Reprinted with permission from SAILING Magazine June 1996
ByDarrell H Nicholson

After a series of nerve-wracking hops around the southern tip of South Africa, Brian "B.J." Caldwell is looking forward to the long bluewater passages ahead on his quest to become the world's youngest solo circumnavigator.

Caldwell, who left Honolulu in his 26-foot Contessa Mai Miti Vavau in June 1995, was driven back from South Africa's Cape Agulhas three times. The 20-year-old finally reached Cape Town in February, a month later than he had hoped. When this issue of SAILING went to press, he had just left the South Atlantic island of St. Helena and was bound for Grenada.

"I might have been able to round [the Cape] much faster, but as I studied weather faxes, I'd ask myself, Would I leave on this window?" said Caldwell, who endured 80-knot winds on his passage from Durban to East London. "The objective is to finish and to do that I decided to conserve myself and the boat."

Caldwell's ambitious plan to tackle the Atlantic in one passage was thwarted when he ran into 40-knot winds and 22-foot seas just three days out of Cape Town. The conditions broke the gooseneck on the spinnaker pole Caldwell had fashioned into a boom for his new mainsail (Mai Miti Vavau's previous mainsail was designed to fly without a boom), so on March 25 he made a stop in St. Helena for repairs.

Two weeks later, the bright-red Mai Miti Vavau set out on the 3,500-mile passage to Grenada and Caldwell was happy to have some sea room again.

"A long passage is a hell of a lot easier than coastal sailing in that you can adjust to life at sea," said Caldwell, who had sailed more than 30,000 sea miles before embarking on his solo attempt."

Despite the delay rounding Cape Agulhas and the Cape of Good Hope, Caldwell has ample time to beat Tania Aebi's unofficial record. Aebi, who was disqualified from record books because she took a passenger for a short portion of her voyage, completed her circumnavigation at age 21. Caldwell turns 21 on December 17.

After Grenada, Caldwell's route will take him through the Panama Canal, to the Galapagos and Marquesas Islands and back to Hawaii. He hopes to be home by September, but says he will closely watch the North Pacific hurricane season (June-October).

Although he has overcome what many considered his most difficult obstacle, rounding South Africa, Caldwell isn't underestimating the final legs of his voyage.

"I don't feel the type of exhilaration one would expect after having passed the halfway point," he said. "Sure I'm over the hump, but it doesn't mean Mother Nature can't stop me a mile from the finish line."

Young solo sailor Brian Caldwell, took this self-portrait on a rugged passage to South Africa in March.

*Hele On Back

Last modified: Sunday - 06-16-96
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