Circumnavigator sets sail to fight plastics


Eighty-year-old Australian serial circumnavigator Jon Sanders has departed for his 11th circumnavigation. This time, however, Sanders isn’t sailing around the world just for the thrill of it. He’ll be collecting samples of ocean water for delivery to Curtin University in Australia, where they’ll be tested for plastic contamination.

The water samples will be part of the “#NoPlasticWaste” project, which seeks to find viable solutions to the global plastic waste crisis. The samples will be analyzed by Curtin University’s Organic and Isotope Geochemistry Centre in order to further the understanding of the rate of plastic pollution in the Southern Ocean. Organizers behind the project hope that Sanders’ respected position within the sailing community will help raise awareness for the cause over the course of his journey.

This type of voyage represents a change of pace for the experienced nonstop sailor, as he will be stopping in eight foreign ports to mail samples to the university. Sanders cemented his place in the record books in 1988 when he became the first person to complete three consecutive nonstop solo circumnavigations. That voyage took 657 days and covered 71,023 nautical miles.

Sanders departing Fremantle (with a few TV reporters still aboard).

Courtesy Rolly Tasker Sails

For his 11th circumnavigation, Sanders is sailing an S&S 39 built in 1971. He identifies extra-strong rigging and sails, as well as a reliable form of self-steering, as key elements of a successful oceangoing vessel. After that, Sanders declares, “The simpler the better.”

Sanders expects that this trip around the globe will take about 10 months, landing him back in Australia in September 2020. But, does he plan on embarking on a 12th circumnavigation after he completes the #NoPlasticWaste project? Well, the legendary seafarer says, “Why should I sit around at home when I could be out sailing?”

For more information about the project, visit Track the progress of Sanders’ voyage at

By Ocean Navigator