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Sailing Around the World: How to Get Started

Sailing around the world is the ultimate adventure, and it starts right here.

Sailing around the world is a dream for many people. For adventurous spirits, it conjures up images of navigating the wide open ocean, visiting far-flung corners of the world and living the simple life guided by Mother Nature. And the good news is that contrary to what many may think, a sailing trip around the world is well within reach of the average person.

You don’t need to be a hardened salty dog to do it. But before you set sail on an amazing adventure around the world, have a look at our guide about sailing around the world to bring you up to speed about what to do and expect, and most of all, how to get started.

How To Sail Around the World

There are many different ways to go about sailing around the world. Each option comes with its unique set of considerations. Opting to sail with your own boat offers unmatched freedom to customise the journey, and select preferred routes. However, this choice demands substantial financial commitment, meticulous vessel preparation, and a significant level of sailing experience.

Joining a round-the-world trip, such as the popular World ARC (World Cruising Club’s Atlantic Rally for Cruisers), has a softer level of entry. The rally offers a structured and supported approach to round-the-world travel, combining the thrill of adventure with professional guidance and a ready-made community of fellow sailors.

You can participate with your own yacht or join the crew of someone else’s. Experienced World ARC sailors like Ian and Fiona love to share their epic adventures with sailors of all levels, making it a great option for those new to sailing, or without any prior sailing experience who want to partake in just one leg of the journey.

The Best Time to Sail Around the World

The best time to sail around the world depends on several factors, including the chosen route, seasonal variations, and the sailor’s preferences regarding weather conditions and cultural encounters. Meticulous planning and continuous monitoring of weather patterns are indispensable for a successful and enjoyable circumnavigation. Careful consideration of the optimal timing to ensure a safe and comfortable journey across diverse climates and ocean conditions.

Many circumnavigators adhere to established trade wind routes, beginning their journey in regions like Europe and crossing the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean during the Northern Hemisphere’s winter to benefit from favourable easterly trade winds.

Timing plays a crucial role in avoiding hurricane seasons in the Atlantic from June to November and cyclone seasons in the South Pacific from November to April. For the challenging Southern Ocean, circumnavigators often opt for the Southern Hemisphere’s summer between December and February to minimise exposure to extreme weather conditions.

Navigating the Pacific Ocean involves monitoring El Niño and La Niña events, which can impact weather patterns. The Southern Hemisphere’s winter, between May and August, is generally preferred for sailing across the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

For an Atlantic crossing, particularly from the Caribbean to Europe, sailors wait for favourable weather windows, usually in late spring or early summer, to ensure smoother passages. Timing the journey through the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia requires avoiding the monsoon seasons – the northeast monsoon from November to March and the southwest monsoon from June to September.

Beyond weather considerations, circumnavigators often align their journeys with personal preferences and cultural experiences. Some choose to time their passages to coincide with specific cultural festivals or events in the countries they plan to visit.

Routes to Sail Around the World

There are several established routes to sail around the world. Selecting the most suitable route for a global circumnavigation is an important decision, influenced by factors such as prevailing winds, ocean currents, and seasonal weather patterns.

The Eastward Route

The eastward route involves sailing against the Earth’s rotation, navigating from west to east. This route typically follows the prevailing winds known as the “Roaring Forties” and “Furious Fifties” in the Southern Hemisphere. Sailors often encounter challenging weather conditions, including strong westerly winds and rough seas. Notable eastward routes include passages through the Southern Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope, and navigating the vast Pacific Ocean.

The Westward Route

Sailing the westward means sailing with the Earth’s rotation, from east to west. This route often follows trade wind routes, such as the North and South Trade Winds in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Westward-bound sailors typically navigate around the Cape of Good Hope, cross the Indian Ocean, and may traverse the Panama Canal.

The Trade Wind Route

Following the trade winds, sailors might depart from Europe and sail southward to cross the Atlantic via the Cape Verde Islands. After crossing the Atlantic, they navigate the Panama Canal and continue across the Pacific, rounding the Cape of Good Hope, and returning to Europe.

The Classic Circumnavigation

The classic route often starts in Europe, crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean via the Canary Islands. From the Caribbean, sailors traverse the Panama Canal to enter the Pacific Ocean. This route typically involves circumnavigating the globe in an eastward direction.

The Red Sea Route

The Red Sea route serves as a crucial passage for sailors travelling between the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. Sailors enter the Red Sea through the Suez Canal, providing a more direct route and bypassing the need to sail around the southern tip of Africa. However, the route has faced security challenges such as piracy and geopolitical tensions in the area.

The Southern Ocean Route

Adventurous sailors often opt for a Southern Ocean route, starting in the Southern Hemisphere and circumnavigating Antarctica. This route passes through challenging latitudes, including the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties, known for their strong westerly winds.

The Clipper Route

Inspired by the traditional clipper ship routes, this historical route involves sailing from Europe to Australia and the Far East via the Cape of Good Hope. Sailors then cross the Pacific, rounding Cape Horn, and return to Europe via the Atlantic.

The Transpacific Route

Some circumnavigators choose a predominantly Pacific route, sailing from the west coast of the Americas across the Pacific, exploring islands such as Tahiti, Fiji, and Australia, before rounding the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn to return home.

The Northern Route

A more unconventional route involves sailing through the Arctic Circle, navigating the Northwest Passage and possibly continuing through the Northeast Passage. This route offers a unique Arctic Ocean exploration experience but requires careful planning due to ice conditions.

The World ARC Rally

The World ARC (World Cruising Club’s Around the World Rally) provides a structured and supported route for circumnavigators. This rally typically starts in the Caribbean, crosses the Panama Canal, explores the South Pacific, and Indian Ocean, and returns via the Atlantic.

Benefits of Joining the World ARC Rally

An existing crew on the World ARC already has an ocean-crossing-ready yacht, so you don’t have to worry about getting one. You also get an immediate sense of community and camaraderie, as you become part of a team sharing the adventure. Sailing with experienced crew members gives you the opportunity to learn and develop your skills, especially if you’re new to sailing or long-distance cruising.

The logistical aspects of the journey, including route planning and safety measures, are often handled by the experienced crew and rally organisers, making the experience smoother and offering a level of security for participants.

One of the best things about joining a crew on the World ARC is that you can join for one leg, many legs, or the entire journey, making it an extremely flexible option if you can’t take a year and a bit off to go sailing around the world.

How Long Does It Take to Sail Around the World?

It usually takes around 100 days to sail around the world non-stop. However, the duration of a global circumnavigation varies widely. Direct eastward or westward routes along the equator cover approximately 15,000 to 25,000 nautical miles, but most circumnavigators opt for longer routes to explore islands and continents, significantly extending the journey.

Sailing yachts typically cover 100 to 150 nautical miles per day, depending on design, size, and wind conditions. Strategies vary, with non-stop circumnavigations taking around 100 days, while cruisers may prefer a leisurely pace over several years, allowing for extended stays in ports and exploration.

Circumnavigators often plan around seasonal weather patterns, resulting in extended stays in specific regions. The time spent in ports, cultural exploration, and participation in events significantly influences the overall duration.

What You Need to Sail Around the World

Besides the usual provisions and safety considerations, things like essential documents, medical necessities, and cultural sensitivity are also important. Ensure that your passport is valid and that you have the required travel visas for the countries you’ll be visiting, make sure you are up to date with relevant vaccinations and that you have a sufficient supply of prescription medications.

On your trip, you will meet different cultures that may be completely different to yours. Research these cultures, including local customs, and language (even if you only know how to say “hello”) and learn how to interact with other cultures with respect. This will make your journey so much more enjoyable and rewarding.

Can Anyone Sail Around the World?

Yes! Really the only prerequisite is a sense of adventure. Sailing around the world doesn’t necessarily require extensive sailing experience if you are joining a crew and not sailing your own yacht. But even still there are various routes and options that cater to varying skill levels. While sailing experience definitely helps, the accessibility of global sailing adventures has expanded, allowing anyone to tick off this massive bucket list adventure.

If you’re not sure whether you’ve got what it takes to sail all the way around the world, you can join someone else’s crew for one or two legs to get a taste of it. There are many options, from joining a laid-back leg or two on the World ARC to jumping into the adrenaline-pumping action of round-the-world racing in the Ocean Race.

Notable People Who Have Sailed Around the World

Embarking on a global circumnavigation is a feat achieved by a diverse array of individuals, each with their unique motivations, challenges, and inspiring stories. Numerous sailors have etched their names in maritime history through remarkable circumnavigation achievements.

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston

In 1969, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston became the first person to complete a solo non-stop circumnavigation aboard his yacht, Suhaili, as part of the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race. His journey took approximately 312 days.

Laura Dekker

Laura Dekker, a Dutch sailor, achieved global recognition in 2012 when, at the age of 16, she completed a solo circumnavigation aboard her yacht, Guppy. Her journey spanned over a year, making her the youngest person to sail solo around the world at the time.

Francois Gabart

In 2017 French sailor Francois Gabart broke the record for fastest single-handed circumnavigation, completing the journey in 42 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes, and 35 seconds, beating the previous record by almost a week. Gabart achieved the record for sailing a multihull, the record for monohulls is held by another Frenchman, Armel Le Cléac’h, setting a time of 74 days, 3 hours and 35 minutes.

Joshua Slocum

Joshua Slocum, a Canadian sailor, achieved the first recorded solo circumnavigation between 1895 and 1898 aboard his yacht, Spray. His detailed account of the journey, “Sailing Alone Around the World,” remains a classic in maritime literature.

Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz

Following in Slocum’s footsteps, Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz made history as the first woman to solo circumnavigate the globe. Sailing on the Mazurek from February 28, 1976, to April 21, 1978, she conquered the Southern Ocean, rounded the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, and crossed the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The Crew of Maiden

The crew of Maiden, led by Tracy Edwards, made waves in 1989 when they became the first all-female team to compete in the Whitbread Round the World Race (now known as The Ocean Race). This feat won Edwards the Yachtsman of the Year Trophy, the first woman to receive this prestigious award.

Jeanne Socrates

In 2019, at the age of 77, Jeanne Socrates became the oldest woman to complete a solo non-stop and unassisted circumnavigation. Her 330 journey aboard the yacht Nereida also broke a world record for the oldest person to sail around the world solo, nonstop and unassisted. In 2020 Socrates lost her record to 81-year-old Bill Hatfield, however, there was some controversy regarding his route, as it didn’t sail around the ‘Five Great Capes’.

Sail Around the World Yacht Races

Participating in a sail-around-the-world yacht race is a thrilling and challenging endeavour that attracts seasoned sailors and adventurous novices alike. These races offer a unique opportunity to test sailing skills, navigate diverse conditions, and experience the camaraderie of a global sailing community.

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

The Clipper Race is one of the most renowned yacht races, circumnavigating the globe in a series of challenging legs in specially designed identical yachts. What sets it apart is its inclusivity, allowing individuals with minimal sailing experience to join as “crew” under the guidance of professional skippers. Crew members sign up for one or more legs of the race, covering various global destinations.

Vendée Globe

The Vendée Globe is the world’s only solo, non-stop, and unassisted yacht race that circumnavigates the globe. It is known for its extreme challenges and demands on skippers, testing their endurance and sailing skills to their limits. In 2020, Kraken sponsored close friend Pip Hare’s historic successful completion of this gruelling race.

World ARC (World Cruising Club’s Around the World Rally)

The World ARC is designed as a cruising rally, offering a structured and supported route for circumnavigators. It typically spans 15 to 18 months and covers a diverse range of destinations, allowing participants to explore the world in a well-organised manner.

Golden Globe Race

The Golden Globe Race is a retro race that pays homage to the original Sunday Times Golden Globe Race of 1968. Held every 4 years, participants sail solo, non-stop, using vintage yachts and equipment available during the race’s inception. The race ultimately led to the founding of the Vendée Globe race.

The Ocean Race

Formerly known as the Volvo Ocean Race and the Whitbread Round the World Race, The Ocean Race is a global team event that circumnavigates the world with a series of challenging offshore legs. Professional sailing teams compete in state-of-the-art offshore racing yachts. The race covers some of the world’s most treacherous waters, testing the limits of sailing skill and strategy.

Formerly known as the Volvo Ocean Race and the Whitbread Round the World Race, The Ocean Race is a global team event that circumnavigates the world with a series of challenging offshore legs. Professional sailing teams compete in state-of-the-art offshore racing yachts. The race covers some of the world’s most treacherous waters, testing the limits of sailing skill and strategy.

Kraken offers the opportunity to experience what it’s like racing on an Ocean Race yacht, with spots on former Ocean Race competitors, the VO65 Sisi and the VO70 Green Dragon.

Sailing around the world is the ultimate adventure, and whether you’re a seasoned sailor or have never set foot on a sailing yacht before, you can make it a reality. Join a round-the-world sailing trip, charter a yacht, join a racing team or take your own boat, such a big adventure has never been so accessible!

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