Glenn Wakefield on his sailboat, West Wind II, at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club prior to launching for Cape Horn on Aug. 26. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)

Vancouver Island mariner sets sail to finish solo circumnavigation of globe

Glenn Wakefield will turn around at the point of his farthest attempt, off the coast of Argentina

Down the gangway on the last finger of the guest dock at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club floated a green sailboat, the West Wind II.

Ropes heaped in circular piles line the dock next to it.

There Oak Bay mariner Glenn Wakefield, who recently celebrated his 70th birthday, made final preparations for his third attempt at a single-handed, western circumnavigation of the world in a sailboat, a feat few people have taken on.

“Most people go the eastern route,” explained Wakefield, who set sail on Aug. 26.

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This effort won’t be a complete circumnavigation of the world, he added. Having made two full attempts, he plans to sail to the end point of his first attempt, then turn around and sail home, completing the circuit as a two-stage journey.

“IdonothaveitinmetoonceagainstartofffromVictoriaandattempttodothewholevoyageagain,”hesaid.

The turnaround point he referred to is longitude 48 latitude 51.5 – about 1,000 miles off the coast of southern Argentina. That was the farthest Wakefield made it, back in 2008.

At that storied point in his life he was within a week or two of rounding Cape Horn. Sound asleep in the dark, he awoke to a thud when the boat capsized. He’d been knocked unconscious. He broke ribs, suffered a concussion and had a lesion on his head.

“The whole thing happened within a minute,” Wakefield said. “Sailboats – good ones, like this – will right themselves within a minute.”

But that wasn’t the only capsizing and his 41-foot vessel, Kim Chow, encountered other problems. Wakefield wound up being rescued by the Argentinian Navy and abandoned the boat.

The solo sailor’s second attempt fell short in 2013 when his sail rigging failed in the Indian Ocean. For this journey, he’ll sail south to French Polynesia then head east toward the turnaround past Cape Horn.

There are rules for an unassisted, single-handed circumnavigation as per the World Sailing Association. Any motor must be sealed off, even tiny motors used to manoeuvre busy marinas.

Because of COVID-19 Wakefield anticipates avoiding any ports along the way. He estimates the approximately 18,000-nautical-mile voyage (33,000 kilometres) will take between eight and 10 months.

The only scheduled stop is to visit members of the Argentinian military who rescued him in 2008 and have kept in touch. That includes Captain Hernan Montero and his crew, who were then aboard the Buque Oceanográfico, ARA Puerto Deseado.

“I never met the fellow who coordinated it, Pablo Fal, who is now rear-admiral,” Wakefield said.

In terms of meals, friends stewed 40 jars of beef for him, which will be an added delicacy to the lentil stew he makes.

Wakefield keeps an almost daily blog during his trips and has lined the hull with 100 feet of copper mesh to draw a signal for his ham radio. Find updates on his new blog, Glennwakefieldaroundtheworld.com, and check out excerpts from his previous blog at kimchowaroundtheworld.com.

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reporter@oakbaynews.com

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