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Two legendary sailors, JON SANDERS and LES POWLES, Elected Honorary Members of the Ocean Cruising Club


Members of the OCC elected Jon Sanders of Australia and Les Powles of Great Britain as Honorary Members of the OCC at the Annual General Meeting held in London at the HQS Wellington on the 28th March 2015. Members attending the Tenth AGM voted unanimously to approve the proposed legendary sailors.  Regional events are planned to celebrate their elections in Australia and the UK.

During his solo triple circumnavigation of the globe in 1987, Jon Sanders pauses off Fremantle to receive fan mail.
by Brian Jenkins. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Jon Sanders was born in Western Australia in 1939, first learning to sail in the Sea Scouts and then as a teenager in the Australian Naval Reserve Cadets.

His first solo circumnavigation was from 1975-77 in the first Perie Banou, an S&S 34. In 1981-82 Jon then completed a double circumnavigation west to east via the Southern Ocean. This voyage was recognised in the Guinness Book of Records and in 1983 he was awarded an OBE and the Chichester Award amongst many other accolades.

In 1986 Jon set off again in the Parry Endeavour, a 14m sloop, completing a triple solo circumnavigation of the world in just under two years, spending 658 days at sea and covering 71,022 nautical miles. Jon’s only contact with the outside world was via electronic communication and a couple of parcels of mail thrown to him from another vessel.

In 1988 he acquired his current yacht Perie Banou II, an S&S 39 built in 1971, extensively refurbished to handle severe conditions, and has since completed a further three circumnavigations, finishing his ninth only a few weeks ago in Fremantle at the age of 75.

Les Powles on his boat Solitaire of Hamble.
Photo by Andy Beharrell.

Les Powles, an OCC member since 1997 and now aged 90, has sailed the world on the proverbial shoestring, learning as he went. After completing his third solo circumnavigation and returning to the UK, he has lived in Lymington aboard his boat Solitaire, the only home he has known for the past 40 years. A quiet modest man, with no airs and graces – but a huge amount of history and knowledge to share!

It was fear, as well as a crazy kind of courage that inspired Les to sail around the globe three times. He had no desire to be one of "tomorrow's people" – whom he characterised as "we're off tomorrow ... when we've ... a list of tasks still to be done." He still sees himself as an amateur sailor, and still has that knowing twinkle in his eye. Above all else, he stills remains an inspiration.

A former engineer, his life changed in his ‘50s when he began to crave the freedom of the sea. Les spent his savings building Solitaire in Liverpool in 1975. A determined and slightly reckless amateur, with only eight hours sailing experience, he set off that year into the Atlantic. Famously, he headed for the Caribbean, but his poor navigational skills meant he accidently landed in Brazil. He went on to complete a 34,000 mile circumnavigation via Panama, Darwin and Cape Town arriving back in Lymington having been given up for dead.

Towards the end of his second, non-stop 28,500 mile voyage in 1980-81, Les struggled with hunger and survived on rainwater, a few spoonfuls of rice and quarter of a tin of meat per day. He always sailed on a shoestring and never had sufficient money to buy adequate provisions. Following this voyage Les received the YJA Yachtsman of the Year Award in 1981.

On his third, epic, eight-year voyage in the late 1980s he was again given up for dead, but surprised everyone by his return four months after he set sail from New Zealand, aged 70. He had lost five stone and hardly had the strength to lift the sail.

Commodore John Franklin expressed his sincere congratulations on the night, “Since the Club has not elected an Honorary Member for many years the General Committee felt that our 60th Anniversary year would be an appropriate occasion to nominate others for election. The OCC is most honoured to welcome Jon Sanders and Les Powles to the rank of Honorary Members.”  

Until this election, the Club had four Honorary Members:

  • Sir Robin Knox-Johnson
  • Geraldine Wright
  • Alfredo Lagos
  • João Carlos Fraga


About the Ocean Cruising Club


The Ocean Cruising Club exists to encourage long-distance sailing in small boats. A Full Member of the OCC must have completed a qualifying voyage of a non-stop port-to-port ocean passage, where the distance between the two ports is not less than 1,000 nautical miles as measured by the shortest practical Great Circle route, as skipper or member of the crew in a vessel of not more than 70ft (21.36 m) LOA; associate members are committed to the achievement of that goal. This standard distinguishes the OCC from all other sailing clubs. It’s not about what you are or who you know, but simply what you have done, that matters. Our membership as a whole has more experience offshore than any other sailing organisation – in the number of circumnavigators, in the range of extraordinary voyages members have completed, and in the number of solo sailors, and female sailors among our ranks. This is what sets us apart from other organisations, even as it draws us together as a group. We bring the spirit of seafaring to our association by always being willing to assist any fellow sailor we meet, either afloat or ashore.

With a central office in the UK, though it has no physical clubhouse, the OCC is, in a way, the “home port” for all of us who have sailed long distances across big oceans. With 48 nationalities and Port Officers in as many countries, we have a more diverse membership and a more international reach than any other sailing organisation. Our Port Officers and Regional Rear Commodores represent the frontline interaction with our existing members and the recruitment of new members.

In 2014, our 60th Anniversary year, more than 1000 members and friends attended OCC events around the world. OCC members have been celebrating with the types of events only OCC members can share - get togethers wherever in the world they happen to be at any given point in time. Some have managed to work their way through multiple events as they cruise with the seasonal flow of currents, others have come by land to join up with those who come by sea. Some have crossed oceans to get there, others have crossed the road. No matter how far, OCC members share a common bond that creates instant friendships in any harbour of the world.



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