Sail the World With Me is a fascinating account of Jimmy Cornell's life and his attempt to create a zero-carbon yacht, says Julia Jones

Sail the World with Me
Jimmy Cornell
Cornell Sailing, £29.95

Sail The World with Me supersedes Cornell’s earlier memoir 200,000 Miles: A Life of Adventure.

It opens – fascinatingly, I thought – with Cornell’s unsuccessful attempt to develop a zero-carbon, fully-electric yacht, perhaps for yet another circumnavigation.

Cynics might say all that’s needed is to use sails and do away with gadgets.

But when even cooking on kerosene – as in the Golden Globe Race – adds a mite to global warming it’s hard to imagine many 21st century circumnavigators voluntarily adopting this approach.

Transiting the Panama Canal is closed off for those without effective mechanical propulsion, so Cornell’s experiment is relevant to any global cruiser who quails at rounding Cape Horn under sail alone.

Typically, his approach was innovative and high-end.

His new boat, Aventura Zero, was a modified Outremer catamaran with a Servoprop variable pitch propeller and an array of complex, carefully-thought-out systems.

The yacht sailed beautifully but, as Cornell was forced to realise without some hybridisation – such as including a diesel genset – the balance of electrical consumption and generation just didn’t work.

And by then the pandemic was adding its own complications.

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Cornell’s desire to find a more climate-friendly approach to world cruising had been stimulated by his 2015 experience of the North West passage and also, perhaps, by his observation of the environmental damage that had been done elsewhere in the course of his cruising life.

That’s why, for me, these first two chapters of abortive experiment work well as the introduction to a memoir that is largely about success.

Sail the World with Me begins with Cornell’s birth and upbringing in communist Romania, family tragedy, hardship and hard work, then the great good fortune of meeting his future wife, Gwenda who was touring Eastern Europe with a group of other young English people.

Those who have read the earlier memoir will be familiar with developing story of his work for the BBC, then the six years world cruising with Gwenda when their children Diona and Ivan were young, founding the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers and developing many subsequent offshoots of that idea.

There were new yachts, new voyages, new learning.

This book, like 200,000 Miles, intersperses chapters of advice about long-distance cruising with chapters of narrative.

It’s also very well illustrated, though occasionally I would have welcomed more captions to the photographs.

Cornell is now in his 80s and there’s a poignancy to this story as he realises on more than one occasion that he is seeing somewhere, likely for the last time.

But with Jimmy Cornell can one be sure?

Might there not yet be another voyage to be attempted, another Aventura yacht to be designed…?

Meanwhile this nicely produced, 496 page book will give us lesser sailors plenty to think about.

Buy Sail the World with Me from Amazon (UK)

Buy 200,000 miles from Amazon (UK)

Buy 200,000 miles from Amazon (US)

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