Andrew Bedwell can't even sit straight in his 1m boat, let alone stand, yet he plans to spend 60+ days at sea in his microyacht, sailing solo and eating cold squares of dehydrated beef 


What’s inspired this world record microyacht attempt?  

I’ve always dreamed of breaking the world record for the smallest vessel to cross the Atlantic. Big C is just over a metre long, and the current record is held by US sailor Hugo Vihlen, whose boat Father’s Day was 5ft 4in. The plan is to do exactly the same route as he did. Leaving in May 2023, I’ll be sailing the northern route from St John’s Newfoundland back to the UK. 

What was the last sailing challenge you did? 

I took a 21ft Mini Transat up into the Arctic – it was a prototype with a canting keel – around Iceland towards Greenland, through Denmark Strait and back home to the UK. I raised money for my daughter’s school. Now I’ve gone for a bigger project but in a smaller boat.

Andrew Bedwell stands next to Big C

Andrew Bedwell with Big C, his transatlantic microyacht

What’s the appeal of microyachting? 

I love the simplicity of microyachting. I like the unusual side of life; sleeping in my van or on the mountainside in bivvy bags with my 9-year-old daughter. I don’t need luxuries, and this boat here obviously hasn’t got any of those. 

Inside Big C

Inside Big C. Andrew’s daughter has illustrated the hatch

What does your daughter think of your voyage? 

She thinks it’s just a brave thing to do. She’s drawn pictures on my boat. I want this challenge to show her that she should be able to get out and do things. If you don’t go for it, you’ll never know what could have been. It might not work but we’re going to go as far as we can.

Is it typical for a microyacht to just have twin headsails?

No, it’s not typical, but there’s no room for a mainsail on here, and the boat is designed to sail dead downwind. It’s tried and tested. We’ve got spare sail if we need it, but it’s a simple system and not a lot can go wrong. 

Who designed the boat?

Tom McNally. Unfortunately he died of cancer. That’s why he named the boat Big C. He was a microyachter. In 1993 he broke the record in a 5ft 4½inch boat [which was trumped the very same year by Hugo Vihlen in a boat half an inch shorter!]. Tom designed and started building this boat so we’ve got great confidence in the boat’s design. All we’ve done is brought it up to date. 

How far have you gone on Big C to date?

Not so far, initially, because it’s really difficult to get a downwind boat in and out of the harbour. We’ve only done about 10 miles in it, but you know what? That’s probably more than a lot of the other people have done before attempting to break the record. When Tom McNally and other microyachters have had a go they’ve literally gone to the quayside, put the boat in, maybe done some last-minute modifications, then shot off! You often find it’s the more quirky people who do this kind of challenge. 

Sails out on Big C

With twin headsails but no mainsail, Big C can only sail downwind

Just how seaworthy is Big C?

We’ve made the boat so it’s actually quite lightly ballasted so it reacts to the waves really well. Big, big rolling seas are no issue at all. With breaking waves, the boat can still contain itself. The whole hull is about 12mm thick everywhere so it is absolutely solid and designed for the job. It’s a complete safety cell.

Small is actually sometimes better in a big sea state. We see big container ships breaking up in the middle because they’re on the peak and the trough and basically on the peak of the next wave. With Big C, we can actually fold the boat away – by which, I mean, we take the outriggers up against the mast – so if we know that we’ve got a big weather system coming through, we can get the hatch down, buckle up and sit it out.

It’s going to be like the best fairground ride! A lot of people pay for that kind of thing at Alton Towers. It’s not going to be pleasant but then no real record attempt will be too pleasant! 

Will the boat invert then right itself?

If we get storms, that’s what the boat is designed to do. Tom didn’t want Big C to be too deep drafted because that gives it a very odd motion when it’s sitting in the waves. Yes, this will roll, but because it’s actually quite light, as soon as the wave passes it will pop to the top. It won’t stay inverted or anything like that. 

How much air do you have inside?

We can actually manage the way that the air is getting in and out of the boat. We’ve got about 40 minutes of air in there so we’ve got two dorade vents on the front that can rotate. We’ll have one into the wind and one away from the wind, and then there’ll be butterfly flaps (they’re not on there yet) so the wind can pass through but if a wave hits them they’ll just snap shut

What will you eat?

Pemmican – it’s what Amundsen ate on his Antarctic expeditions. My version is beef drippings, beef and raisins – all dehydrated. My wife and I made it. I’ll have two slabs a day. 

Will you have satellite communications?

We’ve got an Iridium Edge Solar, which has been used up into the Arctic and down in the Antarctic, and that’s a very small self-contained solar beacon that will be mounted on the deck. Internally we’ve got a class B AIS transponder, then we’re going to have an AIS receiver – two separate units so that if one fails I have backup. There’ll be a fixed VHF, handheld VHF and then obviously EPIRBs. There’ll be as much in there as we can carry. There are so many different companies creating amazing products but we’re limited by space

How long will the Atlantic crossing take?

With perfect conditions it would take 60 days, but we’ve modelled the voyage over the last 20 years and worked out that I’ll probably be sitting through around 20 days of storms with the sea anchor out.

Where will you sit and sleep?

I’ve got a little hammock that sits on deck so I can actually put my legs up. I can stand up for a lot of the time. I’ve got exercises I’ve been given by a physiotherapist, and I can stretch myself up against the rig. When I’m asleep I’ll need to curl up into the foetal position at the bottom of the boat, but in inclement conditions I’ll just be harnessing myself in and sleeping upright. I’ve got a beanie hat that’s got this special foam in so my head won’t rattle around in the cage… did I say ‘cage’? I mean cockpit!



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This feature appeared in Practical Boat Owner magazine. For more articles like this, including DIY, money-saving advice, great boat projects, expert tips and ways to improve your boat’s performance, take out a subscription to Britain’s best-selling boating magazine.

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