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Old 02-15-2002
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Largest Singlehander

What is the largest boat a single person can handle on a voyage across an ocean?

Dan Dickison responds:
Thanks for your question. I'm not sure that I can provide a definitive answer to your question since it really depends on the skills and experience of the person you have in mind, and somewhat on the vessel. I can tell you, however, that a French sailor named Alain Colas once raced a 240-foot schooner across the Atlantic by himself in 1976. That boat, Vendredi 13, had four masts, but it was purposely built and rigged so that Colas could tend the sails and manage the other on board duties in open ocean sailing by himself.

That's the largest vessel I know of that has been successfully sailed single-handedly. Fortunately Colas didn't have to dock the boat on his own or maneuver it up any narrow waterways without the assistance of crew.

You're probably aware that professional solo sailors compete regularly aboard 60-foot boats called Open Unlimited 60s, and some of the more dedicated members of the single-handed fraternity have sailed long distances in larger boats. (Jean-Luc Van den Heede's current steed Adrien measures over 85 feet and he has already once tried to sail it around the world by himself.) But there's much debate regarding the limits of these extreme vessels. I've sailed aboard a few of these 60 footers as a crew and as an observer and I can tell you that it's not an easy task to manage these boats, particularly in close quarters.

Perhaps the best response to your question regarding the largest boat that a single person can handle on an ocean voyage is the largest boat that this particular person is comfortable managing on his or her own. I know that may seem like a circular argument, but that's the only way to factor in the most important variable involved, the sailor.

I hope that helps answer your question.

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