improbable — voyage is that of Captain Cleveland of Salem, who was said to have sailed nearly around the world single-handed in a convert|15|ft|m|0|sing=on boat around 1800. A more likely account is of J.M. Crenston, who is reported to have sailed a convert|40|ft|m|0|sing=on boat from New Bedford, Massachusetts to San Francisco (whether by Cape Horn or the Strait of Magellan is unknown). ["Singlehanded Sailing"; pages 3-4.]

Single-handed sailing received a great impetus in the middle of the 19th century, when it was popularised by two British sailors, R.T. McMullen and John MacGregor. Although neither man made a major single-handed offshore passage, MacGregor achieved some fame for sailing a convert|21|ft|m|0|sing=on yawl from London to Paris and back in 1867. His book, "The Voyage Alone in the Yawl Rob Roy", ["The Voyage Alone in the Yawl Rob Roy", John MacGregor. Dover Publications, 2001. ISBN 0-486-41822-7] and McMullen's book "Down Channel" published in 1869, ["Down Channel", R. T. McMullen. Grafton Books, 1986. ISBN 0-246-13040-7] inspired many people to cruise. ["Singlehanded Sailing"; page 5.]

The first authenticated single-handed ocean crossing was made in 1876, by a 30-year-old fisherman named Alfred "Centennial" Johnson. Johnson sailed out of Gloucester, Massachusetts to cross the Atlantic Ocean in an open dory named "Centennial"; his voyage, which arose from a dare with his friends over a game of cards, was timed to celebrate the first centennial of the United States. He set off on the convert|3000|nmi|km|-2|sing=on crossing on June 15, 1876; he averaged about convert|70|mi|km|0 a day, and contacted many vessels along the way, getting positions from their navigators. After surviving a major gale that capsized the boat, he finally made landfall at Abercastle, Wales, on August 12, 1876. [ [ "Johnson wanted to prove he could do it alone"] , by Greg Cook.] [ [ "Alfred "Centennial" Johnson"] , Rob Morris; Y Crofft, 2003. ISBN 0-9547351-0-2] ["Singlehanded Sailing"; pages 4-5.] Another Gloucesterman, Howard Blackburn, who had lost all his fingers in a fishing accident, made single-handed Atlantic crossings in 1899 and 1901. [ [ "The Epic Voyage of Howard Blackburn"] , from the Gloucestershire (UK) Portal.] ["Singlehanded Sailing"; pages 10-13.]

William Albert Andrews, of Beverley, Massachusetts, made several significant single-handed voyages, and instigated the first single-handed trans-Atlantic race. Andrews first sailed the Atlantic with his brother, in a convert|19|ft|m|0|sing=on dory, in 1878. He made an aborted attempt at a single-handed crossing in 1888; then in 1891, he issued a challenge to any single-hander to race him across the ocean for a prize of $5,000. Josiah W. Lawlor, the son of a famous boat-builder, took up the challenge, and the two men built convert|15|ft|m|0|sing=on boats for the race. They set off from Crescent Beach near Boston on June 21, 1891. Andrews, in a highly unseaworthy boat, capsized several times and was finally picked up by a steamer; but Lawler arrived at Coverack, Cornwall, on August 5, 1891. ["Singlehanded Sailing"; pages 5-8.]

The sport of long-distance single-handed sailing was firmly established with the famous voyage of Joshua Slocum, who circumnavigated the world between 1895 and 1898. Despite widespread opinion that such a voyage was impossible (there was no Panama Canal then), Slocum, a retired sea captain, rebuilt a convert|37|ft|m|0|sing=on sloop, "Spray", and sailed her around the world — the first single-handed circumnavigation of the world. His book "Sailing Alone Around the World" is still considered a classic adventure, and inspired many others to take to the seas. ["Sailing Alone Around the World", Captain Joshua Slocum; Sheridan House, 1954. ISBN 0-911378-20-0]

In 1942, while the world was in the depths of World War II, the Argentine sailor Vito Dumas set out on a single-handed circumnavigation of the Southern Ocean. He left Buenos Aires in June, sailing "Lehg II", a convert|31|ft|m|0|sing=on ketch named for the initials of his mistress. He had only the most basic and makeshift gear; he had no radio, for fear of being shot as a spy, and was forced to stuff his clothes with newspaper to keep warm. His voyage of convert|20000|mi|km|-3 was not a true circumnavigation, as it was contained within the southern hemisphere; however, he made the first single-handed passage of the three great capes, and indeed the first successful single-handed passage of Cape Horn. With only three landfalls, the legs of his trip were the longest that had been made by a single-hander, and in the most ferocious oceans on the Earth; but most of all, it was a powerful retort to a world which had chosen to divide itself by war. ["Alone Through The Roaring Forties", Vito Dumas; McGraw-Hill Education, 2001. ISBN 0-07-137611-9]

The beginnings of modern racing

Organised single-handed yacht racing was pioneered by "Blondie" Hasler and Francis Chichester, who conceived the idea of a single-handed race across the Atlantic Ocean. This was a revolutionary concept at the time, as the idea was thought to be extremely impractical; particularly in the adverse conditions of their proposed route — a westward crossing of the north Atlantic Ocean. Nevertheless, their original half-crown bet on first place developed into the first single-handed transatlantic yacht race, the OSTAR, which was held in 1960; the race was a success, and was won in 40 days by Chichester, then aged 58, in "Gipsy Moth III". Hasler finished second, in 48 days, sailing the junk-rigged "Jester"; his wind-vane self-steering gear revolutionised short-handed sailing, and his other major innovation — using a junk rig for safer and more manageable shorthanded sailing — influenced many subsequent sailors. [ [ "The Golden Globe Race"] , by Barry Pickthall, from] [ [ "Finding Beauty in a Junk"] , by Michelle Potter.] Chichester placed second in the second running of the race 4 years later. The winner on that occasion, Eric Tabarly, sailed in the first ever boat specifically designed for single-handed ocean racing, the 44’ ketch "Pen Duick II". [ [ "The Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race 1960-2000"] ]

Not content with his achievements, Chichester set his sights on the next logical goal — a racing-style circumnavigation of the world. In 1966 he set off in "Gipsy Moth IV", a yacht custom-built for a speed attempt, in order to set the fastest possible time for a round-the-world trip — in effect, the first speed record for a single-handed circumnavigation. He followed the clipper route from Plymouth, United Kingdom, to Sydney, Australia, where he stopped over for 48 days, then continued south of Cape Horn back to Plymouth. In the process he became the first single-handed sailor to circumnavigate west-to-east, by the clipper route, with just one stop(48 days), in 274 days overall, with a sailing time of 226 days, twice as fast as the previous record for a small vessel. At the age of 65, Chichester had once again revolutionised single-handed sailing. ["Gipsy Moth Circles the World", Sir Francis Chichester; International Marine, 2001. ISBN 0-07-136449-8]

The first single-handed round-the-world yacht race — and actually the first round-the-world yacht race in any format — was the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, starting between June 1 and October 31 (the skippers set off at different times) in 1968. Of the nine boats which started:
* four retired before leaving the Atlantic
* Chay Blyth, who had never sailed a boat before, made it to East London in South Africa, past Cape Agulhas
* Nigel Tetley's boat sank after crossing his outbound track, while in the clear lead for the speed record
* Donald Crowhurst attempted to fake a circumnavigation, went insane, and committed suicide
* Bernard Moitessier completed a circumnavigation, rejected the race's (and society's) inherent materialism, and despite being the fastest racer (on elapsed time) and hot favourite to win, decided to keep sailing, and completed another half-circumnavigation before finishing in Tahiti
* Robin Knox-Johnston was the only person to complete the race, becoming (in 1969) the first person to sail single-handed, unassisted and non-stop around the world.

The modern era

Even after the main "firsts" had been achieved — first solo circumnavigation, first non-stop — other sailors set out to make their mark on history. In 1965, at the age of just 16, Robin Lee Graham set out from southern California to sail around the world in his 24' sailboat "Dove"; and in 1970, he successfully completed the youngest (at age 16-21) solo circumnavigation. Following in Chichester's wake, Alec Rose, a 58 year old British grocer, set off in 1967 to sail solo around the world; he completed his voyage on July 4, 1968 after 2 stops, and was knighted the following day. [ [ "1968: Alec Rose sails home"] , BBC news.] He subsequently wrote a book, "My Lively Lady", about his voyage. ["My Lively Lady", Sir Alec Rose; Nautical Pub.Co., 1968. ISBN 0-245-59593-7] Despite his failure in the Golden Globe, Chay Blyth had decided that endurance sailing was for him, and in 1970-1971 he made the first westabout single-handed non-stop circumnavigation via the great capes — i.e. against the prevailing winds of the roaring forties.

Single-handed racing continued to develop with the creation in 1977 of the Mini-Transat, a singlehanded transatlantic race for boats smaller than 6.5m. The first edition started from Penzance, UK; today it runs from La Rochelle, France, to Brazil.

The major women's firsts were achieved in just over ten years. Poland's Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz set off to sail around the world by the trade-wind route in 1976, and on her return to the Canary Islands in 1978 became the first woman to perform a single-handed circumnavigation (with stops). Less than two months later, Naomi James completed the first single-handed circumnavigation (with stops) by a woman via Cape Horn, in just 272 days; and in 1988, Kay Cottee became the first woman to perform a solo non-stop circumnavigation in her 11 metre (36 ft) sloop "First Lady", taking 189 days. It was not until 2006, however, that the first woman — Dee Caffari — completed a non-stop westabout circumnavigation. [ [ "Wrong-way sailor back on UK soil"] , BBC News. Retrieved May 21, 2006.] The first woman to win overall a singlehanded ocean race was Florence Arthaud, who won the Route du Rhum (Saint-Malo, France, to Pointe-à-Pitre, French Caribbean) in 1990.

In 1982, the first single-handed round-the-world race since the disastrous Golden Globe, the "BOC Challenge", was inaugurated. This event is raced in stages, with between two and four intermediate stops, going eastabout by way of the great capes, and is run every four years. The first edition was won by French yachtsman Philippe Jeantot, who won all four legs of the race with an overall elapsed time of just over 159 days. With changes in sponsorship the race later became known as the "Around Alone", and is now the "VELUX 5 Oceans Race". [ [ "Race History"] , from the Velux 5 Oceans official website.]

With the success of the "BOC" the stage was set for a new non-stop race, and 1989-1990 saw the first running of the "Vendée Globe", a single-handed, non-stop, round-the-world yacht race, by way of the great capes. Founded by former "BOC Challenge" winner Philippe Jeantot, this is essentially the successor to the Golden Globe race (though much better organised). The race, which takes place every four years, is regarded by yachtsmen and women as the ultimate event in single-handed sailing. The inaugural edition was won by Titouan Lamazou of France, in "Ecureuil d'Aquitaine II", with a time of 109 days, 8 hours, 48 minutes.

Single-handed records

The theoretical distance for each course is shown, and the average speed based on this theoretical distance is shown for each record for comparison purposes. Note, however, that the actual distance sailed will be more than the theoretical distance, particularly on upwind and round-the-world courses; the actual average speed will therefore also be higher than that shown.

See also


Further reading

* [ The shorthanded sailing resource] Site with articles, short handed race coverage and other information surrounding sailing shorthanded.
* [ "Solo Oceans Sailing & Racing"] from
* [ Shorthanded sailing website] Community for shorthanded sailing

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужна курсовая?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Single Handed — can refer to the following:* Single handed sailing, sailing with only one crewmember * Single Handed Trans Atlantic Race, or STAR, is an east to west yacht race across the North Atlantic * Single Handed (1923 film), a 1923 film starring Hoot… …   Wikipedia

  • single-handed — single handedness, n. /sing geuhl han did/, adj. 1. accomplished or done by one person alone: a single handed victory; single handed sailing. 2. by one s own effort; unaided. adv. 3. by oneself; alone; without aid: He built the garage single… …   Universalium

  • Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic Race — The Single handed Trans Atlantic Race, or STAR, is an east to west yacht race across the North Atlantic. When inaugurated in 1960, it was the first single handed ocean yacht race; it is run from Plymouth to the USA, and is held every four years.… …   Wikipedia

  • Sailing — is the art of controlling a sailing vessel. By changing the rigging, rudder and dagger or centre board, a sailor manages the force of the wind on the sails in order to change the direction and speed of a boat. Mastery of the skill requires… …   Wikipedia

  • Sailing at the 2008 Summer Olympics — in Beijing was held from August 9 to 21. The competition took place in Qingdao, at Qingdao International Marina.The events consisted of four classes for men, four for women, and three mixed classes that were open to both men and women. Since the… …   Wikipedia

  • Sailing Alone Around the World — (1899) is a sailing memoir by Joshua Slocum about his single handed global circumnavigation aboard the sloop Spray . Slocum was the first person to sail around the world alone, the book was an immediate success and highly influential in inspiring …   Wikipedia

  • Sailing at the 2004 Summer Paralympics — took place at the Agios Kosmas Olympic Sailing Centre from September 18 September 23. The sailors were a mix of physically and visually impaired men and women competing together. The classes sailed were: * 2.4mR single handed keelboat * Sonar… …   Wikipedia

  • sailing — /say ling/, n. 1. the activity of a person or thing that sails. 2. the departure of a ship from port: The cruise line offers sailings every other day. 3. Navig. any of various methods for determining courses and distances by means of charts or… …   Universalium

  • Sailing at the 2000 Summer Olympics — Final results for the Sailing events at the 2000 Summer Olympics: Medal table RankCountryGold Silver Bronze1Great Britain3202Australia2113Austria2004USA1215Italy1106=Denmark1006=Finland1007Germany0218Argentina0129Brazil01110Netherlands01011New… …   Wikipedia

  • sailing —    There has always been a strong interest in sailing in the British Isles, where there are 1,605 sailing clubs. The south coast of England, the west coast of Scotland and the lochs of Northern Ireland are popular cruising grounds, but throughout …   Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”