Carlos Aragon: Longest Distance Sailed in a Dinghy
Published on July 8th, 2014
When George Leigh Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, his response was simple and pure: “Because it’s there.” There are those people that set out on courageous adventures for uncomplicated reasons, while others choose to do so to surpass measureable standards. That is, to set records.
Neither is wrong, but when seeking to set sailing records, the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) established in 1972 the World Sailing Speed Record Council (WSSRC) to provide impartial oversight.
One record that won’t be found in the WSSRC register is ‘Longest Distance Sailed in a Dinghy’, but according to renowned naval architect Bruce Nelson, anybody taking on the challenge will live in the long shadow of a not so crazy Mexican….
To the best of my knowledge, the longest distance sailed in a dinghy is held by Carlos Aragon of Acapulco, Mexico, who sailed a Finn dinghy from Acapulco to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia back in the late 70’s. The Great Circle distance is 2820 nm, but given the local prevailing winds and currents, it is reckoned that Carlos sailed over 4000 nm on his voyage.
Many people are understandably skeptical of this feat, as were the French couple aboard their cruising yacht anchored in Tahauku Harbor when a Finn dinghy appeared from over the horizon. “Bonjour, where are you coming from,” they inquired. When a severely weather-beaten Carlos hoarsely replied, “Acapulco,” the French couple hurriedly rowed ashore to report a crazy man in the harbor to the local gendarmes. But when the local doctor asked how long he had been at sea, and Carlos replied 109 days, the doctor believed him due to his state of exposure and sea water sores.
Several years later, after deciding that 109 days was too long to spend at sea in a dinghy, Carlos obtained a Super 20 catamaran to sail to Australia, figuring that the greater speed of the catamaran would make the trip much quicker and easier.
After sailing the open, racy catamaran from San Francisco to San Diego (approximately 600 nm), Carlos decided that a few modifications were needed to accommodate longer offshore passages. A few days later, following lunch at the San Diego Yacht Club and a round of tequila shots, we cut his dock lines (with a knife, Mexican-style) and watched Carlos sail out San Diego Bay, headed for Acapulco (1400 nm away)… wondering if we would ever see him again.
A few years later, I was startled to see Carlos walk into my San Diego office again. “Carlos, you’re alive,” I blurted. “Did you ever make it to Australia on that catamaran?” Carlos looked at me like I was crazy. “Noooo way, amigo, that thing was dangerous,” he exclaimed. “I was running past Cedros Island at night in big breeze and it was like sitting in a fast flowing river, just hanging on, so I headed to shore and left it there.”
So Carlos was not so crazy after all, and while this may all sound more like urban legend than the proper record keeping of the WSSRC, if you know Carlos, then you know it is true.