It began, as Randall Reeves puts it, as a simple idea—to solo-circumnavigate the Americas and Antarctica in one season, making a double loop of the globe in the shape of a figure eight. It ended last October, when Reeves and his 45ft aluminum cutter, Moli, sailed back into Sausalito, California, at the conclusion of a 39,000-mile epic that encompassed everything from dodging icebergs to Southern Ocean storms to frustrating calms in tropical heat.
The Figure 8 Voyage was one of those increasingly rare sailing feats, one that hadn’t been done before. No one had attempted to circle both Antarctica and the North and South American continents. The near-40,000 mile voyage would have been a challenge for a fully crewed boat, let alone one sailor. In fact, on his first attempt, in 2017, Reeves had to pull into Tasmania for a lengthy pit stop after violent knockdowns damaged his steering gear and wiped out his electronics, before sailing back to San Francisco to prepare to do it all over again.
On his second attempt, all went well. From San Francisco, Reeves sailed down the Pacific and around Cape Horn. He then sailed east along the 40th parallel until rounding Cape Horn for the second time before turning north, entering the Arctic Circle and sailing up the coast of Greenland before heading through the Northwest Passage. Once through, he sailed back to San Francisco.
As Reeves said, this sounds simple enough, but it required meticulous planning, with little margin for error. This was especially true when it came to the Northwest Passage where conditions are near-impossible to predict with any certainty.
Reeves chose the right boat for the attempt. Built-in 1989 for voyager/explorer Clark Stede as Asma, the boat was renamed Taonui by her second owner, Tony Gooch, who in 2002 became the first person to complete a solo nonstop circumnavigation from a starting point in the Americas.
To learn more about Reeves’s historic achievement, go to figure8voyage.com.
Photos courtesy of Randall Reeves