Single handed sailing

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Flag Unaone, is often used by single-handed sailors

Single-handed sailing refers to sailing a boat with a single person on board; in contrast, for example, is two-handed sailing .

The term is derived from the English expression for crew member, hand , and only describes the strength of the crew (cf. hand for bunk ).


The first circumnavigation of the world by a single-handed sailor took place in 1895–1898 by Joshua Slocum . The British Ann Davison was the first woman to cross the Atlantic solo in 1952/1953. The Englishman Robin Knox-Johnston carried out a one-handed circumnavigation of the world for the first time in 1968–1969 without calling at a port. The first female single-handed sailor to circumnavigate the world non-stop was Australian Kay Cottee in 1988, who sailed around the earth from Sydney's suburb of Watsons Bay and back to Sydney Harbor in 187 days in her 11-meter yacht First Lady .

The number of circumnavigations of the world by single-handed sailors is now likely to be several hundred, and no institution keeps records of such trips. A boom experienced the deep sea -Einhandsegeln by the development of powerful mechanical self-control systems in the 1970s.

The best-known German single-handed sailor and at the same time the first German single-handed circumnavigator is Wilfried Erdmann , who was the only one with the same yacht Kathena Nui to circumnavigate the earth in both directions (i.e. with the prevailing wind directions and against them). The first German woman to sail around the world with one hand was Gudrun Calligaro .

Psychological challenges

A journey lasting several days, several weeks or several months means a particular psychological burden for the sailor. In addition to being alone, a lack of sleep becomes a danger: Fatigue leads to reduced concentration and performance and impaired perception up to hypnagogic hallucinations . Freezing, general malaise, listlessness and increased irritability are "normal" side effects, depression and anxiety states can result.

Requirements for the boat

Many single-handed sailors try to carry out all maneuvers from one place if possible. Therefore, single-handed sailing places additional demands on the construction and equipment of a boat. For example, all sheets and traps are often brought into the cockpit so that the single-handed sailor does not have to move far from the rudder when hoisting , reefing or recovering the sails. Automatic steering systems are standard.


Strictly speaking, single-handed sailing for several days is neither compatible with good seamanship nor with international maritime law , as no watch is kept during the sleep phases of the skipper (no constant look-out, no radio watch). Modern navigation electronics ( radar , AIS ) can warn of impending collisions with appropriate alarm systems, but this is not a substitute for human lookouts. In practice, however, collisions between single-handed sailors and other ships are very rare, as these are usually away from the shipping routes used . Nevertheless, many yacht insurances explicitly exclude insurance cover for single-handed sailing. Further risks are the lack of help in possible (e.g. medical) emergencies and the increased risk of going overboard , since in this case no rescue can be carried out by other crew members.


The record for the fastest single-handed circumnavigation of the world by a woman is held by Ellen MacArthur , who returned to Ouessant in north-west France in 2005 after 71 days . It was also a world record up to January 2008, when the Frenchman Francis Joyon broke this record with 57 days, 13 hours and 34 minutes. In 2016, the Frenchman Thomas Coville needed 49 days, 3 hours and 7 minutes for a one-handed circumnavigation. The current record (2017) is held by the French sailor François Gabart with a 30-meter-long trimaran MACIF. The 34-year-old crossed the start and finish line before Brest after 42 days, 16 hours, 40 minutes and 35 seconds. The longest time alone at sea was spent by the Australian Jon Sanders, who circled the world three times non-stop in 657 days.


In 1960 the transatlantic regatta Observer Singlehanded Transatlantic Race (OSTAR) was organized for the first time , which led from Plymouth , Great Britain , to Newport , Rhode Island , USA. This race is held under different names up to the present day and is therefore the most traditional regatta for single-handed sailors. German participants in this race were among others. Claus Hehner (1972: 28th place) and Wolfgang Quix , who, however, could not hold their own against the international competition. Traditionally, the OSTAR is dominated by the French and the English, although multihulls have always occupied the top positions since the 1980s.

The Vendée Globe , which - like the OSTAR - is held every four years is considered the most demanding regatta for single-handed sailors .

The Silverrudder Challenge , a one-hand regatta around Fyn, has been held in Denmark since 2012 . In 2012 15 sailors started, in 2015 330 starters were registered.

Well-known single-handed sailors

Well-known single-handed sailors are:

For one-handed circumnavigations of the world, a competition has now developed for the youngest person who has completed a circumnavigation of the world. The following sailors had the age record at the end of their circumnavigation (with year of circumnavigation and age at the time of completion):

The youngest German single-handed sailor is Paul Graute (1973, 25 years and 335 days).

One-handed circumnavigator non-stop against the wind (from east to west)


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Around the world in 49 days. Retrieved November 24, 2017 .
  2. Solo circumnavigation: French Gabart breaks record. Retrieved December 17, 2017 .
  3. ^ The Transat. Retrieved October 5, 2015 .
  4. Silver Rudder. Retrieved May 11, 2016 .
  5. Solo Circumnavigators - Robin Knox-Johnston. Retrieved September 14, 2018 .