On November 15, Adrian had entered Portuguese waters after successfully round Cape Finisterre. After the tempest and trials of only days ago, he was into good sailing conditions and enjoying a beautiful day.
It was not until November 9 that Adrian was able to start south again from Falmouth Bay. During his short break, he had been able to make good much of the damage. There was still a strong smell of diesel in the saloon from the fuel that spilled from the jerry cans as they were torn from their storage by the force of the weather. In spite of the conditions, Adrian had been able to get some sleep and eat. With Adrian and Barrabas restored, he hoped to make progress southward.
On November 2, Adrian was reporting worsening conditions and damage to equipment onboard. When he prepared to depart on October 28, the forecasts all suggested lively conditions in the English Channel and into the Bay of Biscay, but failed to forecast some of the most serious conditions encountered in the area for many years.
In an age of solo and team circumnavigations it is easy to dismiss the Alpha Global Expedition as just another voyage by a solo sailor. Much of the news media did that until they began to understand what was being attempted.
So how was this expedition unique?
Adrian is attempting to complete the very first vertical circumnavigation of the globe by a surface vessel single handed.
This means that he has had to sail South from the UK down the Atlantic to Cape Horn. In rounding the Horn, this was against wind and currents, successfully attempted by a very small handful of other sailors. Then Adrian would have to head North through the Pacific to the Bering Straits. Once there he would either have to navigate the Russian Northern Sea route back to the Norwegian Sea and South to his starting point, or take the North West Passage into the Labrador Sea and across the North Atlantic. His objective was to take the Russian Northern Sea route.
The vertical circumnavigation is probably the last great challenge remaining to sailors in any size vessel and the first major navigation since the early 16th Century when men first sailed horizontally around the world.
In the process, Adrian would chalk up a number of other firsts, the most challenging being to make the first solo voyage west along the Russian Northern Sea route.
Then, when they discovered what was really being attempted, many dismissed the expedition again because it seemed so unlikely that one man with minimal shore support could possibly achieve the objective. Measured against lavishly funded voyages, with significant shore-based support, and sailors following in well trodden footsteps, it was difficult to believe that a genuine ‘first’ could be achieved without massive support and by a sailor with significant blue water experience and a costly custom designed vessel.
Alpha Global Expedition was about as far from that concept as it is possible to be.
Adrian had limited blue water experience. Apart from crewing on one leg of a Clipper Race, Adrian’s solo blue water experience was confined to the trip from France with Barrabas to Hample Point for refit.
Barrabas was designed to be an affordable family cruiser with only average performance and perhaps over engineered for that use. It was a happy accident that she was close to ideal for what Adrian intended. Even so, she was small by modern circumnavigation standards, particularly as her modest speed would mean a long voyage.
Much of the refit work was carried out by Adrian. Some professional work turned out to be unsatisfactory and he had to redo that as an additional burden on him.
There was no lavish sponsorship. Alpha Global Expedition has been lucky to attract so very able and loyal sponsors but, even if Adrian had wanted it, there was no money to hire the large shore-based and PR teams that are now a standard feature of most circumnavigations.
At the start of the voyage, Adrian had only his ex-wife Louise as the shore-based team. She did have access to some very capable advice from sponsors such as Kemp Sails, but she was the manager, the PR team and everything else. As the voyage progressed an expanding informal team of helpers developed but essentially the expedition has comprised drian and Louise.
A large crowd gathered to wish Adrian well at the start of his epic voyage. The pontoon to which Barrabas was moored was packed with news media and the general public. Many others were there to waive him farewell from the shore and from boats in the marina and the Solent.