More than just a swim, The Longest Swim is a maritime expedition with an especially large scope that asks our skipper, Scotty, and his crew to constantly adapt to the demanding conditions of the Pacific Ocean. As Scotty once said: “No one has ever tried to go so far, so slowly.”
That made locating an appropriate boat for the journey a challenge. We had to find a very specific kind of support vessel for The Longest Swim. First it must be a sailboat, because with no stopover planned during the six-month expedition we cannot rely on an engine. Secondly this sailboat must be capable of handling such a long, slow trip and easily adapt to all manner of meteorological conditions Ben and the crew might encounter.
Last September, Scotty and Paul came to Lymington, a small town in Southern England to meet and finally buy Discoverer. It was love at first sight! Just touring the deck and surveying the mast, the rooms, and the layout was enough to spark daydreams of living on-board. So after a few renovations and repairs she was launched on the 15th of November. Discoverer was now ours…and the most prominent crew member as well!
Let’s meet her, shall we?
Discoverer – affectionately called “Disco” by all the crew – was built and designed in 1992 by David Thomas, an architect and sailor who created many boats tailored for ocean racing. She is a 67 ft (20 m) steel monohull sailing boat Challenge 67 and as her name suggests was designed to take part in the legendary Global Challenge round-the-world race. This race goes in the “wrong way”, meaning boats travel against prevailing winds and currents. Disco has already done two round-the-world-tours in 1992 and 1996. When the Global Challenge race ended in 2005 it left behind a wonder fleet of 14 yachts, including Discoverer. She is a little jewel and the absolute best vessel we could find today.
The deck and the main structure of Disco are in steel, the most commonly used material in maritime construction thanks to its solidity and durability. Her structure and equipment were designed to resist impacts and poor weather conditions, which will certainly happen in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
One of the main maneuvers the crew must execute during the crossing will be to slow down the boat and circle back to Ben, whose average swimming speed will be around 2.5 knots. Dealing with wind, currents, and waves every day in order to sail and run the hydrogenerator, as well as keep close enough to Ben, will be a challenge. This kind of technique is uncommon for sailors used to travelling faster, taking advantage of the wind to reach their destination as soon as possible- but Discoverer is more than suited to the task. She’s arguably the most important member of The Longest Swim’s crew and will certainly become well known to everyone at sea and at home as Ben undertakes his record-setting journey across the Pacific Ocean.