Yvan Bourgnon Completes Beach Cat Journey Around the World

Author:
Publish date:
Updated on
Yvan Bourgnon had some trouble along the way, but that didn’t stop him from going around the world

Yvan Bourgnon had some trouble along the way, but that didn’t stop him from going around the world.

In the Fall 2014 issue of Multihull Sailor, Liesbet Collaert reported on Swiss sailor Yvan Bourgnon’s solo circumnavigation on a home-built beach cat. She met up with the intrepid sailor in Tahiti, where he was re-provisioning and making repairs to his 21ft Ma Louloute. Bourgnon, 44, was on track to become the first person to circumnavigate on a sailboat without a cabin.

Last June, Bourgnon stepped ashore in L’Ouistreham, France, to complete his remarkable voyage, one that had more than its fair share of near-disasters. Bourgnon survived two capsizes and several hurricane-strength storms, including 70-knot winds off Sumatra that had his little cat doing 25 knots under bare poles. It was ironic that his voyage nearly ended on a Sri Lankan beach in a near-calm.

Hard Aground

“I hadn’t slept for four days, and I was two hours from port,” Bourgnon told Redbull.com’s Will Gray. “I was in bad shape. I had hallucinations. I almost hit a cargo ship, and I knew I had to sleep, or I would crash in the harbor.

“I put the autopilot on, but when I woke up I was in the breaking waves, and the boat smashed on the rocks. I was thrown out and got stuck underneath. I thought I would die under the boat. I couldn’t breathe. My boat was completely broken, but it kept me alive.”

Adding insult to injury, the local authorities mistook Bourgnon for a drug smuggler and locked him up for two days. On his release, the doughty Swiss rolled up his sleeves, salvaged what he could of his broken boat and set about rebuilding it, aided by a crowdfunding program set up by his many supporters back in Europe. Five months after the wreck, he was back on the water and heading up the pirate-infested Red Sea, the most challenging part of his 31,000-mile voyage. Strong headwinds, countless oil platforms, heavy shipping traffic and poorly charted reefs all added up to a singlehander’s nightmare.

Once through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean, it was comparatively plain sailing. Bourgnon stopped to reprovision and rest at Malta and at Cascais in Portugal, crossed the notorious Bay of Biscay without incident, and completed his remarkable 20-month odyssey on June 23. The fact that he navigated solely with a sextant and paper charts—without even a backup GPS on board—made his feat all the more impressive.

Bourgnon’s recipe for survival at sea? Don’t panic. “I can think of four or five times when, if I’d had a little bit of panic, I would be dead.” On the small matter of sleeping on a beach cat underway: “Rarely more than 15 minutes at a time! I learned to sleep with the sheet in my hand under tension, and that is one reason I didn’t capsize much because I was ready to ease the sail in a second.”

Read Liesbet Collaert's Story Yvan Bourgnon Solo Sailing a Catamaran Around the World here

Photo courtesy of Yvan Bourgnon

MHS Fall 2015

Related

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com Check the waypoint  Most errors with GPS and paper chart navigation are caused by the operator punching in the wrong numbers or plotting the lat/long incorrectly. The surest way to double-check a ...read more

Furlex-Electric

Gear: Seldén’s Furlex Electric

Furl Power Seldén’s Furlex Electric offers an easy path into the world of sweat-free headsail furling. The compact unit can be retrofitted to an existing manual Furlex unit or installed as a replacement for whatever you’ve got now. Its DC-DC converter accepts your boat’s 12V or ...read more

11_DSC8423Tom-Zydler

Cruising: Nova Scotia

There’s a unique cruising ground that combines access to urban locations with easy escapes to wilderness and nature. Its native people may be the friendliest on the east coast of North America. Its coastline runs 250 nautical miles in a straight line, but that should be ...read more

01-LEAD-shutterstock_727849660

Boat Monitoring System

Boat Oversight In a world where you can track your friends’ locations in real time and stream yourself live on the internet, it should come as no surprise that you can also keep a close eye on your boat from the comfort of home. In fact, not only is there a plethora of options ...read more

pilot_saloon_42-_en_navigation_11

Boat Review: Wauquiez Pilot Saloon 42

Old salts grouse about modern aesthetics. It’s just what they do, and the hard lines and spartan interiors of today’s production boats give them many reasons to complain. French builder Wauquiez, however, seems to consistently be able to marry contemporary elements with ...read more

JuneWaterlines

Sights and Stories Cruising the Caribbean

Though I hate to think of myself as a “disaster tourist,” I can’t deny one of the things I was most curious about as I sailed south last fall to visit St. Martin, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico was how much hurricane damage I would see. I’m sure no one needs reminding that ...read more