The Hard Route: Jeffrey MacFarlane

Published on June 13th, 2013

By Tim Zimmermann, Sailing World
Sailing the Mini Transat is arguably one of the most difficult, testing challenges a solo racing sailor can inflict upon him or herself. It gets even harder when your Mini starts to break up underneath you just five months from the start, and you are forced to abandon to a Spanish Coast Guard helicopter. That was the fate suffered by Jeffrey MacFarlane, the latest U.S. sailor to enter into Mini Transat world. It was a fate made crueler by the fact that MacFarlane was the #1 ranked Mini sailor at the time, so looked to be a candidate for the podium.

But then it was back to Mini sailing, and the Mini sailing gods decided to play rough. MacFarlane was pounding through his 1000-mile qualifier in late April, in about 35 knots of wind, when his boat literally started to crack apart, with the failure of the deck structure, mast structure, and keel box. The result was a boat that was thrown violently around by the big waves, which resulted in MacFarlane’s left hand getting brutally crushed. MacFarlane did his best to try and stabilize the situation, and managed to keep it all together until he was airlifted off the boat.

Sheer, bloody-minded stubbornness is perhaps the most important quality in any Mini sailor. After a stay in the hospital, MacFarlane set about resurrecting his Mini campaign. He’s back in France, racing to learn and prepare a new, leased Mini. I checked in with him to see how things are going.

What is the state of your campaign and your efforts to sail the 2013 Mini Transat?

JM: My campaign has certainly taken a detour . At the time of the incident I had a world ranking of #1. But since then my ranking has slipped three places since I missed some important races. I spent the last month in New York, rearranging my plans and trying to salvage my Mini Transat efforts. I arranged to rent a new boat. My new boat is #759, it is a Sam Manuard design. I am excited to start sailing it.

Click here for complete interview.

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