Solo sailor approaches ‘finish line’ after 42 weeks

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With more than 24,000 miles and 293 days behind him, solo sailor Matt Rutherford is approaching the “finish line” of his record-setting trip around the Americas as he heads to the mouth of Chesapeake Bay.

His voyage will end when he reaches Annapolis Harbor and sets foot on land for the first time in nearly 10 months.

As of Tuesday, Rutherford was about 400 miles off the coast of the Carolinas. He expects to reach Norfolk, Va., at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay by April 12. In doing so, he will become the first person to ever solo-sail nonstop around North and South America, according to his shore team.

His final destination is the City Dock in the harbor of Annapolis, Md. A welcome-home ceremony is planned for Rutherford on April 14 at the National Sailing Hall of Fame dock in Annapolis.

This 25,000-mile journey is roughly equivalent to the distance around the Earth’s equator. Rutherford is making the trip to raise $250,000 — $10 for each nautical mile — for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating, the Annapolis, non-profit group that makes sailing available to persons with disabilities.

Rutherford is an experienced bluewater sailor, but his boat, a 36-year-old, 27-foot Albin Vega named Saint Brendan, is more suited for afternoon jaunts in calm coastal waters than a deep-sea circumnavigation of the Americas. Saint Brendan has endured some of the most dangerous seas on Earth, including the ice-filled Northwest Passage and storm-tossed Cape Horn. Equipment failures became so critical at one point — Rutherford lost his engine, radar, VHF radio and bilge pump — that an emergency resupply was mounted off the coast of Brazil in February.

Late in the voyage, more than $60,000 had been raised, far short of the goal. Donations can be made online at www.crab-sailing.org or by calling 410-626-0273.

To track Rutherford’s progress, map his course and read his ongoing blog about the trip, visit www.solotheamericas.org.