Around The World Solo In A 21-Footer

By Mark Corke

Over more than 9 months, and 29,000 miles at sea, Polish sailor Szymon Kuczynski sailed alone and unaided around the world.

Polish sailor Szymon Kuczynski

As our editors send you this story, about an extraordinary man who has just sailed around the world solo in a small boat, another group of the world's top sailors has just finished a similar circumnavigation in the grand prix Volvo Ocean Race. It was a dramatic photo finish upset for the Volvo, the closest win in 45 years, and a stunning display of navigational and weather-routing virtuosity. Stay tuned. We're working on a story of the highlights for you that will be in our next edition. This month, though, we give you a bit of perspective on such feats, and introduce you to an around-the-world dreamer who quietly accomplished a quest just as epic.

The next time you think your boat's a little too small, remember the story of Szymon Kuczynski, 37, who just spent more that 270 days sailing 29,000 nautical miles around the world in a boat less than 21 feet. That's a new world record for the smallest yacht to circumnavigate the globe non-stop with no engine. For perspective, less than 300 people are known to have sailed single-handed around the world — only 80 have done so without stopovers or assistance.

The sailboat, a Maxus 22, was manufactured in the Northman shipyard in Poland. The boat, which is designed for in-land and close-shore sailing, was extensively modified and strengthened for the ocean challenge. The modification included tightly sealing his cabin, which he said challenged his morale with high temperatures and poor air circulation. He lamented to a friend that his precious supply of chocolates had melted and had to be cast overboard. The normally mobile and energetic Polish national made the best of his months alone in tight quarters by reportedly reading his way through 143 books.

Kuczynski struggled to wring out boat speed, changing sails seven or eight times per day, which was complicated by the additional shrouds required to support the mast, and the lower than normal boom position, both modifications made to upgrade the rig prior to the start of the voyage.

The boat averaged 4.5 knots for the voyage, with a top speed of 14.9 knots. Kuczynski, a seasoned sailor, instructor and lecturer, largely self-funded his latest voyage with the help of several logistical sponsors. He followed in the footsteps of famous seafarers who set sail from Plymouth to circumnavigate the globe, including Sir Francis Chichester and Sir Francis Drake.

"I am honored to be one of them," he wrote in the last miles of his journey. "It was a very special moment to see Plymouth on the horizon as I completed by world record attempt, it felt like coming home. It has been an amazing experience."  

— Published: June 2018

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