Back to top anchor
Close main menu
Open main menu Close main menu

Lobster pots, crashes, exhaustion: How Ben Beasley conquered solo offshore 'world champs'

Issue date

For much of 2023, Ben Beasley faced adversity in pursuit of a lifelong sailing dream.

He’s hit lobster pots along the Brittany coast, seen exhaustion send him several hours in the wrong direction on the Celtic Sea, had his campaign threatened at the last minute following a crash, and spent months separated from loved ones.

But, as Beasley explains, now comes the hard part.

The 23-year-old Aucklander has been back in the City of Sails for just over a month – his first extended period in New Zealand for the best part of a year – after completing the La Solitaire du Figaro, a gruelling 1670 nm trek over three legs that has only ever been completed by one other Kiwi.

Finishing La Solitaire, the unofficial world championship of solo offshore sailing, has been a bucket-list item for as long as Beasley can remember and is a "crucial stepping stone" to his ultimate goal of one day sailing in the Vendee Globe.

To achieve this, Beasley based himself in France between February and October and had to navigate a series of qualifying races as part of the French Elite Offshore Championships aboard Ocean Attitude, a “very wet” Figaro Beneteau 3.


Ben Beasley completed his first La Solitaire du Figaro on board Ocean Attitude. Photos: James Tomlinson Photography

It started with the Laura Vergne Trophy – a double-handed 350 nm race off La Trinité-sur-Mer on the south coast of Brittany in April.

His first solo offshore race was the 200-mile Gascogne 45/5, followed by the Tour de Bretagne and the Solo Guy Cotton.

“I expected it to be really tough and it certainly was,” Beasley says from his home in Auckland.

“The Tour de Bretagne didn’t go so well. I had to retire from after a collision on the start line of the fourth leg and the boat had to go into the shed for almost a month. I basically didn't sail for most of that time. I couldn’t train with the rest of the guys leading up to the Solo Guy Cotton and I had to charter a boat for the race just to qualify for the Solitaire.”

It was one of many setbacks, Beasley admits – but he managed to complete the challenging 380 nm off-shore course to make it to the big dance – despite suffering a ripped sail early on and battling big seas and up to 30 knots of wind at times.

He completed the 610 nm first leg of La Solitaire from Caen to Kinsale before the final two legs – 570 nm between Kinsale and Baie de Morlaix, and 470 nm to the Piriac-sur-Mer finish – were impacted by light wind.

However, the lack of sleep was by far the biggest obstacle, Beasley says.

"In the second leg, I went downstairs for a 15-minute sleep. I was exhausted and I thought the sleep alarm was on, but it turned out the green light I saw flashing was my iridium phone charger.

"I woke up about four hours later and there wasn't another boat in sight. It was a real pity because up until that point, I was having a good tussle with a few other guys but while I was sleeping I had gone into a TSS [traffic separation scheme], which is a no-go zone and I got a 25-minute penalty."

He also managed to get tangled up in a lobster pot on the final leg.

"The first morning at dawn, I ran into a fishing net, and I had to dive down. I was in the water for about an hour trying to cut the net free," he says.

"I remember just hoping any fishing boats around me would see me in the water but knowing full well they probably wouldn't. That was basically the race over for me, but I stuck it out and finished it."

Beasley finished the race in 26th after almost 13 days at sea, with Corentin Horeau (Banque Populaire) the overall winner.

"All in all, I was pretty happy with my result – especially for my first Solitaire. My goal was just to stick with the fleet as much as I could, and that's what I did."


Ben Beasley finished 26th overall in his first campaign - and is now trying to secure funding for his second attempt. Photos: James Tomlinson Photography

Adjusting to life back on dry land has been challenging.

“I’ve mainly been catching up with friends, family and my girlfriend as much as possible. Many of them I hadn’t seen in months.

“I have been lucky enough to start a job as a boat builder down at Pine Harbour. It's a bit different than sailing five days a week – both have their ups and downs!”

Beasley says work has already started on securing funding for next year's race.

“In many ways, trying to find a sponsor is a lot harder than the sailing – especially because you are in France, doing such a French sport. La Solitaire is quite a hard race to show to sponsors because you’re racing all across Europe and crossing the Atlantic.

“Last season I had two small sponsors, but for the most part, my campaign was self-funded. The owner of Ocean Attitude gave me the boat as it is sort of her charity, and she is happy for me to sail it again."

Beasley believes having a chance at a successful campaign requires between €70,000 to €80,000 ($120,000 to $140,000) a season.

"This year there were quite a few boats with three times that budget and when I told them I was going to do it on €30,000 ($52,000) they said it was impossible," he laughs.

With an entry to next year’s race secured courtesy of completing the 2023 edition, Beasley doesn’t need to spend quite as much time away from home in 2024.

Not that he’ll be wasting a second of his time here – he’s already knocking on doors and sailing as much as he can in preparation for his next campaign.

“I'll probably aim to try and be back in France around March if I can. That's when the first race of the season kicks off."

Is there anything he would do differently next time around?

“I’d like to be slightly more organised right from the start,” Beasley says.

“And try to avoid the fishing nets.”

To support Ben’s campaign, contact him at