Tony Bullimore is hoping to sail round the world faster than any other solo sailor! He doesn’t just want to beat Ellen MacArthur’s record, of he wants to break the 70 day barrier. Can he do it? Will he do it?

We think he can, we are not so sure that he will, because of the many factors involved.

As his waiting time in Hobart ran into months, some thought he would never start, but he did.



Tony Bullimore left Hobart on May Day - perhaps a none too auspicious day given the nautical use of that expression!

As his engineless catamaran was towed out, accompanied by local well wishers' boats, there was a small gathering of TV people on board, plus members of the Bellerive Yacht Club, who have been Tony's staunchest supporters and helpers during his stay in Tasmania.

There were some last minute interviews, then Tony made a phone call home and it was time for the action.





The Bellerive boys swung into action, the main started to go up, boats took Doha in tow, for the journey down the Derwent river, in near windless conditions.

The main reached full hoist, a foresail went up, Doha got up to speed and the Bellerive boys jumped off onto one of the Bruny Island charter boats, when Doha was at full speed, but well before the start line.





Can he do it?

There are those who say “No chance! You can’t beat a record set in a brand new purpose built single hander’s boat, in an ancient catamaran built for crewed racing. I think you can and the proof lies in the performance of Francis Joyon, on IDEC. That boat - originally Sport Elec - was a contemporary of Bullimore’s former Enza, now Doha.

In 1974, Enza took the Jules Verne record, for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe, in a time of 74 days 22 hours. In 1974, Sport Elec broke that record, with a time of  71 days 14 hours. You might, therefore, think that if the fastest Enza has got round the world with a crew is close to 75 days, Bullimore has no chance of taking 5 days off that record, sailing solo.

There are a number of reasons why he could, not the least of which is that although Francis Joyon sailed round in IDEC, ex Sport Elec, in 72 days 22 hours, a liitle slower than the boat had gone round with a crew, on various parts of the route he was considerably faster. He took 23 hours less than Sport Elec, to reach the Equator and, from the Equator to the Cape of Good Hope, he was actually 8 hours faster than Orange!

“Maybe so,” you are perhaps thinking “but Enza’s fastest round the world voyage took 3 days longer than Sport Elec’s. True, but in those days, Enza measured 90 feet overall, Doha has been lengthened to 104 feet.

There’s more! Enza had an aluminium fixed mast, Doha has a carbon fibre, pivoting wing mast. Her sails are also very advanced, compared to those Enza wore and she has better equipment in terms of navigation and many fittings She has also been lightened by about 2 tonnes, compared to her weight when she competed in The Race 2000. So Doha is, basically, a faster boat than the Enza that lost her Jules Verne record to Sport Elec/IDEC.

I can almost hear some people saying “That’s all well and good, but he has to beat Ellen MacArthur’s record, of 71 days 15 hours, on B&Q, not Francis Joyon’s earlier record on IDEC.” That is true and to decide whether that is, or is not likely, we have to compare the Joyon and MacArthur campaigns!

Joyon’s campaign was not well funded. He had no shore team and did virtually all the work of preparing Sport Elec himself, often with secondhand equipment. During that time he had no sponsor and, when the boat was ready, it was touch and go as to whether he could afford to provision it and acquire remaining essential equipment. Then IDEC stepped in, but its sponsorship was limited and Joyon still could not afford a new mainsail. The one he used to take the record was  the one that had gone round-the-world on Sport Elec.

Ellen’s entire campaign was sponsored by B&Q, and managed by a team of people on shore, from conception to fruition. Her brand new trimaran was purpose built for singlehanded sailing. All its sails were, of course, brand new; as was all other equipment on the boat.

Perhaps Joyon’s biggest disadvantage, over MacArthur, was the fact that he could not afford to use a weather router. MacArthur had two of the best Meeno Schrader and Ken Campbell. Having to do his own routing put Joyon at a big disadvantage and, after the attempt, he said he felt sure he could have got very close to that 70 day barrier, if he had not made routing mistakes, in the Southern Ocean, that were very costly in terms of time!

So where does all this put Tony Bullimore chances of beating Ellen’s record?

If Francis Joyon was right and he is not a man given to making wild statements, his routing errors alone cost him at least 2 days. Tony  does have a router, so he should not get such costly errors.

What about the boats? Joyon was at a disadvantage over MacArthur, in every respect except length, Bullimore’s Doha is longer than any of them.

So, Tony and Doha can do it, the big question is “Will they do it?” 

He has started very late, adding to risks from icebergs and storms, especially on his way to the Horn. On the other hand, when he returns, winds that might - to use one of his favourite expressions - slingshot him back to Hobart, could have moved into his ideal latitude.

What’s against him? In my view: single handed practice; fitness and age - not his 68 years, but the age of some components on his boat, which have already done two RTWs.