Yvan Bourgnon Completes Beach Cat Journey Around the World

Author:
Updated:
Original:

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

01A-LEAD-Finished-table

DIY: A Better Saloon Table

The original saloon table in my Down East 45 schooner was a single heavy sheet of 3/4in laminated plywood, 27in wide by 57in long. It was supported on two substantial aluminum pedestals locking into a set of large round collars screwed to the sole. There were two annoying ...read more

02b-screen-shot

Salty Dawgs Recognized by CCA

The Salty Dawg Sailing Association (SDSA) has long been the go-to organization for high value, affordable rallies, but when Covid forced the sudden closure of borders in the Caribbean, it pivoted to organizing the Homeward Bound Flotilla. Its experience organizing rallies came ...read more

FB-BHM-1024

SAIL Black History Month Series: James Forten

James Forten was born on September 2, 1766 in Philadelphia to free Black parents Thomas and Margaret Forten. Forten attended a Quaker school as a young child, then went to work with his father who was a sailmaker. His father died when he was still young, and Forten worked ...read more

sailme-app_ SAIL

5 Ways Sail.me Helps You Monetize Your Boat

Ready to earn some extra funds by renting out your boat or yacht? Sail.me is an interactive service that allows you to monetize your boat in a secure, safe, and easy way. A user-friendly app and website will help you manage reservations, add-ons, and set customized routes to ...read more

VendeePromo

2020-21 Vendée Timeline

As a spectator event, France’s Vendée Globe never disappoints, and the 2020-21 edition of the quadrennial round-the-world race was no exception. From equipment failures to climactic rescues, heartbreaking abandonments and a breathtakingly close finish, this edition, which ...read more

valleytrunk3

BVI Chartering in the Pandemic

The week before I flew out to the British Virgin Islands for a bareboat charter, I was having a few second thoughts. The islands had broken out of their Covid-enforced tourism hiatus in December, but the conditions of entry seemed a little stringent: a negative Covid test within ...read more

01-LEAD-windfarm

Sailing Amid Offshore Wind Farms

Here in Europe, the general feeling about green energy from offshore wind turbines has moved on after an initial surge of general skepticism. Concerns raised over cost, threats to seabirds, wind interference and the rest have to some extent been answered, and it’s hard to argue ...read more

LunaRossaPrada

VIDEO: Luna Rossa Wins the Prada Cup

The show has gone on despite last week's Covid panic in Auckland, and the "underdog" Italians are victorious. After being bested by INEOS Team UK in the round robin section, they seemed to have an uphill battle ahead of them going into the finals. However, the Italians have been ...read more