Below: Charle's Whipple's self-built Resolution - a sturdy little offshore cruiser built to handle the conditions of the Southern Ocean. The boat was just launched in April of this year, and now sadly, has been wrecked on the rocky coast of New Zealand in the first leg of a planned voyage around the world.
I've been checking in on Charlie Whipple's blog about the building of Resolution for more than two years now, since I first read an article in Small Craft Advisor about his plans to build the John Welsford Sundowner design and sail it around the world. It caught my attention because it was an interesting design: a small, but heavily-built displacement cruiser designed to handle a circumnavigation by way of the southern capes. Charlie Whipple's planned solo voyage around the world was an ambitious undertaking, but with dogged resolution he completed the first stage: building the stout little boat in two and a half years under the guidance of the designer at his shop in New Zealand.
Though only 21-feet long, this is one big pocket cruiser, and no small construction project to undertake, as you can see below in this photo of Charlie working in the cockpit before the decks were on.
John Welsford is known for designing beautiful small boats, and even many of his open boats have undertaken impressive offshore voyages. The Sundowner design was specifically drawn for Charlie's requirements as an evolution of Welsford's tiny offshore cruiser design he called Swaggie. Simplicity of systems were a priority in these requirements, but no compromises were to be made in the area of strength. The result was one stout and good-looking little voyager. Below you can see Charlie at the dock with Resolution shortly after the launching.
I learned of Resolution's tragic end just this morning as I browsed through the latest threads on the Sailfar.net forum. (The thread can be found at this link). There are also links from this thread to some video footage of the boat awash in the surf off a rocky shore. Charlie was rescued unhurt by a search and rescue helicopter after setting off a distress signal from his EPIRB.
Though his boat could have probably survived anything he would have likely encountered out at sea, what did him in was the rocks of land as he apparently got off course near shore while sleeping or extremely fatigued. This is always a danger of singlehanded sailing and illustrates again how boats are safer far at sea than anywhere near land. This same scenario has been repeated over and over and could happen to anyone who pushes themselves to exhaustion on a singlehanded or shorthanded voyage where getting enough rest is difficult. Even the great singlehanding legend, Bernard Moitessier lost his boat Marie-Therese II in the same manner in the West Indies. Having experienced hallucinations myself while trying to stay awake at the helm for more than 36 hours, I know all too well how disoriented one can become.
I really hate to hear about the loss of such a fine little boat after so much hard work was put into building her. I was really looking forward to reading Charlie's voyage reports as he made his way around the world, and I wish him the best now in whatever he does, whether it means starting over or moving on to a different dream. Having lost a cruising boat to a hurricane myself, I can relate in some way to pain he must feel.