Guo Chuan, China’s most famous sailor, is missing at sea and the Coast Guard have suspended their search for him. Mr Chuan was attempting to break the single-handed record for the fastest time to cross the Pacific. He left San Francisco on the 19th October heading for Shanghai but this past Tuesday his support team lost contact with him.
He had been keeping a regular blog about the trip and was making good time but suddenly there was no response. At first the Coast Guard flew over and tried to raise him on the radio but there was no response and later when they boarded the boat they found no trace of him. His lifejacket was there and one can only surmise what happened.
Guo Chuan was the first Chinese sailor to sail singlehanded around the world and he did so in 2013 in a Class 40. The World Sailing Speed Record Council recognized his accomplishment as the fastest time for a solo lap of the planet in a 40-foot boat. He had also competed in the Volvo Ocean Race and last summer set a benchmark record transiting the Northwest Passage from Murmansk in the extreme northwest part of Russia to an imaginary finish line in the Bering Strait. For that trip he purchased Francis Joyon’s old IDEC and he was using the same boat for his Pacific record bid.
The boat is just under 100-feet long, a massive yacht by any measure, and so it’s really not that surprising to read that he has been lost at sea. These large multihulls can cruise at speeds close to 30 knots without much effort, but when the breezed gets up I can only imagine that they are more than a handful. There is not much information about the conditions on Tuesday when his shore team lost contact but even in light winds the slightest slip can be fateful. One can only guess that something happened that caused him to fall overboard.
Currently in France Tomas Coville is on stand-by to have another go at the fastest single-handed circumnavigation of the world. He will sail Sodebo, a trimaran that at 34 meters in length is around 14 feet bigger than the boat that Mr Chuan was sailing. He is in pursuit of the solo nonstop record that is currently held by Francis Joyon in IDEC in 2008.
I don’t know, I appreciate the skill and bravery that it must take to get a boat that size safely around the world but the loss of Chuan must give everyone pause. Guo Chuan was an experienced sailor but nowhere near as experienced as Tomas Coville but in the course of two months at sea, alone, anything can happen. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed and wish Mr Coville Bonne Chance and save a thought for Mr Chuan’s family and friends. – Brian Hancock.