A coiled-up fireball of enthusiasm and intensity and one of the smartest sailors you’ll ever meet, Matt Scharl defies labels; the 43 year old commodities trader and math wiz is also a fitness freak and adventurer – and he looks about 20 years old. Despite his financial acumen, Matt spends much of the months between June and October farming soybeans on his own acreage in the middle of Michigan. The longtime shorthander has either won or broken a record for just about every singlehanded race in the Great Lakes, mostly on his neon-green former ride Gamera, an F-25C Corsair. He’s also done well in the double handed Atlantic Cup, winning the last edition in a hard-fought battle and setting up his next big adventure – the Route Du Rhum.
With SA Favorite Mike Hennessey (Dragon) pulling his long-anticipated RdR plug after losing months due to his well-publicized prang of a well-known brick, just two American skippers are left to represent the USA in the world’s most famous singlehanded transoceanic race, both in the Class 40. Since one of them sounds French, we’ll focus on Matt’s attempt at the ultimate singlehanded glory outside the Vendee Globe. He checked in with us a few hours ago from due East of Newfoundland; track Matt right here.
Picture the scene: Lying back on your Fatboy thinking about taking a nap, but it just won’t come. Pan out a bit and you realize that you’re on the ocean, on a boat with every ounce of weight stacked in the back, beam reaching at 13-18 knots on a Farr designed Kiwi Class 40…it’s a Bodacious Dream, no doubt, and the song with the line “How Did I get Here?” comes to mind.
Flash back to Nov, 2012, while Dave Rearick was prepping for the round-the-world Global Ocean Race. I had lunch with Jeff [Urbina, BDX co-founder] one day, mentioning the Route Du Rhum as a possibility once Dave finished his circumnavigation. He thought “Why not? The boat will be there anyway.” When the GOR got pushed back a year or two and Dave went off to fulfill his lifelong dream of solo circumnavigating, I figured the Route Du Rhum opportunity was gone for four years, at least. Then I was told that Dave would be finished in time for me to do the Route Du Rhum.
Upon Dave’s return, the boat’s been gone through with a fine-toothed comb. Parts replaced, fixed, and purchased to get up to snuff for the most competitive race on the calendar. I worked hard to secure sponsorship, getting some personal support and help from friends and family as well as Chicago’s excellent Skyway Yacht Works, but was disappointed to find that, other than those mentioned above, none of the many companies I spoke to saw the value in such a sponsorship. To those who did, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I left alone (not counting my monkey mascot) on Monday for my qualifying passage between Rhode Island and France, and it gives me some time to learn the boat better, test sail combinations and in general get a feel for longish time spent alone. Anyone who knows me knows I spend plenty of time alone, but this time it’s been a little different – I’m leaving behind someone recently met but very special, thankfully she is very close to me in spirit even if I cannot feel her touch.
It took a few days to get in a rhythm, but I’m starting to feel it, moving well, motivated by making as much speed as possible. Thanks to an overheating generator I am learning to love the whine of the hydro-generator, even if that’s had mounting issues too – fortunately, my Macgyvering skills are up to snuff thus far! I generally hate deliveries – hence the trailerable trimaran I owned for years – but this is different. I am not delivering to St. Joe’s or Mackinac City – I am delivering to the Queen of solo racing; to crowds of over a million spectators; to the land where tiny frenchmen race 140-foot trimarans across the ocean alone. I am delivering to the Route Du Rhum, and that’s just fine. I couldn’t really believe it before, but I can now.
A final note: Without the extreme generosity of Gaye and Jeff, there’s a whole pile of guys around the world – as far away as Finland and New Zealand – who are able to do some of the greatest adventures and races in the world. None of us – especially me – will be able to ever thank you enough. We’ll try, but it will still never be enough. So thank you.
I’ll be speaking to Mr. Clean later in the week via Satphone for a Sailing Anarchy Innerview, so feel free to post in the Route Du Rhum thread or hit my Facebook Page if you have anything you’d like me to address.
-Matt Scharl, Skipper
Class 40 Bodacious Dream