On Sept. 2, 2013, Canadian sailor Glenn Wakefield departed his native Victoria, B.C., on his second attempt at a solo non-stop circumnavigation, westward against the prevailing winds of the Roaring Forties. On his first attempt in 2007-2008 a series of storms in the Southern Ocean rolled his 40-foot Phil Rhodes Offshore Kim Chow, causing serious damage to the boat and injuring Wakefield. He was forced to abandon the yacht and his circumnavigation, and was brought safely to Ushuaia, Argentina, aboard the Argentinian naval vessel Puerto Deseado. Although saddened at the loss of Kim Chow, which he had spent five years restoring, Wakefield was immensely grateful to the men aboard Puerto Deseado, who braved the worst weather seen in the Falkland Islands in 25 years to rescue him. Wakefield was 750 miles short of Cape Horn, his last southern cape before the home stretch back to Victoria.
Fully recovered in body and spirit, Wakefield set off on another attempt aboard West Wind II, a Comanche 42 designed by Sparkman & Stephens and built in 1970 by Chris-Craft. He purchased West Wind II in 2010, appreciative of her classic lines and planning to refit her systems prior to the voyage. He worked on every inch of the boat, from redoing the running rigging for single-handed sailing to replacing her decks. One of his most important refits was the installation of an open ocean hatch akin to those used by Vendée Globe racers to replace the original sliding companionway hatch. Wakefield equipped West Wind II with solar panels, a wind generator, life raft, and new sails, but he kept her systems simple in keeping with his philosophy that if he can’t fix it, it’s better not to have it on board. For example, he voyages without refrigeration, heat, or a watermaker. He says his most important piece of equipment is his Fleming self-steering vane, followed by his Icom ham radio and his EPIRB.
Wakefield completed his final outfitting and provisioning at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club. At 1530 Pacific time on Sept. 2, he cast off the dock lines among dozens of friends and family. He first headed south towards New Zealand, rounding South West Cape, and continued south of two more of the five capes: Tasmania’s South East Cape and then Australia’s Cape Leeuwin on Dec. 4. Wakefield has experienced calms, gales, and everything in between. He reportedly felt strong and was more than 1,700 miles into the Indian Ocean on Dec. 26 when he discovered rigging failure on his lower shrouds, which had not been replaced prior to departure, but had been in good condition.
Wakefield weighed the risks of the situation and decided that it was unsafe to continue on his circumnavigation. He turned back to Fremantle, Australia, to make repairs. In view of his first attempt and his years of preparations for this one, it was a difficult and sad decision but he is confident it was the right one. In Wakefield’s own words, “I am not happy about it, but nor do I want to be caught out again and have to ask for help.” Wakefield’s adventure can be followed at glennwakefieldaroundtheworld.com.