Almost six years ago, we met up with Tony Bullimore at the end of a circumnavigation in The Race 2000. At the time, Tony gave us an interview, in which he spoke very freely.

So, with speculation and rumour, about his forthcoming solo record attempt on the increase, we decided to talk to him again. We found him just as open about this circumnavigation as he had been about the last one.


These stories about waiting for the right weather have been going on for almost two months now and people are saying that there simply can’t have been no window in that time. What do you say?

I know it seems impossible, do you know what the maximum wind speed has been today …… 7 knots. One of the local papers thought it couldn’t be true, so they got a guy who is a professor, who holds the Chair in Meteorology at a University – the University of Tasmania I think, I can send you his details if you like, but I don’t have them with me now. Anyway, they asked him to check up and he came back with exactly the same thing Lee Bruce has been saying, it’s indisputable, there hasn’t been the right weather.

Why is it so important though to have exactly the right weather at the start, when there’s no way of knowing what the weather will be like on the way round.

You know, I’m not on a brand new super yacht. I’ve got a very old boat, a 23 year old boat, and I’m going after a record held by a brand new boat, specially built for single handing. I think I can do it, but I’ve got to give myself the best possible chance.

If this were a race, I’d have to take my chance and go the day the organisers say go, but that doesn’t apply here. The only bit I can control, weather wise, is the start and it’s no good leaving and being, practically, becalmed on the way to New Zealand. I need a minimum of 36 hours of the right winds – 25 to 35 knot north westerlies – to get to NZ and turn that corner towards the Horn.

The kayaker who was sadly lost, whilst trying to paddle from Tasmania to New Zealand, found a weather window?

A kayak isn’t a 100 foot catamaran, it’s looking for much lighter winds. The Chairman of the World Rowing Association told me that the ideal conditions for human powered boats are following winds of about 8 to 10 knots.

Some people have suggested that you havenít had enough money to prepare the boat; not enough to set out even. Is there anything in these stories?

The boat is in superb condition, it has had the best refit that love, care and attention can produce. It is absolutely ready and Iím going to be able to push it hard.

Enough money? You know my history, Iíve never had enough money, except back in the Ď80s when Apricot sponsored me. The fact is that very few people have enough money, enough sponsorship. Iím not talking about Americaís Cup style money, with a hundred million thrown at some campaigns; thatís just because people like Ellison and Bertarelli are passionate about it; itís big toys, for big boys. Iím talking about the sort of money thatís needed to be pretty sure youíll break ocean records and win races, barring accidents or bad weather luck. The sort of money that means that all you have to do is sail the brand new boat someone has bought for you, because someone else prepares it, delivers it, does everything except sail it. Very few sailors have sponsors that come up with that sort of money, so the rest of us are always struggling to find enough and we have to do a lot of work on our boats ourselves.

As to not having enough money to set off, what do I need? Iíve got everything, I just have to put the provisions on board. My freeze dried stuff was bought from a New Zealand company, they didnít sponsor me with free food, but they did do a very good deal and are supplying me through a Tasmanian retailer. Itís all there ready for me to pick up, but they have better conditions to keep it in, so I wonít load it on the boat until Iím ready to leave.

Are you going to leave? Just a few days ago, one magazine said the only place you’d be sailing was home.

It’s sad when people say things like that, without even bothering to talk to me. I have to leave before the end of March – that’s the very latest – and you can be sure I’m going to. Lee e-mails me every other day; he’s now looking at best options, rather than the sort of conditions we’d, ideally, like to have at the start.

Yes, but will you definitely have a go, even if the start options don’t look too good?

Absolutely, there is no way that I’m not going. I’ve dreamed of this for so long and devoted the last 2 years of my life to it. Not going is out of the question and this is my last chance. Francis (Joyon) will break Ellen’s record next year, with his new tri and it will be beyond my reach.

I hope Francis does take it, but I’d like to hold it for a bit. I’m a big admirer of Francis, he came to see me in Bristol and we sat half the night talking and he said we should both have a crack at the record. Well, he did and smashed it and I got involved with the Oryx Quest, which was a very big mistake. I finished second and never got a penny of the prize money and Brian Thompson who won didn’t get anything either. That money would have been a big help in preparing the boat for this record attempt.

Did you effectively get the prize money in Qatari sponsorship?

I can’t give you details of the sponsorship, because of confidentiality clauses, but no.

Coming back to the record; do you really think you can break it?

Why not? It isn’t as though I don’t know what I’m doing; I’ve done a lot. It’s odd, but it only seems to be back home that people talk about me like I was Captain Pugwash. In France, which as you know is the home of ocean multihulls, no-one treats me as a joke, I’m respected for what I’ve done.

As I said earlier, the boat is in superb condition. I won’t say I’m in superb condition, but I am in good condition and very fit. Yes the boat is old, but so was the boat Francis smashed the record in and remember that Ellen only just beat his record and she had two weather routers, whilst he had none and he admits making mistakes that cost him a lot of time. So, I think I have a good chance, because Francis proved that having an old boat doesn’t mean you can’t do it and I have a weather router so, hopefully, I’ll avoid the things that slowed him in places.

You’ll be finishing at the beginning of winter down there. Won’t that mean that you’ll have to stay high up, so you’ll be adding to the distance and thus losing any chance of breaking the record?

I don’t think so, I should be able to get down to about 40° and, if you check the charts, you’ll see that’s about where Francis and Ellen sailed. The thing is that, at that time of year, there should be a succession of depressions going through that I’ll be able to ride. The rule is that, if you’re going across an ocean with the prevailing systems and want to ride a depression, you need to be between its centre and the equator. I think 40° will put me where I need to be and the likely weather patterns should make for a fast run home.

My biggest enemy will be the cold, but I’m well prepared. I have a suit with a hood that covers my head and face. Also, the galley has gone, to save weight, and my little stove is in the pod where I’ll be doing the navigating, so when I’m in there preparing my food I’ll be getting warm too.

Can we clear up some of the things people have been speculating about, like why you haven’t taken your Bellerive Club helpers sailing, as you said you would?

Robin, Don, two Johns, Simon and Alistair have been terrific. They aren’t young people, three of them are retired, and they’ve worked hard and been a huge help in getting the boat ready.

I’ll tell you what’s planned, as soon as it looks like a window is going to open, they are coming down into the Southern Ocean with me. We’ll be spending a night out, because we’re taking a cameraman too and he wants to get day and night pictures. So, we’ll sail about 100 miles south and have a great evening, cook a curry, spend the night down there and then come back.

You were going to take part in the Bruny Island Race, but didn’t. Why was that?

The Commodore of the yacht club advised against it. The course goes through some very narrow gaps and the Committee didn’t think it would be wise to do it in a boat with no engines. If the wind had died, whilst we were going through one of the gaps, we could have ended up drifting onto rocks; it just wasn’t worth the risk.

Final thing is, the names of your supporters club members that were on the boat have been rubbed off; why is that?

I put those names on, with a felt tip pen, which was a mistake, because they started to run. I’ve given the list to a local firm and they are putting them on to plasticised sheets that will be stuck on and won’t come off.