Around the world the hard way

21 May
Szymon Kuczynski aboard Puffin
It’s getting harder and harder to do something original in sailing, something that someone before you has not already done. There was a time when a circumnavigation was considered a mammoth accomplishment especially if it was a singlehanded voyage around the world. Now you have to sail three times around the world without stopping and with one hand tied behind your back before anyone takes notice. With that in mind I was interested to read about the Polish sailor Szymon Kuczynski who, last Thursday, completed a solo circumnavigation sailing into Plymouth on the south coast of England. Kuczynski secured a new world record for the smallest yacht to circumnavigate the globe singlehanded and unaided.

The Polish sailor set off from Plymouth last August and spent 270 days alone in his 20-foot, 10-inch yacht named Puffin. He rounded the three great capes including Cape Horn and returned after what seemed like a fairly uneventful lap of the planet. This was not the first time he had sailed around the world. In 2016 he closed the loop on a circumnavigation in Las Palmas, but that journey did not include rounding Cape Horn and he stopped a number of times along the way.

You have to admire a person like this who just goes out and gets the job done.  There are so many people who have to have things just so before they can go sailing, and often many of them never leave the dock. Kuczynski just said screw-it, threw the docklines ashore, and took off. His only big catastrophe, apparently, was when he has to ditch his chocolate supply overboard. He is, by his own account, a chocoholic and lives for the stuff, but in the tropical heat the chocolate had turned into a slippery mess and it was time for it to go.

Ant Steward off Australia
I most definitely respect Kuczynski for his accomplishment but it pales by comparison with the accomplishment by my South African mate Ant Steward who was the first – and to my knowledge, only – person to ever sail around the world in an open boat. I happened to be in South Africa the day he took off. Ant, like Kuczynski just said screw-it, threw the docklines off, and was out of there. His boat was a 19 foot daysailer designed by Dudley Dix. We followed him out and I could not believe that he was going to make it all the way around the world. He was less than a mile away from us and we could barely make him out – the boat was just that small.  Funny thing, the Cape Town Port Captain had received a call from an irate citizen demanding that Steward be stopped from going because they were sure that he would have to be rescued at tax payer expense. In his typical manner Ant dismissed the idea. “I met with the Port Captain and signed a form that stated that I did not want to be rescued under any circumstance,” he said and with that the matter was put to rest. 

Steward made it all the way around the world. He lost his mast several times, was run down by a ship and later wrecked on a reef off the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean. He had to swim 700 yards while bleeding and fighting off sharks with a rigging knife. After recovering, he returned to Cerf Island where his boat was located. He repaired the boat and finished his voyage. If you are ever in the Chesapeake Bay stop by Young’s Boat Yard southeast of Baltimore and pay Ant a visit. He and his wife Sue recently bought the boatyard something Ant apparently said was scarier than sailing around the world in an open boat.

Youngs Boat Yard –
Dudley Dix Yacht Design –

Wrecked in the Seychelles Islands

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This article was syndicated from Great Circle Sails Blog


  1. Conchscooter

    Webb Chiles sailed most of the way around the world in an open boat a good few years ago.

  2. Carlos Yermoli

    Very respectable accomplishments, both of them. Anyone who sails round the world alone and unassisted deserves high credit. It should not be necessary to do something different to be recognized because it takes as much courage to be the first as to be the last and a single handed circumnavigation, in any sailboat, will never be routine. Please continue covering any who report such trips so we may all know who they are.

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