Randall Reeves has been named winner of the 2020 Blue Water Medal by the Cruising Club of America (CCA) for sailing his 45-foot aluminum cutter, Moli, alone around Antarctica and then through the Northwest Passage in a single season—departing and arriving from San Francisco.Reeves, 57, is the first person to imagine and accomplish the 39,000-nautical-mile voyage, which creates a “Figure 8” track around the world, keeping the Americas to port and Antarctica to starboard.The prestigious Blue Water Medal was first awarded in 1923. It will be formally presented to Reeves at the CCA Annual Awards ceremony, a virtual event this year on March 7. The ceremony will include recognition for winners of other CCA Awards, including 2019 Blue Water Medal winner Jean Luc Van Den Heede, who was unable to attend last year’s ceremony.
Reeves was bitten by the offshore sailing bug as a teenager, voyaging with his father and later acquiring his own boats and sailing much of the Pacific Ocean and through the Northwest Passage. He bought Moli, a proven high-latitudes vessel whose owner, Anthony “Tony” Gooch, had sailed her around the world, singlehanded, nonstop, and also received the CCA’s Blue Water Medal (2003).A second Medal for the same boat is extraordinary. The only other yacht to achieve this distinction in the 97-year history of the Medal is Wanderer III, first with Eric and Susan Hiscock (1955), then with Thies Matzen and Kicki Ericson (2011).Even aboard a boat with Moli’s pedigree, accomplishing the route Reeves had mapped out required extraordinary determination and perseverance. In 2017, during a first attempt, the South Pacific seas damaged Reeves’ autopilot and then his windvane, requiring a repair stop in Ushuaia, Argentina. He continued around Antarctica, trying to keep up with the seasons, when a South Indian Ocean storm caused multiple knockdowns. Though there was less wind than in the Pacific, Reeves described the seas as “tremendous, tall, steep and breaking continuously for 100 and 200 feet.” Moli was slammed down off a wave, shattering a pilothouse window and drowning all electronics. Reeves was able to stem the flooding, cover the window, and navigate another month to Tasmania for temporary repairs. With his “Figure 8” delayed, not abandoned, he sailed nonstop back to San Francisco.
After only three months of refit and repairs, Reeves was off on his second attempt in September of 2018, even better prepared. With new storm covers attached over windows, new welded railing, new electronics, and vast recent experience under his belt, around the continents and around the world he sailed. Keeping the Americas to port and Antarctica to starboard, passing beneath Cape Horn twice before poking Moli north through the Arctic ice, Reeves sailed the great loops for 301 days.During the voyage, Reeves trailed along in his wake an armada of wannabe adventurers and admirers through his frequent blog entries and onboard videos shared on his website. Reeves has a way about him— gracious, caring, and humble with a self-effacing humor. He has proven his ability to master the oceans without losing his appreciation for the help he has received and the wonders of the people he has met along the way. On October 19, 2019, 385 days after setting out, Reeves sailed Moli under the Golden Gate Bridge to complete the first singlehanded “Figure 8” around Antarctica and the Americas.