Some of the greatest sailing voyages are those that are undertaken quietly, without publicity and for no reason other than that they are there to be accomplished. One such ended in June when Jerome Rand sailed his Westsail 32, Mighty Sparrow, into the New England port of Gloucester to a rousing welcome from a small band of friends and family. Sporting an impressive set of whiskers grown en route, the Petosky, Michigan native made no secret of his happiness to be ashore once again.
Rand’s wobbly steps onto the Gloucester dock were his first on a stable surface in 271 days. Since leaving Gloucester on October 3 last year he had sailed 29,807 miles, nonstop and alone. His journey took him south of the five southernmost capes—Chile’s Cape Horn, South Africa’s Cape Agulhas, Australia’s Cape Leeuwin and South East Cape, and New Zealand’s South Cape—and through the chilly, gale-lashed waters of the Southern and Indian oceans.
Rand’s feat was all the more impressive for having been accomplished with no fanfare, no calls for sponsorship and very little in the way of modern conveniences. He saved up to buy the Westsail while working as head watersports instructor at the Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI, and spent most of 2017 working on her in a Maine boatyard with the help of his father and brothers to prepare her for the wilds of the southern seas: rebedding deck fittings, replacing chainplates and strengthening the rig. He ditched the roller-furling gear in favor of hank-on sails made by his sailmaker brother Sven and bolted on an Aries windvane steering gear in place of an electronic autopilot. For navigation, he brought a sextant, tables and an elderly chartplotter, along with a VHF radio, an AIS unit and a Garmin InReach satellite messenger, all powered by a pair of solar panels.
Belowdecks, mindful of the possibility of being knocked down or rolled, Rand built a heavy-duty bank of lockers to safely contain his stores. He aimed to carry enough food to complete the voyage, but slow progress in the lighter airs he encountered midway through forced him to call in at the Falklands Islands to have more supplies brought out to him. As for water, Rand increased his tankage as much as possible and brought along a hand-operated watermaker that failed along the way, so he relied on rainwater and, sometimes, snow. Speaking of which, there was no heater on board. In the southern latitudes, with temperatures in the 40s and water often breaking over the boat, the interior streamed with condensation and Rand fought a daily battle with mildew and mold. “It was everywhere—even in my beard,” he said.
Rand’s brother Adam helped him with weather advice via the InReach, though there was no way the slow Westsail was going to emulate the Volvo Ocean Race boats that were out there at the same time and sail around the fast-developing lows of the Southern Ocean. Rand rode them out under staysail and triple-reefed mainsail, suffering two major knockdowns in the process. Each time the sturdy Westsail bobbed upright again and sailed on, a testament to the boat’s construction and design and the preparation that had gone into the voyage.
The Westsail 32 has something of a cult boat among the bluewater fraternity. The lines come from the Norwegian Colin Archer lifeboats of the early 20th century, which were borrowed by William Atkin and translated into a 32ft double-ender in 1928. Bill Crealock, later known for his Crealock/Pacific Seacraft designs, adapted Atkin’s design for GRP construction, and the result was the Westsail 32. Sir Robin Knox-Johnston’s Suhaili, on which he won the 1967-68 Golden Globe singlehanded race, was also built to Atkin’s design and is a close sister to the Westsail 32.
I was at the dock in Gloucester when Rand arrived and was amazed at the shape the boat was in. The sails looked nearly new and the hull was lacking the scumlines and staining that usually accompany a major voyage. A few goose barnacles at the waterline and on the rudder were about the only giveaways. A grinning Rand admitted he’d spent the preceding light-air days “sanitizing” Mighty Sparrow so that she would be ready to receive visitors.
Mighty Sparrow is now back in Rockland, Maine, and Rand is readjusting to shoreside life. SAIL will run the full story of his epic voyage in the December issue. An engaging speaker, Rand has embarked on a tour of yacht clubs to share his adventures. I guarantee it’ll be an amusing evening. You can contact him at Jerhobie@gmail.com.
Photos courtesy of Jerome Rand