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Sailor Completes an Atlantic Crossing in a 16-Foot Boat

A stormy Bay of Biscay, equally lousy weather in the trades, a broken autopilot and damaged steering: none of this was enough to stop Austrian sailor Harald Sedlacek, who arrived at Palm Beach, Florida, on April 13 aboard...
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A stormy Bay of Biscay, equally lousy weather in the trades, a broken autopilot and damaged steering: none of this was enough to stop Austrian sailor Harald Sedlacek, who arrived at Palm Beach, Florida, on April 13 aboard his 16-foot Fipofix, 87 days after setting out from Gijon, Spain.

And he’s not done yet. Having already logged 5,100 miles the hard way, Sedlacek plans to take off again on May 18, bound this time for Les Sables d’Olonne, France, as part of a campaign to prove the effectiveness of the “volcanic fibers” and other composite technology used to build his Open 16 boat.

“There were many moments where I felt completely at the end, and I was in danger of abandonment,” Sedlacek says of his challenging trip across the Atlantic. “In these moments I was afraid. I felt alone and unprotected.”

He adds that when things got tough, he often drew inspiration from his sturdy little boat. “During the crossing I couldn’t see any structural weakness or damage of the boat hull. I said to myself that I am in good hands on my ‘sailing volcanic stone,’ and therefore I felt safe and often instantly felt better. I thought as long as this boat [lasts] it’s my job to sail it to the west until I reach the American East Coast. Only this counts!”

In addition to the reality of the boat’s size in relation to the seas it encountered, Sedlacek also had to overcome the challenge of provisioning aboard such a tiny hull. In the end he found himself forced to get by on short rations of just 1,100 calories per day—even while having to contend with yet more fickle weather as well as heavy commercial traffic in the Straits of Florida.

Sedlacek is currently in Austria resting up in anticipation of the trip back to Europe, which is only a few weeks away. The son of extreme sailing veteran Norbert Sedlacek—who finished 11 out of a field of 30 in the 2008-09 Vendee Globe— Harald Sedlacek is not only following in his father’s footsteps, he’s also one hell of a tough sailor.

For more on the campaign, visit www.open16.com.

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