ONCE MORE, WITH FEELING — I
t’s hard to label Webb Chiles: Sailor, writer, adventurer, record-setter, masochist, man of passion... the list goes on. Five times (mostly) solo around the world, the first American to round Cape Horn by himself and owner of the longest solo open-boat voyage in history, the 72-yearold is showing no signs of letting up. Currently preparing for his sixth circumnavigation, he’s chosen an iconic Santa Cruz-built ultralight for the task: a Moore 24. As a follow-up to our December 2012 interview, we caught up with Webb recently in San Diego to get the low-down on his latest adventure. Latitude 38: You’re planning to begin a circumnavigation in May on your Moore 24. Are you going to sail Gannet around Cape Horn? Webb Chiles: I don’t know yet. I don’t have any doubt that a Moore 24 can survive a tradewind circumnavigation. But can it survive the Southern Ocean? I don’t know. I’ve spent months in the Southern Ocean and rounded Cape Horn twice, so I know enough to not take the decision lightly. I'll spend the next 6,000 or 7,000 miles [to New Zealand] figuring that out and then make a decision from there. This is the first time that I’ve left on a circumnavigation without a definite plan. 38: How will you begin your journey to New Zealand? WC: I will take a train from Chicago to San Diego in early May, where Gannet lies. From there, I'll leave quietly some time in May and probably head for Hilo on the island of Hawaii. I’ve never sailed to Hawaii before. French Polynesia seven times, but never Hawai’i. It will be nice to see something different and also to avoid the bureaucracy of French Polynesia. The interior of a Moore 24 doesn't allow much room for a guy who is 6'1" to stretch out, but Webb has found his favorite spots.
38: And after Hilo? WC: If possible, I will leave directly from the Big Island and begin sailing for New Zealand with a planned arrival between October and November. I'll likely do just a couple of long passages, not island hopping from one to the next.
"The Moore is the bestsailing boat of them all. And the fastest!" This will be a good shakedown for Gannet when deciding whether or not to take her into the Southern Ocean, as I should see some challenging conditions before reaching New Zealand. Any time you sail to New Zealand, you’ve got to be ready for a gale. 38: And once you get to New Zealand, the choice is east or west? WC: Exactly. I'll fly home and spend the holidays with my wife [his sixth], the love of my life, Carol. During that time I'll decide which way to go. If I decide to go west-about through the trades, then I'll leave New Zealand in March-April 2015 and begin heading toward the Indian Ocean. If I decide to go east, I'll leave New Zealand between October and November of 2015 and head straight for the Horn. 38: If you go west, where will your first destination be? WC: Australia. One of my favorite places to sail is from Cair ns to Cape York, in northern Queensland. It’s a beautiful 500- to 600-milelong cruising ground that lies within the Great Barrier Reef. Smooth water, southeast trades, reliable reaching conditions... it’s perfect. I love the emptiness and solitude of the place, how well protected it is and all of the good anchorages throughout, many
within close day-sailing distance. With Gannet’s Gannet asymmetrical kite and light-air performance, I look forward to some great sailing there if I don’t go to the Horn. 38: You’ve sailed everything from production Ericsons to custom IOR race boats to a couple of 18-ft open boats, and now a Moore 24. Why did you choose the Moore? WC: Because it’s a good sailing boat; seaworthy and well built. I believe when choosing a boat that you should choose a very good sailing boat and then adapt yourself to it. If you try to adapt the boat to yourself, then you risk turning it into something that it’s not and it’s no longer the good sailing boat that it once was. All of my boats have sailed very well and I have often sailed engineless as a result. The Moore is the bestsailing boat of them all. And the fastest! 38: So you really like the Moore? WC: I love the Moore. I am constantly amazed at the sailing performance of Gannet. With the furling jib, furling asymmetrical spinnaker and easy-to-reef mainsail, the boat is easily managed singlehanded, and easy to adapt to all conditions. On my shakedown sail for this voyage, I sailed around Guadalupe Island and back, the same shakedown route as I did on the Ericson 37 Egregious before sailing nonstop around Cape Horn and to New Zealand. That was before closing the circle and beating Chichester’s aroundthe-world record. I found mostly light air this time, but even in 12 knots of breeze, Gannet often saw 8 knots with the kite up. I love the voluminous bow and the Moore’s bow-high, well-mannered sailing characteristics, not to mention how light the boat is and how well she does in light air. 38: You’re a pretty tall guy at 6’1”. How do you deal with three feet of headroom and such limited space?
The May 2014 issue of the West's premier sailing and marine magazine.