Tony Bullimore is at the sort of age when many men would be thinking of starting to take things easy, but not Tony.

Later this year, he will set out on a mission to sail single handed, around the world, faster than anyone has done before.

Marian Martin asked him about his prospects.

Many years ago, prior to The Race, you were talking about trying for a solo RTW record. It would have been easier to achieve then, before Joyon and MacArthur raised the bar, so what stopped you?

I agree with you, it would have been a lot easier to go for the record before Francis Joyon and Ellen Macarthur - 20 days easier. The Race, a non stop round the world event  to celebrate the turn of the century came along and l competed in that, and then l competed in the 2005 Oryx Quest, a non stop round the world race that started from Doha, the capital of the Gulf State of Qatar, and the years rolled by. However, l am now going back to my ambition to challenge the single handed non-stop round the world sailing record, and l doubt whether anything will stop me from crossing the starting line.

Doha 2006 is a very famous boat, but a very old boat. Do you really think she can do it?

The boat can do it. Although she is a rather old boat, she has been greatly modified and has got a new rig, she will be a lot lighter and although she is a big boat, the biggest multihull ever to be sailed single handed round the world, she is very easy to handle and can go very fast in the right conditions. 

What have you done to improve the performance and make it easier for single handed sailing?

There is a lot more bouyancy up forward, we raised the decks to ensure she can be driven hard in heavy conditions, with less chance of burying the bows, she now has a superb carbon wing mast, she carries a lot more sail area, she has the latest Raymarine technology and, above all, we will be taking around three tons off the boat, including a normal crew for this size of boat. l am positive she will go better in light conditions and will be able to hold higher speeds in heavier conditions, without having so much canvass up. I do believe she will be able to hold better day’s average speed, than she has in the past.


There is a lot of speculation about why are you starting and finishing in Australia and a fair bit of criticism. What is the real reason for setting off in the Southern hemisphere?

It's really quite simple. I finished the 2005 Oryx Quest round the world race in Doha and had every intention of sailing back to my home Port of Bristol, in the UK, carrying out a major refit on the boat, and going for the record from Ushant, the more traditional start point. Then along came an organisation that agreed to give me some sponsorship support, providing l could start the record from their part of the world. I will be sailing the same distance as any of the past challengers and it is a fact that there is not really any specific advantage in having a start point in the Southern Hemisphere, rather than the Northern Hemisphere. 

What do you have to say to people who say that doing a shorter course and cutting out the need to get round the Azores High, to reach the Lizard, is a cheat?

The people who are making these statements are misinformed. When l cross the Equator, l have to go a long way North, past the Azores, before l can turn round and head South. I will also have my share of the Azores High and the light conditions of this region of the Atlantic. It is rather sad that people use words like 'cheat', when they have not got the right information and in many cases do not know what they are talking about.


I believe you are 67 years old, do you think that makes you a bit past this sort of thing?

I suppose it's normal to say tha a guy of 67 years old has his limitations and should not be doing what l do, but if one has the the mind to get out there and got for it, why not. I, like a lot of people my age, still like the challenge, has the health and strength, and above all the right frame of mind to keep on going. It would be a pity to chuck it all in. I have had a very interesting life, done a lot over the last 50 years, and l have no intention of sitting by the wayside, watching life go by, when l can still be on the fast track. I will know when my time has come and l will know when l have to call it a day. 

Are you ever going to say to yourself “Time to give this up”?

I’m sure I will.

You went through what must have been a very frightening experience, waiting to be rescued in the Southern Ocean. Do you think this will affect you, psychologically, when you are again alone there?

It could. I have been past the spot in the Southern Ocean where l had my big bust up and it did bring back memories. On each occasion, l was with a terrific crew, but this time, l will be on my own and this can really bring all the memories back to life.

What do you think will be the hardest thing about this attempt?

Some say that it will be winching up the mainsail, putting in and taking out reefs, handling the massive gennakers etc, but that is only one side of it. The three elements that have got to be in place are the boat, the skipper and the weather. If you have a good boat and it holds together, no major breakages etc, and the skipper can hold it together and keep pushing the boat, to gobble up the miles, and, above all, if you get the right weather, you have a great chance of achieving your goal. The weather is the real make it or break it factor. This is where Lee Bruce plays a big part in the challenge. My destiny is in his hands and l have no problems with that.

You are what is perhaps best described as “a colourful character”. People either seem to love you or hate you, but nobody ignores you. Remarks on this attempt range from “Anyone that went through what he did and is willing to go out and do it again is ace in my book.” To “A 67 year old codger of questionable sanity”. How do you see yourself?

I suppose l am a bit of a colourful character, l do like life, l do like to get in the thick of it, there is so much l still want to do. I can remember standing on the pebble beach in Southend - on - Sea, where l grew up, looking out at the great merchant ships sailing towards London, wondering where they were from, dreaming of all the things l wanted


to do and the places l wanted to go, and if l stood on that beach again, l would still be dreaming of what was out there and how l could get out there and continue to look over the horizon. I really believe that if you really want something and you have it in you to get it, it will happen. It is not all one way, there has never been an easy path for me. With all my in-built determination and focus on getting out there and going for it, l do have my moments. I have to fight so hard to put my racing projects together, it has never been easy. Many a time l have stood, looking at myself in life's mirror, wondering if l have the strength to keep going, the strength to get over the hurdles, and l always stare hard and say to myself 'keep going, fight on, you will win in the end '. Occasionally, l wonder what it is all about, but l always keep going. I am sure there are a lot of people out there who understand what l am saying.

If you don’t break the record this time, would you want to try again, perhaps with a more modern boat, which would level the playing field?

I am very happy to go for the record on my beautiful boat. She is a lovely boat and will not let me down. There are so many imponderables, when you go to sea, and whether l have an old boat and she is not as fast as the state of the art boats built today, she is still a great boat, l can only have respect for her. Of course, l would like a 'today’s' boat, very light, very beamish, a super lightweight rig and all the other refineries that come with a new boat, but l have got what l have got, a great boat, and l am happy to have the opportunity to do what l am about to do aboard her. As to whether l would do it again, if l did not break the record, this is an interesting question. Perhaps you will ask it again, when l cross the finishing line.

There are more pictures of Tony Bullimore’s famous catamaran, which is best known as Enza, in the BYM Photo Gallery. Click HERE to view them.