The Cruising Club of America (CCA) has selected Jon Sanders of Perth, Australia to receive its Blue Water Medal “Without Date,” a designation that has been used only five times over the life of the Blue Water Medal, established in 1923. It recognizes “a meritorious example of seamanship” that ranges over a lifetime of achievement. Sanders was cited for his nine circumnavigations – eight of them solo, including a single “three times around” voyage, and one of them crewed – and a lifetime of significant contributions to sailing. The medal will be presented at the Club’s annual Awards Dinner in New York on March 4, 2016.
Sanders, born in Perth in 1939, first went sailing with the Sea Scouts, and then, as a teenager, with the Naval Reserve Cadets. After 17 years in the wool shearing business, Sanders gave up his career, “went to sea,” and completed his first solo circumnavigation passage in 1977 in Perie Banou, a Sparkman & Stephens 34. This first circumnavigation was followed by a record-breaking non-stop double circumnavigation, west to east in the Southern Ocean, completed in 1982. This earned Sanders an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for his service to yachting, one of many accolades he would receive over the course of his sailing career. In 1986, Sanders began his triple solo circumnavigation of the world in Parry Endeavour, a 47-foot sloop. Six hundred and fifty days and 71,022 sea miles later, Sanders had successfully circumnavigated the planet three times, solo and non-stop.
In 2014, Sanders entered the Cape-to-Rio Yacht Race, taking a second in IRC Division II, with crew from Western Australia. This race across the South Atlantic was part of Sander’s ninth circumnavigation.
In an acceptance speech for one of his many awards, Sanders noted, “I have completely crossed the Indian Ocean 15 times, the Atlantic 11 times and the Pacific 12 times...cleared the Cape of Good Hope 10 times and Cape Horn five times….”
Sanders has been continuously acknowledged not only for his extraordinary record of long distance solo sailing but also for being a mentor to young sailors and a quietly spoken ambassador for the sport: a gentleman in every respect. Still sailing today at age 75 (aboard his S&S 39 Perie Banou II), Sanders is rightly revered in his native country, and accordingly Parry Endeavor is on display at the Fremantle Maritime Museum.