A record setting solo, nonstop circumnavigator

Tony Gooch

Tony Gooch

Tony GoochTony Gooch, an Australian-born sailor living in Victoria, British Columbia, is the first person to complete a solo, nonstop circumnavigation from a North American West Coast port. He accomplished this feat aboard his 44-foot aluminum cutter Taonui.

Beer to spare

His voyage began as he crossed the starting line between his Victoria home and the lighthouse on Trial Island just before noon on September 28th, 2002. He had on board enough food for eight months and 210 cans of beer – a ration of one a day. He arrived back home 177 days later with beer to spare.

The voyage was several thousand miles shorter and several weeks faster than anticipated, Gooch explained. “There was a lot of luck involved with this trip. I had thought that I would sail about 27,000 miles, but I actually only sailed 24,300 miles on account of being able to cut several corners. I was able to sail a lot closer to Antarctica than I initially thought. I sailed to 47° south – instead of 44° – and that saved me quite a bit of time.”

When sailing past New Zealand, for example, Gooch headed north almost immediately. “The usual route involves sailing east until you reach 150° and then heading north. But it all worked out, so I went for it,” he said. And as a final bonus, Gooch said he was able to avoid the Pacific High and sail straight home from Hawaii. “The high pressure went off to California, so I sailed straight across in 17 days, these huge winds pulling me home!”

Gooch’s record-setting 24,362 mile nonstop solo circumnavigation

A seafaring couple

Tony and his wife Coryn found Taonui (Maori name for a flesh-footed shearwater, a large ocean bird) in 1996 in Germany after sailing an Arpege 29 for many years. Built in Germany in 1989, Taonui has a full keel, deep bilges and an enclosed pilothouse. The vessel’s Seldon rig features a close coupled roller furling Harken headsails that can be poled out downwind, and an inner forestay for a staysail or storm jib. Sanders Sails in Lymington, England provided all of the vessel’s sails, including the three-reef main. Tony and Coryn sailed across the Atlantic and through the Caribbean that year, passing through the Canal and continuing to Chile and eventually Antarctica. The couple logged tens of thousands of miles aboard the boat, returning to northern Europe the following year and eventually cruising Iceland, Spitsbergen and Scotland. Gooch also used the vessel for single-handed adventures, sailing to South Georgia island in 1999 and then sailing around the Southern Ocean in 2000.

Gooch explained. “Coryn and I have done a great deal of sailing, but a solo, nonstop circumnavigation is the ultimate challenge. Taonui is a great boat; I wanted to do it while I still had plenty of energy. I really love sailing the Southern Ocean having done lots of sailing down there.” Gooch investigated the possibility of setting a record, determining that such an attempt had never been completed from North America, according to the World Sailing Speed Record Council, and was careful to work within the organization’s guidelines.

On his circumnavigation, Gooch carried three staysails of varying sizes, which he would hank to the staysail stay and use instead of the roller furled jibs in winds over 40 knots. Although he carried a storm trysail, he used it only once when his boom broke while in running wing and wing on the last leg from Hawaii toy Victoria. His strategy typically involved running with a small jib in storm conditions. If conditions became extreme, he deployed a series drogue off the stern and ran under bare poles. This effectively slowed his vessel to 1.5 to 2 knots in a 55-knot gale.

Gooch is an avid birder and particularly enjoyed the company of the wandering albatross and storm petrels. They are still seen in abundance in the Southern Ocean, according to Gooch, but an ongoing study of nesting pairs suggests a decline as a result of long-line fishing: the bird’s dive for hooked bait and then drown.

Taonui was steered by a Monitor wind vane, which worked flawlessly, according to Gooch, despite weathering numerous gales that included winds well in excess of 50 knots. A Simrad AP2000 autopilot connected directly to the rudderstock provided redundant steering.

Tony was very grateful to his wife, Coryn, for her role in this adventure. Aside from her help in preparing the boat and stocking her for the voyage (including baking eight large fruit cakes), Coryn spent hours updating the website and handling newspaper, radio and TV interviews. Every night she checked weather reports, thought them through and emailed him a summary along with warm chat and encouragement. A large part of this trip’s success and Tony’s pleasure, enjoyment and sanity were due to her efforts and support.