World renowned Australian yachtsman Jon Sanders AO OBE has passed the halfway point of his 11th solo circumnavigation of the world, overcoming myriad problems, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 80-year-old sailing legend is sailing due south of Panama into the Pacific Ocean, having passed the midway milestone of his journey to raise awareness of plastic pollution – one of the greatest health and environmental threats facing our planet.
Throughout the voyage Sanders has been collecting water samples for analysis by researchers at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia. The results will build a more detailed picture of the plastic pollution across the oceans of the southern hemisphere.
Estimates suggest that plastic costs over US$2.2 trillion a year in environmental and social damage. This unacceptable cost to humanity led Andrew and Nicola Forrest’s Australian-based Minderoo Foundation to come on board as a supporter for Sanders’ solo circumnavigation of the globe.
After departing Fremantle, Western Australia, in November, Sanders overcame mountainous seas and winds of 110km/h in the southern Indian Ocean before rounding the Cape of Good Hope. Then, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world, his voyage was severely disrupted.
As a result of the implementation of lockdowns and other measures, Sanders spent three months sitting on anchor at St Maarten in the Caribbean and then had to quarantine for two weeks before transiting the Panama Canal.
Despite the challenges, Minderoo Foundation Chairman Dr Andrew Forrest AO said Sanders was very upbeat when he spoke to him recently to congratulate the sailing legend on his progress.
“Jon is an inspiration, and embodies Minderoo Foundation’s ‘never, ever, give up’ attitude. He has battled on in the face of major obstacles to highlight the #NoPlasticWaste message for future generations and collect important samples,” Dr Forrest said.
“Plastic pollution is one of the greatest health and environmental threats facing our planet and Minderoo Foundation is proud to continue to support Jon’s push to raise awareness of the impact plastic waste is having on our oceans.”
Minderoo Foundation has remained in regular contact with Sanders’ Perth-based support team, closely monitoring the lone sailor’s progress and health.
Sanders will continue water sampling during his next non-stop leg to Tahiti, during which he will pass close to the Galápagos Islands.
Despite declaring that his 10th solo circumnavigation would be his last, Sanders decided to come out of retirement last year to raise awareness of an issue close to his heart – the health of our oceans and marine life.
“I have faced many obstacles over the years, but COVID-19 has been the most disruptive with the implementation of lockdowns and other measures,” Sanders said. “It is pleasing to have finally reached the half-way point of my journey – more than 13,100 nautical miles.
“While in lockdown in the Caribbean, I spent a lot of time varnishing woodwork on the yacht and thankfully had an Australian sailing colleague for company nearby.
“It has been fascinating to hear how Western Australia and Australia have managed the virus. I was probably in one of the safest places on earth, alone on my yacht, but Perth and WA have equally been kept remarkably safe.”