Jimmy Cornell is not just the founder and inventor of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). He is truly a sailing legend and his books can be described as must-haves for any sailor who is longing for the big loop. The “World Cruising Routes” is a standard lecture for offshore sailors, the “Cornell´s Ocean Atlas” a more than useful tool when it comes to passage planning. I was pleased to hear that Jimmy was attending this year´s edition of Duesseldorf´s Boot boat show and went straight to his stand to ask for an interview – which he granted immediately. I am planning no less than a three interviews with Jimmy Cornell: Planning a voyage, organizing the loop and finally being underway.

Jimmy on the Garcia booth on Duesseldorf Boat Show

Jimmy is 78 years old by now but is bristling with energy: The Romanian born man speaks no less than six languages fluently, walks around the Garcia Exploration 45 in front of which he has a desk and some shelves to sell signed copies of his latest books and atlases. His eyes are wake and vivid, so is his fine sense of humor – a fact I am able to recognize right from the first minute of our interview.

“Most important is the spiritual preparation”

Lars Reisberg | NO FRILLS SAILING.com “Jimmy, as one of the most renown yacht-sailors in the world, you are a role model for any skipper underway and planning to get underway. Some of your books can be dubbed a “must have” for every yacht-library, such as the “World Cruising Routes”. How many miles would you think have you been sailed up to now in your life?”

Jimmy Cornell “That´s easy – take a look behind you, there´s my latest book.”

NFS.com “The book is called “200.000 Miles” indeed. That´s the distance of five circumnavigations.”

Jimmy Cornell “Yes, a long way indeed. Now I am unfortunately too old for such ventures.”

Jimmy Cornell inspires thousands of cruising skippers worldwide

NFS.com “The topic of this first of our three articles is “Planning a long voyage”. What would you suggest are some principle steps for the long-haul-sailor to take in preparation of such a venture, providing he is a fairly skilled skipper? Like for example: 1. Route, 2. Boat, 3. Finances, 4. Equipment and so on …?”

Jimmy Cornell “I would say at first and most important: The wish and the will to do it. I think you will know when you are ready to set sails. Also, of course, it´s not enough to just have the money. But it´s even worse to not have the will. Let me point this out: You are not ready to go for a long trip when you do not have the love for the sea. Don´t do it because it´s convenient or because you can afford it. When there is no passion and the real dedication the project is doomed to fail. I´ve met a lot of sailors who ended in giving up their dreams because of the lack of this spiritual preparedness.”

NFS.com “Sounds like a general problem?”

Jimmy Cornell “Well, in our days with internet and media everything is virtually at our fingertips. Just one easy click away. People consume a lot of information but they do not learn. People should read. Read books. They think they know how to do it, but they don´t. Of course, it´s bad to not having enough money, but that is not so important. It´s even worse not to have the knowledge and the passion. It´s often very disappointing for me to witness sailors who know nothing about the recent history of sailing and cruising. Their arrogant attitude and their firm belief that they know how to do it. That´s why you can get the best deals on very good equipped yachts in the Carribean – there a lot of them get stranded after a passage finally realizing their lack of preparation and giving up in the end.”

In Jimmy´ Cornells view this is the perfect sailing yacht for going ´round and see all places of our planet

NFS.com “What are the basic steps of a long voyage preparation?”

Jimmy Cornell “That´s a thing of common sense I would say. You need a boat capable of the voyage, you need some equipment and of course the finances. But that´s an easy list to cross off. It´s the attitude, and – I can only repeat myself – the spiritual preparation. How can you want to be an architect and not having been to Greece once? It´s the same with sailing.”

“The ideal blue water cruising yacht.”

NFS.com “Concerning the yacht – what are in your eyes the Top 5 things a yacht for the long trip must have?”

Jimmy Cornell “You see, I am now in the final stage of my cruising life. Thousands and thousands of miles on the ocean. Together with Garcia I´ve came up with what I would say is the ideal cruising yacht.”

NFS.com “… a yacht made of aluminium?”

Jimmy Cornell “Yes, a strong and durable material. But there´s more to the boat as you might be able to see by yourself: It´s a centerboard yacht with variable draft. This allows the skipper to enter shallow waters for safe anchorage or – as the name of this boat suggests – for exploration.”

The Garcia Exploration 45 has it all: Grab handles, granny bars, solid rail guards …

NFS.com “A strong construction …”

Jimmy Cornell “… with a big emphasis on collision bulkheads fore and aft, also the strength of the rudders. This yacht bears a double rudder configuration and it was a very big item on my list that the rudders are made very, very strong. Also, I wanted a clean boat with a free deck. All lines are – of course – diverted to the cockpit.”

NFS.com “There´s also a very solid dodger and I was puzzled to see a bulletproof door closing off the entryway down. Also a neatly done anti-slip cork-based deck covering. Impressive.”

Jimmy Cornell “Yes. A yacht for long cruising. For easy handling – easy enough to be sailed safely by a couple or even single handed.”

NFS.com “What is the most underrated piece of equipment for cruising yachts that sailors tend to ignore, from your point of view?”

Jimmy Cornell “Oh, I would say that is the boom brake.”

NFS.com “What is this?”

Heavy duty sailing: A solid metal dodger with skylights

Jimmy Cornell laughs “You see? A boom brake is a simple but very effective and useful thing. It´s basically a line running from winch to winch. the two ends of boom brake line are led over blocks to the cockpit. As the boom brake works by the friction exerted on its drum by the lines, they need to be taken up on winches on either side of the cockpit and be kept taught at all times. Spinnaker jamming blocks can be used to free the winches for other uses.”

“A good skipper is a combination of many qualities.”

NFS.com “I saw some boats moored in the Canary Islands which belonged to wannabe-circumnavigators. They apparently abandoned their plans right after completing the first leg to these islands. What have you observed as the most common reasons for skippers, couples or crews to cancel their trips after a “few” miles?”

Jimmy Cornell “I think it´s always a mixture of three things in more or less different proportions. First of all they all have lost their wish to sail. This longing to be out on the sea. Second it´s mostly the realization that they do not have the right boat or enough financial resources. And third there might always be personal problems or family issues.”

No chance for freak waves: The massive door to the saloon of the Garcia Exploration 45

NFS.com “Sad thing …”

Jimmy Cornell “Well, yes. But you see, I have the opinion that it is better to leave and fail than never having left at all. But leaving for the wrong reasons, following a dream without having the necessary competence is in the end doomed to fail of course. Failing is in our nature. We are humans.”

NFS.com “You are meeting a multitude of sailors and crews from a lot of different countries. Are there any common qualities all sailors share? And moreover, are there any differences between, let´s say, American, English, German or Scandinavian skippers? Maybe in terms of sailing abilities, attitude, safety or general styles of running a boat?”

Jimmy Cornell laughs again “There are but I wouldn´t dare to tell.”

NFS.com “How long does is typically take a – let´s say normal middle-class couple – from making a decision to go ´round to actually casting off?”

Jimmy Cornell “That is impossible to say. Some leave after three months, for others it takes years. But let me put it the other way round: Many buy a boat and leave too soon, being unprepared und unskilled, some prepare forever and never leave.”

NFS.com “What would you personally consider a “perfect” round the world-project in terms of it´s route?”

Jimmy Cornell “Well, for the bigger part of all circumnavigations the route is laid through the Panama Canal …”

NFS.com “… the Barefoot Route?”

Jimmy Cornell inspires thousands of cruising skippers worldwide

Jimmy Cornell “That´s funny, because this is a German name for the trade wind route. Actually a very good name if you ask me because you can indeed sail this route with bare feet. In the English-speaking community this is called the Milk Run until American sailors dubbed it the Coconut Milk-Run. In any case, that´s the preferred route for the most part of circumnavigations today.”

NFS.com “Is it your preferred route too?”

Jimmy Cornell “If I ever had the chance and the years to do it – and of course if my wife agrees – I would rather prefer to possibly go round the world south of the three great capes. But, you see, I am too old now for such a venture.”

NFS.com “Last question for today, Jimmy: What would be your principal hint for people to get started with their dream?”

Jimmy Cornell “Well, go back to question number one: There shouldn´t be nothing in between your dream and you. If there are any doubts – cancel it. In sailing there is either do or don´t. There is no in-between, no half-sailing. I would compare this to a marriage: If you love a woman, you love her. If you have doubts, don´t marry. In sailing that´s the same. Casting off is a thing you should do being free of doubts. You should have this one common goal. If you – and your companion – share the same dream, the same spiritual preparedness, then there´s a good chance to succeed and enjoy the best time of your life indeed.” 

Thanks, great seafarer!

Thanks Jimmy, for your shared insights and your time. I look so much forward to discussing the coming two topics with you and to take a detailed look at the Garcia Exploration 45 – the Jimmy Cornell-boat.


All Duesseldorf boat show articles may be read by clicking in this hashtag #duesseldorfboatshow

You may also be interested in reading these articles:

What makes a good skipper? Part 1 and 2

Role model of a blue water cruising yacht? Hallberg-Rassy 64

Talking to Trans Ocean.org President about his vision of a cruiser