Going solo

Jon Sanders

81-YEAR-OLD Perth sailor Jon Sanders will complete his 11th solo circumnavigation of the globe when he returns to Fremantle Sailing Club tomorrow (Sunday January 31).

Sanders was the first person to circumnavigate Antarctica solo, circling the continent twice in 1981–1982, and was made an officer in the Order of the British Empire in 1983 and an officer of the Order of Australia in 1989 for services to sailing and marine research.

The wily sailor has experienced a lot during his decades on the high seas, but this year’s epic voyage pushed him to the limit, says FSC commodore Ron Greer.

“Jon encountered three large storms, which he described as the worst he had seen in 30 years, between Tahiti and Bundaberg and the boat sustained a lot of damage,” Mr Greer says.

“The boat took on a lot of water and damaged the engine, electronics and the self steering gear.

“Only someone of Jon’s character, skill and seamanship would have been able to complete the voyage with a boat so badly damaged.

“Like all trips of this nature, there would have been times of sailing in perfect conditions and others of absolute terror.”

The voyage is not just an amazing feat of endurance and skill, but also an important research mission, with Sanders collecting water samples to help Curtin University researchers examine the toll plastic waste is having on the world’s oceans.

“Every year, up to 14 million tonnes of plastic flows into our oceans, breaking down to micro or nano plastics that can be ingested by marine organisms,” Curtin Uni’s professor Kliti Grice said.

“It is not currently possible to rank the risks posed by marine plastic pollution in the marine environment, so this research will aim to set a baseline for the future monitoring of southern oceanic microplastic pollution.

“The filters collected from the water samples will enable Curtin researchers to develop an accurate measure that will help explain the rate at which plastic is breaking down and polluting our oceans.”

Sanders has been a member of Fremantle Sailing Club for more than 40 years, making many lifelong friendships along the way, but Mr Greer says Sanders’ true love will always be the ocean.

“Jon is certainly a driven person and as he himself describes, enjoys his own company and is happiest when at sea and I don’t believe he sees these feats as anything extraordinary.

“He is often quoted as saying ‘If you can sail to Rottnest you can sail the globe’.

“I am sure he will continue 

to sail locally, however I am not sure he would do another lap of the globe, after 11 times even Jon would consider that is enough.

“This all said, he has often said never say never when quizzed over future trips.”

After crossing the finish line just south of the entry to Fremantle Port on Sunday at around 1.30pm, Sanders will continue on to do a lap of honour around Fremantle Port followed by a large fleet of supporters and friends. 

At around 4pm a formal celebration to “welcome Jon home” will be held at FSC with special guest Andrew Forrest from the Minderoo Foundation, a major sponsor of the voyage, and Stephen Davis from No Plastic Oceans. 

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