In the annals of shorthanded sailing, Australian Jon Sanders stands with the greatest. His achievements are little short of awe-inspiring, all the more so for being accomplished in modest boats on small budgets.
A sheep shearer for many years, Sanders started sailing as a child and took up solo sailing in the 1970s. He made his first solo circumnavigation in 1975-77 on Perie Banou, his S&S 34. In 1981-82 Sanders became the first singlehanded sailor to circumnavigate Antarctica, which he did not once but twice on Perie Banou, covering 48,510 miles in 419 days. He turned left after rounding Cape Horn for the second time and sailed up to Plymouth in England, turned around and sailed back down the Atlantic and around the tip of South Africa to his starting point at Fremantle, Western Australia, all nonstop.
This feat was just a warmup for one that that has never been equalled, and probably never will: a nonstop triple solo circumnavigation south of the five great capes. Setting off in 1986 on the 47ft Parry Endeavour, Sanders sailed up the Atlantic on each lap to round some islands just north of the equator to ensure he sailed into both hemispheres.
In all, Sanders covered 71,023 nautical miles in 658 days on that voyage, an achievement still recognized as the longest distance sailed nonstop by any vessel.
In 1988, the redoubtable Sanders bought a 1979 Sparkman & Stephens-designed 39ft racer-cruiser and named her Perie Banou II. He has since circumnavigated another four times, mostly solo, but not nonstop, the last time soon after undergoing open-heart surgery in 2015.
At the conclusion of his last lap of the globe in 2017, Sanders said he was done with ocean sailing, but that was then. Earlier this year, at the age of 79, the tough Aussie pronounced himself “bored with sitting around” and made plans to leave his home base in Fremantle, Western Australia, in October for circumnavigation #11. Along the way, he’ll collect seawater samples in the southern oceans for research into microplastics contamination.
Sanders is in no hurry. He won’t be going nonstop this time, nor around Cape Horn, and he does most of his sailing with a reef in the main and a small jib. After all, what’s the rush? It’s better than being bored. You can keep up with Sanders’s travels on his Facebook page.