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Young guns making their sailing dream a reality

Whilst the average age of those signing up for the ARC is around 45-55 years old, there’s a growing trend for much younger crews to take a break from work or studies to buy a boat and travel the world. The pandemic has certainly influenced this decision, along with the notion of doing it right now and not waiting until later in life. Three boats taking part this year: Disco Inferno 3, (DEU), Cessna (NOR) and Minga (CHL) all have young skippers and crew who are making the most of the opportunity. Prior to their first Atlantic crossing, they shared with us how they’ve made this happen and their life plans after the ARC.

The Chilean floating home
One such boat is the Bavaria 42 Minga which was bought by four twenty-something professionals from Santiago, Chile earlier this summer. Whilst their country was in lockdown, lawyer Fernando Vial decided that going to sea was the best thing to do. He wanted a new adventure and career break from his stressful job, so he mentioned his ambitious plan to his old school friend Juanpi, who immediately said ‘yes’. His new wife Josefina had never sailed before and neither had skipper Fernando’s girlfriend Camila who is a journalist and sharing their experience with family, friends and the world via their social media pages. Her father thought the prospect of her going on a sailing boat was crazy, but he soon came round to the idea and all their parents are now fully supportive of their decision.

“The planets were aligned and, in every respect, it was the perfect time to do this,” explained Fernando. “We all had professional jobs and were able to save money, especially during lockdown, as we were living at home. We had no major responsibilities so we were able to pull together to buy the boat,” added Camila. Fernando’s father took part in the ARC 20 years ago and he has joined him on various ventures through the Patagonian Fjords, so had already sailed 4,000 nm before they set off on their own boat to get down to Las Palmas for the start. Likewise, Juanpi was an Optimist and Laser sailor as a boy, learning to sail on lakes and the 20ft boat owned by his family.

“We bought the boat in Greece without seeing her, but had a professional surveyor and a very good reference from the broker,” says Fernando. Juanpi and Josefina married just before leaving Chile and were first to see what was to be their new home on the water. She was in very good condition and the previous owner, who is still extremely supportive, helped them a lot as they prepared the boat ahead of the arrival of their two friends who came later to set off for the start of the ARC. Minga is a very Chilean name and is the tradition of moving a house from one place to another using big floating logs on the Patagonian Fjords. “It needs the collaboration of all the people from the villages and so this is our floating home and the name is very appropriate for our house on the water,” explains Josefina.

“I was often crew on my father’s yacht, but skippering your own boat is a lot of responsibility and I’ve learnt a lot, but it’s an ongoing process,” says Fernando who also explained that family and friends also joined them for various legs and made a contribution to their sailing fund. “We want to inspire young people to try to live their lives and do something different. To take on a challenge like we have. People go backpacking and exploring on land, but you can do the same on a sailing boat. Anyone can do it if they put your mind to it!”

Sharing the cost
The two couples have shared all the boat costs and expenses between them and although they watch their budget, they have estimated the cost of their planned 10-month sabbatical. The current plan is to leave Minga in the Caribbean before going back to work to top up funds. They were keen to join the ARC because of the safety guidelines, the camaraderie, and also: “Because my father was a fan and we all knew it would give us an improved safety standard and peace of mind to our families if we joined an organisation such as the ARC,” confirmed Fernando.

“This a challenge but we are very happy and excited to do it. It’s a perfect adventure,” says Camile. “I was working in a very competitive sector in an international law firm and some may think it is a blow to my career, but we are all very young and skilled, so I know we will be able to get work when we need to, so I don’t care. Life is full of opportunities and you have to take them!” continues Fernando. “We are really excited to cross to the Caribbean.”

In preparing for Sunday’s start, the young owners have made a few alterations to their boat, including fitting solar panels and a seawater, manually-activated pump for the sink so they don’t use too much water. “We are doing a whole configuration study and set up the energy system, and will do a full diagnosis, so we may need to make a few upgrades. The preparation never ends, but we are confident with the boat as she sailed great en route to Las Palmas from Gibraltar and we are looking forward to sailing on our first big ocean.”

Round the world dream comes true for Norwegian couple
Also in their twenties, electrician Magnus Lundanes and girlfriend Pernille Ensrud, a teacher from Norway bought their Bavaria 44 Cessa three years ago. Magnus sold his apartment and moved in with Pernille who had always wanted to sail round the world. They then saved as much money as they could and took out a loan to buy the boat and take part in the ARC. “We saved everything we could and tried to not spend that much money on different things, but the first year we spent all our extra money upgrading equipment on the boat and to enable us to have a year off after cruising in the Caribbean for four months.”

“We have always been into boating, but never with sailing boats,” says skipper Magnus who is also a keen kitesurfer and diver, like the rest of his young friends on board. “It was usually on a 20ft motorboat built for speed, with a 150hp engine, so there’s a big difference between that and this 44ft sailboat!” he laughs. “The first year we just learnt how to sail and how the boat worked, but we really took to sailing and enjoyed it as even if we are going 10 knots, it’s 10/11 tonnes moving through the water, so it feels much faster than it actually is. I feel the power of the wind and it’s really nice.

“We wanted to cross with the ARC as this is the safest way for us as we don’t have much experience. I think now that we’ve sailed all the way from Norway to get here, I am not that concerned about our first ocean crossing. Plus, with all the safety equipment we have bought and the fact that many other boats are going across too and we all have trackers, it will be really nice. We will be five in total and two of my friends are really experienced regatta sailors, so I expect they will trim the sails all the time!

“I would say to other young people that If you want to go, set a goal and try to reach it. If I want something, I work really hard to make it happen.”

Disco-ing across the Atlantic with friends
Twenty-four-year-old Max Händle will be skippering his parents CNB Bordeaux 60 Disco Inferno 3 across with four friends on their first Atlantic crossing. He knows the boat well as they have owned it since 2011 and although he has skippered it on his own before, this will be his longest passage so far. His parents have come to help with last minute preparations and to wave the young sailors off on Sunday. Max has completed his Master degree and is starting a job in finance when he gets back from his Atlantic adventure in February. “It’ll be such a great experience and I expect it’s the last time I will be able to take this amount of time off for a while,” he said, having been given the ‘go ahead’ by his new boss.

“All the crew are my old friends and our parents all know each other. It is fantastic that we’ve all had enough time to do this as we are all either between our studies or jobs.”

They are all sailors, apart from one crew who has sailed all the way from the South of France, where the boat is usually based. “It’ll be a very comfortable crossing as we have a watermaker, a generator and we can all take a shower once a day. We have quite a lot of space for five people, which is nice. Due to our watch system, we always have own bed and we have a four hour on-off system that we’ve been practicing since we left the South of France which has worked well, especially when didn’t have an autopilot so we had to hand steer all the way.”

“I think the ARC is a great rally and it’s good to get to know other crews, take part in the seminars and other events, and also to have the safety checks. Going across with this many boats gives you a lot of confidence, as well as knowing that if something happens there’s likely someone behind - if you are fast enough! Many things can happen and the thing I am afraid of is if someone has an accident on the boat, so safety will be our priority. But we are all looking forward to the crossing and to sailing in the Caribbean where will be explore Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines with my family who will fly back for Christmas and with other friends will also charter boats to join us.”