Brian Hancock

Ellen in the house

24 Sep

I first met Ellen MacArthur in 1999. She was relatively unknown then, at least to the sailing community. She was a young British girl that had done a bit of sailing. I had heard of her because she had sailed the Mini-Transat and I was a big fan of the event. I got a call from my friend, the yacht designer Merf Owen. He told me his girlfriend wanted to charter my boat for the Route du Rhum race but had very little money. He said her name was Ellen MacArthur and she was hoping to do the Vendée Globe ...
Read More


23 Sep
French sailor Laurent Bourgnon is missing

The Swiss sailor Laurent Bourgnon was reported missing on Thursday after failing to return from a diving trip in French Polynesia. Laurent who, you ask? Well let me clarify that. If you are a non-European you probably have never heard of him and wonder why this is big news. If you are Swiss or French he is a household name, a sailing superstar, someone small French kids aspire to be, someone to whom the French President awarded the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor, equivalent to America’s Presidential Medal of Freedom. So yes Bourgnon is ...
Read More

Fastnet Force 10

22 Sep

Just one of the awful images from the ’79 Fastnet Race

It has been 36 years since I raced the disastrous ’79 Fastnet. For those that don’t recall what happened an intense low pressure system passed over the fleet decimating a large portion of it. The event was part of the Admiral’s Cup and attracted not only the best sailors in the world, but also many, many amateurs whose only offshore experience was the biennial race. It was a combination of a number of inexperienced sailors, shallow water in the Irish Sea, and an un-forecasted low that led to the ...
Read More

Little boats with a big history

22 Sep
The start of the mini Transat from Douarnenez, France – photo credit Jacques Vapillon

This past Saturday the Mini Transat started from the tiny town of Douarnenez located in Brittany in the northwest region of France. There are 72, yes 72 boats competing, an enormous fleet of futuristic boats all headed for Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe with a stop along the way in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. It’s 1,250 nautical miles from France to the Canary Islands, and 2,770 miles from the Canaries to the Caribbean for a total course distance of just over 4,000 miles. The Mini Transat is raced in
Read More

Whitbread/Volvo Ocean Race Retrospective

18 Sep
I was interested to read that Knut Frostad was stepping down as CEO of the Volvo Ocean Race. Curious as to why I went online to read the official statement and then something hit me. Knut was only six years old when the first edition of the race, known then as the Whitbread Round the World Race, took place. Last week the Whitbread/Volvo celebrated 42 years since the first race back in 1973 and how things have changed. On the VOR website there is a photo of the very dashing crew of a boat called Second Life. I know that ...
Read More

Death in the Clipper Race

10 Sep
This past weekend there was a tragic death aboard one of the boats competing in the Clipper Round the World Race. A crew member, Andrew Ashman, was struck on the head by either the mainsheet or the boom, or both, and died of his injuries. It was the first fatality in an around-the-world race in a long time and it begs the question “is it safe to race around the world with paying amateur crew?”  I am going to answer that right up front and say yes, but let’s take a look at the issue.

Crews competing in the ...
Read More

In Search of a New Record

2 Sep
The 97-foot Qingdao China getting ready for a trip through the Northeast Passage

These days it’s getting harder and harder to do something in sailing that’s never been done before. It used to be that a solo circumnavigation was enough. Then it had to be non-stop, then it had to be non-stop the wrong way around. In the late 70’s I met an Australian by the name of Jon Sanders who had done a solo, non-stop circumnavigation and was setting out to do a single-handed, double, non-stop circumnavigation. Once he completed his double he decided that he needed to better
Read More

Teenage Record Setters

28 Aug
I watched a really great movie last night. Maidentrip, a documentary about Laura Dekker and her solo circumnavigation to become the youngest person ever to make a lap of the planet. It was great on so many levels but what resonated with me most was that when I was a teenager I read the book Dove by Robin Lee Graham, the California kid who set off at 16 to become the youngest person ever to sail alone around the world. I could not get enough of the book and a series of articles that came out in National Geographic, but ...
Read More

Fastnet Force 0

21 Aug
Rambler 88 drifting around Fastnet Rock

There is a single word that sums up the Fastnet Race currently underway from Cowes on the Isle of Wight, around the Fastnet Rock off the coast of Ireland, and back to Plymouth on the south coast of England, and that word is breathless. Yup breathless as in no wind and definitely not from too much breath taking action. The 90th anniversary of this iconic event has been a driftathon of gigantic proportions, an epic event of just about nothing.

The race attracted a record fleet of 356 boats among them some of the ...
Read More

Flying boats

14 Aug
When my children were small one of their favorite books was The Wreck of the Zephyr by Chris Van Allsburg. The story was about a boy and his obsession to become the world’s greatest sailor. He so badly wanted to be the best that by sheer willpower he was able to coax his boat out of the water to fly above the waves.  It was a fanciful story but my kids would always finish the book and say, “boats will never fly.”

Fast forward a few years and what do we have; flying boats and boats that almost fly. Since ...
Read More

More from the AIM Marine Group