While most sailors have slowed down a bit by age 81, Australian sailor and Ocean Cruising Club member Bill Hatfield is setting speed records. On Feb. 22, 2020, he became the oldest man to sail around the world solo, nonstop and unassisted. He also set two official speed records in the process. The World Speed Sailing Record Council confirmed Hatfield’s two records on March 11. His records are: 1) the first westabout, solo, nonstop circumnavigation from Australia, and 2) the first westabout circumnavigation from any country, solo, nonstop, in a vessel under 40 feet, regardless of age.
The WSSR Council announced the establishment of a new World Record Reference Time:
• Time: Around the World Westabout, Singlehanded, 40 feet
• Yacht: L’Eau Commotion, Northshore 38
• Name: Bill Hatfield (AUS)
• Dates: June 8, 2019, to Feb. 22, 2020
• Start time: 02:04:10 UTC on June 8, 2019
Hatfield’s Northshore 38, L’Eau Commotion, on his return to Australia.
Created by Light Photography/Courtesy OCC
• Finish time: 00:28:19 UTC on Feb. 22, 2020
• Elapsed time: 258 days, 22 hours, 24 minutes and nine seconds
• Distance: 21,600 nm
• Average speed: 3.48 knots
• Comments: No previous record, hence an “Initial Benchmark Time.”
“I really didn’t set out for it to be a big media thing,” Hatfield said. “A few people said I must do a blog and because I did it every day, I rather selfishly thought if I didn’t do it every day, people would take seriously any EPIRB activation — and I did get a few alerts when I got closer to land than I should have.”