US Navigator Goes Around the World in 48 Days – copyright Peter Marsh
Even Jules Verne couldn’t have imagined it: the round-the-world sailing record has now passed below the 50-day mark–and only 17 years after the mythical 80-day mark was achieved. Fittingly, it was another French yacht, this time the 105′ trimaran Groupama, that lowered the time to 48 days seven hours, slicing two days eight hours off the mark set by the 120′ catamaran Orange II in 2005.
It is a fair reward for Franck Cammas and his nine-strong team, who have been after this mark since the boat was launched in 2007. They have overcome two devastating failures in their quest: they broke a float and rolled over off New Zealand late in 2008, towed the boat back to port, shipped it home, and rebuilt it. This winter, they damaged a float again, retired to Capetown, South Africa, sailed the boat home, reinforced it, and set off again at the very last possible moment.
Navigator Stan Honey
Notable among the crew was the one non-French member, navigator Stan Honey–a Californian sailor and high-tech entrepreneur from Palo Alto. Cammas, who speaks fluent English, considers him one of the top navigators in the world and invited him to join the all-French effort. At 52 years of age, Honey was the oldest man on the boat.
He has a name that is easy to remember, and it has appeared regularly on the crew list of big, fast and successful racing yachts. His first triumph in the Transpac was on Drifter in ’79. Just last summer, he was navigating in his 16th Transpac on the 100′ Alfa Romeo when it demolished the course record. in 5 days, 14 hours.
His first big multihull was Steve Fossett’s 125′ Cheyenne, which lowered the trans-Atlantic record to four days in 2002. He didn’t go full-time in yacht racing until 2004, with the invitation to join ABN AMRO, which dominated the 2005-2006 Volvo Ocean Race. Honey usually stays in the background–a web search turned up very little sailing information on him-and he apparently doesn’t even have his own web site.
His own boat is a Cal 40– the fiberglass classic designed in 1963–on which he set a long-standing record for racing solo to Hawaii. Maybe that’s because he has had more than his share of fame in the high-tech business world, where he just happens to be known as “the father of consumer on-screen navigation.”
His inventions include the basic automotive navigation system used around the world and the technology that displays the first-down line and tracks baseballs on your TV! (More recently used in the America’s Cup on San Francisco Bay.) This trimaran is very sophisticated he says, and is amazingly responsive to small changes of sail trim. It makes Fossett’s Cheyenne look quite primitive in comparison.
Asked about the difference between fleet racing and record breaking, he points out that for the navigator, being on standby is almost as hard as being under way because he is constantly watching the weather situation. On a record attempt, you are really racing against “the past and the future,” he says wryly. “In a fleet, at least you know when the start is and can get a good idea of how well you are doing against your competitors.”