Eighteen months after winning the 2009 OSTAR in his Sigma 33C, Elmarleen, Will Sayer talks to Ben Meakins about his next challenge...


We last met Will Sayer and his Sigma 33C, Elmarleen, deep in preparation for that year’s OSTAR single-handed transatlantic race. Eighteen months later, Ben Meakins found that the race winner had done an about-turn.

A lot can happen in a year. While most cruising boats will have spent much of their year floating at their moorings with a few weeks’ use in the summer, a smaller boat than most won the OSTAR single-handed transatlantic race and completed a successful blue-water cruise, taking in no fewer than four Atlantic crossings.

Not bad for a boat bought a decade ago as a just-floating wreck.

As you might remember from our PBO June 2009 story, Will Sayer bought his Sigma 33C, Elmarleen, for £7,000 in 2001 while still a student – using the last of his student loan.

Wreck to Transat Racer

Wreck to Transat Racer article

He rebuilt her in a Norfolk field, transforming the sodden, osmosis-ridden wreck into a pristine cruiser-racer. He went on to win the OSTAR after a close race, during which he had to climb the mast in a gale to repair a broken shroud and battled headwinds, calms, fog and sleep deprivation. It was a great achievement.

Nonetheless, after the race, it was time to come home, and Will sailed Elmarleen back across the Atlantic. He had quit his job to take part in the OSTAR and, soon after his return, his girlfriend Tamsin took voluntary redundancy from her job in London.


Tamsin and Will

So they took the plunge and did what many people dream of doing – to set off on an Atlantic circuit. But there were still obstacles ahead – not least a lightning- fast refit to bring Elmarleen back from being a stripped-out raceboat to a comfortable offshore cruiser.

Most of the boats that do an Atlantic circuit are much bigger than Elmarleen’s 10m (33ft), and a blue-water cruiser designed to keep heat out is a very different beast to a boat designed to retain the heat in northern European waters.

Will and Tam’s challenge was to turn Elmarleen into a boat that they could comfortably live on for up to a year, and on which they could store all their provisions and gear, while not sacrificing comfort, speed or space.

To top that, they had a very short timeline of only a month- and-a-half in which to tie up any loose ends at home, refit the boat to make her suitable for the tropics, and make their way south through Biscay in one of the worst autumns on record to reach the tradewinds that would take them across the Atlantic in time for Christmas. To cap it all they did it all with a limited budget.

Will, Tamsin and Elmarleen returned to the UK in July 2010, 12,000 miles later, to new jobs and a struggle to adjust to a nine-to-five life back ashore.

Download these PDFs to find out what they discovered about living on board a small boat for an extended period in a hot climate…

From solo racer to blue-water cruiser_part one

From solo racer to blue-water cruiser_part two

From solo racer to blue-water cruiser_part three


This article was published in the January 2011 issue of Practical Boat Owner magazine.

Click here to search the archives for more past articles, which are available for purchase.

Read Will’s previous interview here:

Will Sayer_Ostar

Wreck to Transat racer

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