January 29, 2023

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Byte Class Technology & Sports Update

William Croxford: Attempt to sail non-stop solo around the world without using fossil fuels

Solo sailor William Croxford will be taking part in the Global Solo Challenge, and plans to sail his Carroll Marine Frers 45 non-stop around the world without carrying or using fossil fuels

William Croxford, 33, is the youngest UK solo skipper to enter the Global Solo Challenge.

And unlike many of the other 32 skippers signed up to take part, Croxford is also planning to race without carrying or using any fossil fuels aboard his semi-custom built Carroll Marine Frers 45, Echo Zulu.

The Global Solo Challenge allows boats of all sizes to race against each other around the world.

Unlike the 2022 Golden Globe Race, the singlehanded skippers can sail a range of boats from 34ft to 60ft and can use modern technology.

William Croxford has been sailing since the age of 10, having started in dinghies before graduating to keel boats. Credit: Katy Stickland

Vessels will be grouped by performance characteristics before setting off in staggered departures over an 11 week period, with the fastest boats trying to catch the slower boats; the first yacht to cross the finish line wins.

It will start from A Coruña in Spain in September 2023.

‘The seed for sailing singlehanded around the world was planted while Ellen McArthur was racing in the 2001 Vendée Globe. I had started sailing and I was just fixated by the race. I had been planning on sailing around the world on a Jeanneau 49 and then the Global Solo Challenge came up,’ said William Croxford.

Safety first

Echo Zulu is a cruiser-racer, which he bought in March 2022, and is based in Gosport’s Haslar Marina. She has a top speed of 15 knots. The yacht has new toe rails, running and standing rigging, new bulkheads, a bowsprit, and a safety board aft, to protect Croxford when sailing offshore.

An erial view of a yacht with white sails sailing in blue seas

Echo Zulu will be fitted with electric propulsion for the Global Solo Challenge. Credit: William Croxford

‘Currently she is a masthead but we will be changing her to a cutter. We are still working on the sail plan but we are planning for a furling asymmetric spinnaker, a furling Code 0, a big jib or 105% genoa, and then a big mainsail. We are changing to a cutter to give me more sail options and make it safer, so I won’t have to go forward to change the sails,’ explained Croxford.

Echo Zulu has wide beams, and at 45ft, has length and wide beams to give me stability at sea and comfort in big waves. All the lines will be led back to the cockpit, and we will have single line reefing, and a hard top will be added to give me as much protection as possible while I stay clipped on in the cockpit.’

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But the biggest change to the yacht will be the addition of electric propulsion for the race.

Croxford is still deciding on the best make and model. ‘It is all about what will be the most reliable and most suited to what I am doing,’ he said.

He will also not carry a generator or gas to cook, instead relying on an induction cooker and an electric kettle for his freeze-dried meals.

A boat with a red hull and white topsides berthed in a marina next to other boats

Echo Zulu is based out of Haslar Marina in Gosport. Credit: Will iamCroxford

Electricity will be generated either via solar panels or hydrogenation technology. He also plans to use products on the boat which can be recycled or repurposed.

‘ Meals will be freeze-dried all the way. It takes up a lot less space and I can flat pack the packaging once I’ve eaten the meal. This can then be stored onboard and recycled properly when I get back from the race. I am planning to complete the Global Solo Challenge in 175 days or less, but will be taking enough food for 250 days just in case.’

A steep learning curve

William Croxford started sailing at the age of 10 at Willen Lake in Milton Keynes. He soon became ‘hooked on dinghies’, sailing Optimists, Lasers and 2000s.

At 18, he travelled to Australia and New Zealand and discovered keelboat sailing, cruising in the Whitsundays, the Great Barrier Reef and Auckland Bay.

His family has always sailed, mainly Hallberg-Rassys, and he said moving up from cruising to racing was ‘a steep learning curve’.

An aerial view of a yacht sailing on a blue ocean

William Croxford is planning to use the winter to practice heavy weather sailing tactics. Credit: William Croxford

‘I have a good relationship with my boat and she is very easy to sail. She is very powerful, and if you do power her up she gets a bit of weather helm and that gets a bit interesting, but she is really comfy at sea,’ he said.

He has sailed solo before, but never solo ocean, and is planning to take part in the Royal Western Yacht Club’s Around Iceland Race in March/April 2023.

He will also be ‘storm chasing over the winter’ in the English Channel and off southern Ireland, to start practising his heavy weather tactics for the Southern Ocean. Currently he is favouring using a drogue, and plans to sail along the edge of weather systems, rather than sail through them.

‘I’ve done a lot of crewed racing and sailing this year to get used to the boat, but now it is time to get used to sailing the boat on my own,’ he stated.

A sailor with blonde hair and wearing a red tshirt with a black stripe at the helm of a boat

William Croxford has always wanted to sail solo and non-stop around the world ever since watching Dame Ellen MacArthur come second in the Vendée Globe in 2001 and reading about Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. Credit: Katy Stickland

What does he think will give him the edge in the Global Solo Challenge?

‘The boat. She can give me a constant average speed of around 8-10 knots in most conditions without having to be constantly changing sails and trimming all the time. She is easy to sail which makes it a lot easier and my age is also an advantage; I am younger than most of the other competitors and fitter probably, although they probably have more sailing experience, but I am hoping I can cope with sleep deprivation a lot better. I am not knocking them. We are very lucky to have some very good sailors in the competition and sailors who have done the Southern Ocean before, which I haven’t,’ said Croxford.

‘I am in it to win, but my main aim is to get round. I would rather come 10th and get round than be rescued and lose my boat. My boat and I are a team so we have to get each other round,’ he added.

Find out more about Willian Croxford’s Global Solo Challenge campaign at: https://www.williamcroxfordsailing.com/


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