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  Inside Out - South West: Monday June 16, 2003


Ivan on boat
A life on the ocean waves

Inside Out takes to the ocean waves with lone yachtsman Ivan Rusch. Find out what it takes to sail around the world.

Ivan Rusch is an adventurer, yachtsman and a risk-taker. He's still determined to conquer the seas at the ripe old age of 78.

Over the last year, this American lone yachtsman has become notorious for getting lost on his voyages, and being rescued by coastguards.

In just two weeks Ivan was assisted into port five times when sailing single handed from Belgium to the Mediterranean.

He's has been nicknamed 'Ivan the Terrible', and some of his critics accuse him of being a maritime risk to himself and others.

A life at sea

Ivan Rusch sails on his 35ft sloop Ornaerie which was recently involved in an incident off the Devon coast.

Ivan Rusch on board a yacht
Ivan Rusch has run into a few sailing problems in the past

One coastguard said that Ivan is incapable of planning his passage with regard to weather, tides and coastal navigation and conditions.

In the past Rusch has required assistance from coastguards at Eastbourne, Portsmouth, Poole, Brixham and Salcombe.

Ivan originally set sail from California to Sweden in October 2000 with a crew.

All was plain sailing until the crew left and Ivan tried to sail single-handed.

Ivan had no charts of the ports he was planning to visit nor had he planned his passage properly.


You don't need any training to sail a private yacht but we advise on lessons. Here's some top tips:

* Get kitted out with the right gear. Wear a life jacket and warm clothes.

* Most beginners are taught to sail in singlehanded dinghies at a Royal Yachting Association recognised sailing school.

* You'll need to learn basic skills first including simple manoeuvres and how to handle a capsized boat or dinghy.

* Next you'll improve your sailing techniques and learn new skills such as reefing afloat.

* Finally you'll learn more advanced skills such as racing techniques, navigation and how to sail larger boats and yachts.

When Ivan did arrive at a port or a harbour, he became disorientated and tired. The next step was usually a call to the coastguards to bail him out.

Sea trials

Simply speaking Ivan keeps on getting lost!

So we decided to put Ivan's sailing skills to the test, and took him to sea with famous sea skipper Sir Robin Knox-Johnson.

Robin holds the record as the first person to sail single-handed around the world non-stop.

The experienced seaman told Ivan that he has to take more responsibility for his actions when at sea.

"The freedom to go to sea and be master of your own destiny means taking responsibility for yourself, your crew and your boat," said Robin.

Top tips

Robin's advice to Ivan is:

  • - get a crew before you leave;
  • - plan ahead and leave no stone unturned;
  • - make sure you have a bolt-hole in case of bad weather;
  • - plan safe havens if the going gets rough;
  • - check the weather carefully on the day of your departure, and plan accordingly.

Sea dogs

Ivan Rusch took up ocean sailing at the age of 75, having only mucked around in small boats on lakes in his youth.

He bought the Ornaerie, a 31 feet sloop, and was bitten by the ocean sailing bug.

Ivan's a late starter but we hoped to prove that we could teach an old sea dog new tricks.

Sailing skills

So has Ivan taken Robin's advice to heart and is he avoiding getting into hot water?

Ivan and Robin on boat
Ivan sets sail with some top sailing tips from Robin Knox Johnston

We followed Ivan as he sailed towards Falmouth to check his progress. Things didn't get off to good start when the crew cancelled.

Ivan ploughed on regardless, leaving at 4am, when he didn't need to.

He also he failed to check the weather conditions properly before setting off.

It wasn't the best of starts, and Ivan seemed to be up to his old tricks.

What happened next?

Ivan Rusch has since made it to Falmouth, and plans to sail to Spain once he's found a new crew.

He also hopes to be part of the Atlantic Rally Cruise from the Canary Islands to Santa Lucia in November 2003.

From there Ivan hopes to sail to Jamaica and plans to finish his voyage in Houston, Texas.

Let's hope that he takes Robin Knox Johnston's advice on aboard.

Test your sea legs

How would you fare on the open seas?

Take to your sloop and test your knowledge of the high seas in our special quiz.

Find out if you're a sea dog or if you're more likely to be a washed-up bottom-feeder!

Click here for the sailing quiz

See also ...

BBC Sport: Sailing

On the rest of the web
Yachting Monthly
Royal Yachting Association
Yachts and Yachting
Latitude 38
Maritime and Coastguard Agency

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