My name is Ronnie Simpson and I have a sailing addiction. Four years ago, I took off solo for Hawaii on a big, heavy cruising boat and lost my rudder in rough weather created by a hurricane. I ended up losing my boat and everything I owned, only to be dropped off in China by a freight ship. With no boat, I purchased a mountain bike and rode 9,000 miles through Europe and Asia, mostly thinking of how much I missed sailing. Arriving back in California, I immediately purchased a $1,000 Cal 25 and began prepping it for the Singlehanded Transpac race when a Vietnam veteran named Don Gray offered to loan me his boat; a Mount Gay 30 named Warrior’s Wish. I sold the Cal and moved to North Carolina to refit the boat, and then trailered it across the country to San Francisco to prepare for the race. Sponsored by the wounded veteran non-profit, Hope for the Warriors, I competed in the 2010 Singlehanded Transpac, sailing to Hawaii in 15 days and 6 hours, finishing 2nd in class and 6th overall. The race was one of biggest thrills, and accomplishments, of my life.
On the return voyage from Hawaii, I was double-handing the Mount Gay 30 back to San Francisco, when we suffered a complete keel failure. Sailing with my mentor Ed McCoy, we took on diesel from a freight ship and motor-sailed the boat 760 miles back to San Francisco. With no keel. To my knowledge, this is the furthest anyone has ever sailed a boat after losing a keel. The Mount Gay 30 went back East, and I purchased a 28-foot Albin Cumulus cruising boat to live on and sail. I raced her in the beer cans and in a few SSS races in 2011, most notably the Singlehanded Farallones, where it blew 30 and Chippewa happily romped around the course to a class win.
In 2011, along with sailing Chippewa, I racked up 10,000 miles at sea, most notably competing in the Transpac race aboard the 1D35 Alpha Puppy and sailing the R/P45 Criminal Mischief back home from Hawaii. I also sailed to and from Cabo San Lucas on a 47-foot cruising boat, in addition to tons of buoy racing and local offshore stuff. I learned a great deal about offshore sailing in 2011, and became even more deeply inspired to continue to pursue this passion. It was my best year of sailing yet!
And now, in 2012, I have purchased and campaigned US 101; Moore 24 Hull #101 in the Singlehanded Transpac. I was again sponsored by Hope for the Warriors, as well as Quantum Sails Design Groupand several of my other sponsors from 2010. Beginning in January 2012, I re-fit the boat and raced or sailed her nearly every weekend before beginning offshore sea-trials in March. In our first offshore race, the OYRA Lightbucket race, it blew 30 on the ride home and we hit 18.2 knots of boat speed to claim 3rd in class. 2 weks later in the Doublehanded Farallones Race, myself and Ruben Gabriel withstood a 50-knot gust in the pre-start and rough conditions on the way to the islands, only to persevere and claim the class and overall victory. It was my first overall race win. 8 weeks later, I left on my 400-mile offshore qualifying sail for the Singlehanded Transpac. I sailed into an unpredicted 24-hour gale that topped out at about 40 knots of wind. It was my first time becoming hypothermic at sea, but I completed the voyage.
And on June 30, I took my second start in the Singlehanded Transpac. Suffering a primary autopilot failure on day 3, I was left to use my back-up. In addition, my boat was solar-panel only and we suffered from a severe power shortage during the whole voyage, which was more overcast than most years. Hand-steering for nearly 18 hous per day on average, 101 and I managed a come from behind win in our class. With a margin of victory of just 1 hour and 34 minutes, and 5 boats within 12 hours on corrected time, this was one of the closest races in recent memory. Hand-steering almost around the clock at a race pace was the single hardest thing i've ever done, hands down. I dug deep and found a level that I did not know previously existed. I have been saying for years that my ultimate goal was to race in the Vendee Globe, but now I feel like it is my destiny.
From this point forward, I plan to pursue more singlehanded offshore sailing adventures in my Moore 24, while putting together, from the ground up, a campaign that will see me competing in the 2016 Vendee Globe.
In addition to being an avid sailor, I am a combat-wounded veteran of the Iraq war. In working with Hope for the Warriors, I have been afforded the amazing opportunity to use solo ocean sailing as a tool to make a positive impact on other wounded veterans’ lives. Through raising money, and holding wounded-veteran sailing clinics in San Francisco Bay, I will use sailing to aid in the physical and mental recoveries of wounded veterans who have come back from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Sailing is a sport that has given me so much, and it is my dream to use the sport to give back to the men and women have sacrificed so much for our nation. Our first clinic was in April and I think that we truly touched the veterans that participated. Our next clinic is planned for October.
Thank you for visiting this site and checking out my campaign!
Fair winds and following seas,
updated August 2012
Ronnie circa 2012
Peter Howson photo. 2010.