The first attempt to establish a world record for the fastest circumnavi-gation in a powerboat ended suddenly in March when the trimaran Revolution smashed into a reef off Nicaragua.
The 60-foot trimaran, which was powered by a 225-hp Yanmar turbo diesel, was traveling northwest on Nicaragua’s west coast only two weeks after its start from Miami on March 1 when it collided with a reef in the middle of the night.
"We were traveling at 20 knots while only a mile off the beach when we hit an uncharted reef," Shidler said. "It’s easy to forget that these are old surveys. I should have known better than to be traveling that close to shore in that area, because I remember when I was in New Guinea, the charts simply say that certain areas are uncharted. That was possibly the case here." Surveys in this area reportedly date back to the late 19th century.
Revolution was badly damaged in the collision, according to Shidler. The crew was running the boat parallel to Nicaragua’s coastline, piloting mostly by radar, when the bottom immediately rose up and depth diminished to nothing. "We had had a smooth bottom for 100 miles before this reef appeared. The boat was totaled, toasted. A beam broke in two, one of the floats broke, and there were holes in the hull," Shidler said. "Once we were able to pull it clear it started flooding immediately, so we just gave it to a group of fishermen. It would have been way too costly to try to repair, especially considering where it was." The vessel cost $300,000 to build, according to Shidler.
One lesson Shidler feels he has taken away from the experience is the disparity between voyaging navigation and high-speed navigation; in other words, the difference between keeping track of a boat’s position while lazily ghosting through the water and attempting to do the same as the vessel madly crashes over the tops of swellsthe nav table resembles a paint shaker at a hardware store, and the coastline passes by in a green blur. Although the crew had logged 11,000 miles of sea trials, including delivery of the vessel from San Francisco to Miami, the majority of the crew’s background involved navigation at speeds of between six and eight knots.
"You could say we were in too close, but we were trying to move fast," Shidler added. "And I guess it’s not like other ocean racing where you can go below for a cup of coffee."
Revolution was the first of three planned record attempts for the fastest circumnavigation in a powerboat.
Two other multihulls, a British trimaran called Globe and Wireless and the American cat Global Victor (commanded by the powerboat personality Sid Stapleton), are expected to attempt the record this summer. Shidler pointed to the gamble he made by being the first boat to attempt the record. He was perhaps less prepared than he should have been, he said, yet his vessel was theoretically capable of establishing a benchmark of fast ocean voyaging.
He may be out of this race, but the eccentric adventurer plans to continue with his interest in efficient and fast ocean travel. He’s not sure where that interest may lead.
"We’re looking at a couple of other projects right now," Shidler said, "maybe even a transatlantic model race."