Henk de Velde, solo sailor and explorer.
Born January 12, 1949.
"To get the best results, you must strive after the impossible." At fifteen, Henk first went to sea as a sailor and by the time he was 28, he was already a captain in the Merchant Marine. The urge to sail around the world in his own sailboat, grew quickly. He had already read books about the Polynesian paradise as described by writers like Jack London, Somerset Maugham and Michener, but also, the ship's journals of other sailors such as Robin Knox Johnston and Bernard Moitessier, also inspired him. He soon learned, that if you really want something, you're best to do it your way. He followed no one's footsteps and threw the 1001 'opinions of experts' in the air. He literally "sails his own boat" as he puts it.
Since those early dreams, he has probably sailed more ocean miles than any other sailor. The first time he sailed around the world was between 1978 and 1985 with a "homebuilt" catamaran named OROWA, along with Gini his wife. In that boat, he traveled 50,000 miles from one ocean to another and visited a thousand Polynesian islands. His son Stefan was born on Easter Island. But after a horrendous fight for survival through the cyclone Oscar, his wife left the boat along with his son after they reached South Africa, and he finally came back alone. But once again in the Netherlands, he realized there were just two types of adventurers in the world: those who just dream and those who makes dreams come true. So what then?
For him it was a choice between a "normal" job as a ships captain or a 'real' adventure. He choose the latter ... a once in a lifetime trip, solo around Cape Horn.
Successively he then sailed catamarans on three solo, virtually non-stop trips around the globe between 1989 and 1996. In 1989 he took the 60 ft. "Alisun J&B" (ex "British Airways") around the globe in 158 days, with one emergency stop. Then in 1992/93, he sailed the 60 ft "Zeeman" non-stop in 147 days but just 1200 miles before the finish, had a collision with a submerged container and was taken from his boat with a skull fracture. The third time, he sailed the beautiful 71 ft "C1000" non-stop around in 119 days, but as he failed to cross the finish line prescribed by the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC), his fast voyage was not recognized as a world record. By now, he had already rounded Cape Horn three times.
His fifth trip around was very different. Instead of east to west or from west to east, he set out to sail the world from north to south. He called it "The impossible journey" and not just because of encounters with Arctic ice. The bureaucracy played tricks on him, because his goal was the North-East passage above Siberia and the Russians found problems with it. This was sort of understandable considering they use icebreakers of 75,000 horsepower!
Once in Murmansk, he was refused access to sail from west to east. This meant he had to sail 20,000 miles, to arrive in the Bering Sea from the other end … which he did.
In 2003 after finally getting permission, he found himself in Tiksi, Siberia in the middle of winter, with temperatures down to -52C. In 2004 the ice conditions were so severe that he was finally rescued by the nuclear icebreaker Vaigach and with broken rudders, the boat was transported by a freighter Yuriy Arshenevskiy, after being lifted out of the ice of the Laptev Sea and taken to Murmansk for repairs. From there he sailed back to the Netherlands, having had the greatest experience of his life.
His present voyage he initially described as one 'to go on forever' — an endless exploration of new places, thoughts and ways of life. For this he choose a trimaran that had already proven itself for over 20 years as the personal boat of its designer Chris White. One can still follow the frequent thoughts and postings by Henk at his website (see below), as he continues his epic voyage — though after realizing that he's no longer 40 anymore, the thought of 'continuing for ever' is now slowly being replaced by a desire to once again return home to Holland, for time with his son and family.
Henk de Velde sees these voyages as a challenge and with the right strategy, nothing is impossible. Once you have an idea you cannot just give up. "You only lose when you give up" is one of his slogans.
Besides being a sailor, Henk is a philosopher. He looks at the world as his playing field and is passionate about it. His mantra is 'Do not dream, but plan and make the dream come true' … both for personal life and in business. Although in his lectures he naturally talks mostly about his solo trips, he does not lose sight of what needs to take place ashore and which must be done as a team. He works closely with his own PR / communications agency, TV, press, etc, and sponsors enjoy working with him because he gives value for money. What he sets out to do, he generally achieves.
At the end of his readings and lectures, illustrated with stunning images, he shows how he undertakes adventures that most of you would never do.
You can read more of how Henk de Velde sees his expanded world at:
see NEWS for his dispatches and BACKGROUND for more on earlier voyages.
Henk de Velde circumnavigations:
OROWA, 46 ft Wharram cat. Left the Netherlands in 1978 with his wife Gini, passing through the Panama canal. Son Stefan was born 1981 on Easter Island. Gini and Stefan left the boat while in South Africa (1984), and Henk returned to the Netherlands alone in 1985.
ALISUN J&B (ex British Airways — Robin Knox-Johnston) was designed by McAlpine-Downie, 60ft. West to east, Falmouth to Falmouth 1989/90, stopped for repairs in Bluff (New Zealand). Total time incl stop was 158 days.
ZEEMAN, Köhler design, 60 ft. West to east, 1992/3, departing Brest. Had collision with unseen barely-floating object (container) may 16 1993, (appro 41 N, 20 W). Total 147 days at sea, 8 hrs later picked up by Russian freighter Harry Pollet and taken to Madeira with a skull fracture. Damaged boat picked up by Dutch team a week later.
C1000, Köhler/Rhebergen design, rebuilt and lengthened Zeeman, 71 ft. West to east, 1995/6, Brest (France) to Brest, nonstop, total time 119 days.
CAMPINA, 57 ft steel monohull designed by Carroff (France), centreboard sloop. Left 2001 for the North East Passage but was refused and expelled from Russia. Sailed thereafter via Patagonian channels and Hawaii to the Bering Sea, entered Russia (Providenia) again in 2003. Got Russian permission, sailed from east to west north of Russia. Ice stopped him so he wintered over in Siberia (2003/4). arriving back in the Netherlands december 2004.
JUNIPER, 52 ft trimaran, designed by Chris White. Cold-moulded constant- camber, purchased 2006. Sailed her to the Netherlands, then left 2007, via South America, Australia, Japan, Aleutian Islands, Alaska, British Columbia, US NW, California (2011) … plan to pass end of May/beginning June via Panama canal back to Europe.