Serge Testa and Acrohc Australis
Serge Testa is the man who went around the world on the smallest yacht in the world.
A 3.6 meter boat and a man who dared to go around the world in it, a record that has not been broken to this day
How he decided to take such a trip and what his micro-boat was like: “A little ambition, a little imagination and a lot of patience can go a long way”
Serge Testa was born in 1950 in an Italian family in France, he spent his childhood in Brazil. His passion for his travels led him to Australia, where he fell in love with the sea and sailing.
The first experiment was not very successful: the wooden sloop that Testa was studying at sea was too deteriorated and sunk. Serge was not discouraged and continued to practice sailing, while trying to build ships. It is no wonder that one day the idea of sailing around the world matured in his head, and necessarily on a yacht of his own design.
TESTA FIRST: BUILT A 33 FEET SLOOP TO TRAVEL THE WORLD IN RELATIVE COMFORT. HOWEVER, AFTER CALCULATING YOUR FINANCES, IT WAS FOUND THAT YOUR REMAINING MONEY WAS NOT ENOUGH TO SAIL WITHOUT HAVING TO TAKE A FORCED REST TO EARN THE DAILY BREAD.
Then Serge sold “too big a yacht” to go back to a smaller version in a few years. Furthermore, this ship was to be the smallest ship ever made in such a risky undertaking.
Although Serge later denied his initial plans to set a record for a solo circumnavigation yacht, there is some evidence to the contrary: Before the first sheets of metal appeared on his studio floor, the future designer had studied the statistics of long-distance travel in very small boats with some detail.
In 1965 the Englishman John Reiding managed to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a 12-foot boat. His Bermuda sloop Sjo Ag (“Sea Egg”) covered the distance from Plymouth to Newport in 67 days. And a year later, the Irishman Will Verity in 67 days made a successful transatlantic voyage on the 12-foot sloop Nonoalca, now west to east, from American Lowerdale to the port of Trailly in Ireland.
In the early 1980s, the American Wayne Dickenson sailed in 142 days from Point Allerton in Massachusetts to the Irish coast on the 2.7 (8 ft 11 “) of the Teardrop of God. A year later, the Briton Eric Peter sailed from Las Palmas to Guadalupe in 46 days on the just 1.8 meter (5ft 10.5 “) Toniky-Noo.
As for the Pacific, it was the first time John Reiding had crossed it on a small yacht. His Sjo Ag successfully sailed from San Diego on the west coast of the USA to New Zealand, but moved to Australia and disappeared in the Tasman Sea without a trace. American Jerry Spice was more fortunate: In 1981, he traveled 108 days from Long Beach (California) to Sydney, Australia, with brief stops in Hawaii, Fanning Atoll, Fiji and New Caledonia. By the way, on this trip, the 10 feet from him. (3.05m) Yankee Girl showed great speed: 70 nautical miles with an individual record of 130 miles in 24 hours!
“The children” already managed to set their first transoceanic records, now they had to dominate the routes around the world. Furthermore, the first application of this type had already been made.
“I had no plans, all plans existed only in my head”
Its general concept: a boat of minimum size, with the greatest possible survivability and seaworthiness. The material – aluminum for ship structures, quite strong and not too expensive (anyway, his money was enough only for 200 kg).
Serge immersed himself in work, and dozens of times changing various elements of the keel. The contours of the yacht were literally a hunch: every detail had to look good, and together they had to create a harmonious image of the ship, giving it quite good seaworthiness.
Acrohc Australis yacht overview, specifications and design
Maximum Length (LOA): 3,607 m (11 ft 10 “)
Maximum beam: 1.68 m
Hull material: 3mm aluminum
Weight: 350 kg
Ballast: 120 kg
Reserve water: 100 lts
Fuel: 20 lts
THE RESULT WAS SO ORIGINAL A DESIGN THAT EVEN THE MOTHER OF THE FUTURE TRAVELER REFUSED TO RECOGNIZE IT AS A REAL BOAT.
It was she who gave him something in the first part of the name: Acrohc (thing, thing) in her native Italian dialect. The second part of the name, Australis, was added patriotically by Sergio himself.
THE BOAT’S CAB WAS SO SMALL THAT IT WAS ONLY POSSIBLE TO BE IN A NARROW BED, IMPOSSIBLE AT FULL HEIGHT BECAUSE OF ITS ROOF UNDER IT. BUT EVERYTHING THAT WAS NEEDED WAS LITERALLY WITHIN ARM REACH.
Unsinkable was guaranteed by six entire hermetically sealed lockers, which the creator of it proudly called “watertight compartments.”
Stability was ensured by a 5-foot keel weighted with ballast of ploin. A special horizontal plate was attached to the middle of the keel to reduce drift with a significant slope.
Serge paid special attention to the possibility of steering the ship without leaving the cockpit. To do this, he installed an additional rudder (inside), as well as a complete system of six winches, thanks to which the sails could also be controlled from the inside.
Once the berth was dismantled, it was possible to sit and do a fairly tolerable observation directly in the field, while the small side windows (rather than even the observation holes) allowed you to look to the horizon from time to time on both sides.
To help with his solo journey, he designed an unusual bow thruster, which could also be adjusted directly from the cockpit.
The challenge was to ensure that the superstructure was completely watertight, with additional holes for the ends of the running rig. The test coped with this with the help of special nylon bushings, which then served it faithfully almost to the end of the world.
THE ACROHC AUSTRALIS EQUIPMENT WAS COMPLETED WITH A FOUR HP OUTBOARD ENGINE, WHICH LATER ALMOST CHALLENGED ITS TITLE OF THE WORLD’S SMALLEST TRAVELER.
According to the hull measurement rules, when recording micro-ship achievements, your LOA must take into account the length of all stationary (as well as towed) fences without exception. Thus, with the official record length of 3.6 meters (without retractable bowsprit and removable rudder), the ‘Australian Stuff’ achieved the undesirable addition of 56.3 cm at the expense of protruding engine mounts and solar panels and ‘grew’ up to 4.17 meters. Who knows, if the Guinness inspectors had treated him less condescendingly in due time, Serge Test’s record would have improved as early as 2003.
Launched on June 9, 1984, Acrohc Australis immediately demonstrated excellent performance without the aid of an engine. Even with relatively calm sea, it could reach speeds of up to 5 knots and could go with a strong base wind.
Now they both had to pass the test by ocean …
“It was no more dangerous than going around the world in a great ship …”
When she left Brisbane and moved slowly north along the Moreton Bay shoreline, few people knew that she had started her famous journey around the world. Serge shared his plans only with his family, suggesting that the final decision to continue the journey would be made only upon reaching Darwin, if he could.
The first day was marked by a landing on the ground. Fortunately, neither the keel nor the hull as a whole were damaged, giving the novice traveler a chance to see the successful design of the ship, which turned out to be as ‘strong as a tank’. During the next four months of sailing around the extreme northeast of Australia, he had to test the strength of the ship more than once, and at the same time, to improve his navigation skills, learn to calculate and determine the place. by visual landmarks.
The start of the trip was more like a cruise that took place in quite favorable weather conditions. The ship behaved well and her skipper got used to being alone and gaining confidence in the eventual success of the endeavor she had conceived.
Arriving in Darwin in early November, Serge spent almost two months in final preparation for his next trip. Acrohc Australis underwent the most meticulous inspection, the box was cleaned and repainted, the rigging was tight and all movements were carefully checked. Now he had a long journey out of sight of the coast, so Testa acquired a sextáte and several books in which he hoped to learn to work with the tool himself. After sailing for a few days with his family in Brisbane, he returned to Darwin after Christmas and already on January 1, 1985 he set sail for the Coconut Islands.
HE ENCOUNTERED THUNDERSTORMS, IN WHICH THE WIND WAS 60 KNOTS, AND FOLLOWED IN HURRICANE. THE SUN DESPAIRING, BURNING THE SKIN AND STRANGE MOISTURE, FOR WHICH IN CONSTANT CONTACT WITH SEA WATER, THE WHOLE BODY IS COVERED WITH PAINFUL ULCERS.
But even in unbearable conditions, he managed to expand his knowledge in navigation, having learned to determine the place at the height of the sun at noon with an accuracy of 5 nautical miles.
The first week the weather really spoiled Acrohc Australis, but then the wind got stronger again and it turned into a multi-day storm luckily along the way. Even on the extremely sturdy sails, the little one would literally fly over the waves, traveling 100 miles or more in one day, but then … the autrail failed, so Serge had to stay behind the helm the entire time.
THE MISSING CHRONICA DE SUEÑO GAVE ROOM TO HALLUCINATIONS – IN THE MIDDLE OF THE OCEAN, HE HEARD THE ROOSTER SONG AND THE VOICES OF THE CHILDREN.
Fortunately, after a few days, the wind dropped to moderate and on the 29th day of swimming Serge saw the mountains of Mauritius rising directly from the ocean. Having gained a bit of strength in Port Louis and then spent three weeks at the hospitable Saint-Pierre on Reunion Island, he set sail for Madagascar in mid-May.
This was followed by repairs and a relatively quiet passage to Durban, where Serge waited more than three months for winter storms. Only in the “spring” of October for these latitudes Acrohc Australis moved around the Cape of Good Hope. Unfortunately, the calculations for a long period of time favorable this time have not been justified. On the same approach to Cape Town, the ship faced a series of violent storms. The bow thruster failed again and Serge had to spend several days in a row at the helm.
CHRONIC FATIGUE MADE YOU JUST SLEEP AT HER STATION TO WAKE UP ON THE COAST.
Fortunately, the ship was not seriously injured or damaged, and during the tide the ship was taken to the depths. However, the rest of November and the entire month of December, the test had to be carried out in Cape Town for the preventive inspection, cleaning and painting of the hull. Participants in Whitbread’s round-the-world race, whose next stage he was preparing to depart from Cape Town, couldn’t believe the little Acrohc was also traveling the world. But soon even the most desperate skeptics were convinced of Serge’s determination: the new year 1986 marked the beginning of the assault on the Atlantic Ocean.
The trip took the traditional route of navigation through Santa Elena (where the traveler had to stay for three weeks waiting for a bank transfer) and Ascensión. This was followed by a 52-day run to the Brazilian coast, at the end of which the accompanying storms were replaced by a strip of calm. In low winds, the autoruder did not work well enough, and the sole skipper had to hold the rudder nearly twenty-four hours a day, keeping an eye on the compass.
At night, the need to look in and listen to the darkness was added, so as not to get under the stern of a passing ship. With one of these ocean giants , he miraculously lost less than 100 meters, and on another occasion, worried about the nearby engine noise, Serge in vain looking for a source of danger – rather than the approaching ship had to split up with a casualty -planes in flight …
After a grueling transoceanic transition, Brazilian Natalya had only three days to rest: local authorities refused to issue a visa and Testa had to take a course for French Guiana. He spent the next two months navigating the southern Caribbean islands, trying to stay off the Colombian coast for fear of pirate drug traffickers.
The attack was happily avoided, but the miniature boat was constantly shaking in 20-30 knot winds.
ONE OF THE MOST SENSITIVE HITS THIS TIME WAS THE LOSS OF THE “TOILET” BUCKET, WHICH TURNED THE SHIPPING OF NATURAL NEEDS INTO A TRUE ACROBATIC TRICK.
In May, Acrohc Australis was moored in Puerto Azul, where Serge decided to wait for the satellite navigator to sail across the Pacific, although due to the limited power of the solar panel, it could hardly be activated for half an hour a day.
It was not until the end of August “that the ship” passed through the Panama Canal and headed for the Galapagos. This stage was so painful that Testa was about to interrupt his trip around the world. With mostly weak and unpretentious winds, his ship was held hostage by the opposing Peruvian current (Humboltov). His attempt to cross a difficult section with the engine was unsuccessful, he simply refused to work.
Also, as he moved south, the hull became increasingly filled with seaweed and clams. This significantly slowed the turtle’s already slow speed, for which he had to spend a few hours a day overboard, scraping in vain in an attempt to dispose of the unwanted “passengers”.
He was so exhausted that he didn’t even indulge himself with the equator crossing vacation, but he still didn’t give up. On the 34th day of swimming in the rain cover the contours of the nearby land seemed vague, and the next day in a suddenly revived motor «Shtuchka» entered the port of San Cristóbal, one of the easternmost Galapagos Islands.
Test spent most of the three days here searching for methyl alcohol for the stove. After resupplying food and water, he moved further south. The Acrohc Australis road ran through the Marquesas , Tuamotu sea to the pearl of French Polynesia, the fabulous Tahiti.
A month and a half trip in the Southern Ocean literally enchanted Serge, allowing him to truly experience the beauty of solitary wandering. And it’s no wonder: these waters have long been a special draw for boaters. It is no coincidence that this is where Bernard Moiseyesse sought out his Joshua, refusing to win the Golden Globe race in exchange for the opportunity to continue his unity with the Ocean.
He arrived in Tahiti in December and Testa was able to enjoy a well-deserved vacation, combining it with relaxed sightseeing on the magical island. Here he also met the new year 1987, which was destined to be the last year of his trip around the world.
The final phase took more than four months. Acrohc Australis returned to its coasts of origin through the dispersal of islands in the South Seas. The satellite navigator made life much easier, allowing, in Serge’s own words “to sleep with both eyes closed,” but the swimming was not entirely serene.
In the approaches to the Cook Islands there were numerous microthreads in the rear of the mainsail, so the sail had to be careful, taking the reefs or going down even in moderate winds.
As she passed through the Tonga archipelago, she was stranded in the tide of Atat Atoll, and also in a real coral reef trap. Her captain had to manually carry the anchor through the shallow water to pull the boat step by step into the clear water.
The planned landing at Norfolk Testa had to be abandoned: the wind increased sharply and the main anchor had to break away to clear the rocks on the lee coast in time. In addition to that, Serge managed to contract a staphylococcal infection, the treatment of which took a long time and the rest of the already few forces.
However, at the beginning of May, the little Acrohc Australis passed the Moreton Island crossing, officially closed the world and on May 16, 1987 she arrived in her native Brisbane.
A JOURNEY OF ALMOST THREE YEARS WAS COMPLETED WITH SUCCESS. HOWEVER, DIRECTLY AT SEA DURING THIS LONG PERIOD OF TIME, HE SPENT “ONLY 500” UNFORGETTABLE DAYS.
That is the number that Serge Testa immortalized in the title of a book about his journey that made him famous.
‘I’m surprised that my record hasn’t been broken yet …
Serge hasn’t tired of wondering about it for over 30 years. However, he himself did not want to repeat the circumnavigation on a smaller ship. A few years after his legendary voyage, he and his brother built a Polynesian ship and crossed the Pacific Ocean. Thus (obviously, following the example of Tura Heyerdahl) the Testa brothers were going to show that America was open long before Columbus and not from the East but from the West.
However, the expedition failed and the ship had to leave off the coast of Japan. This did not discourage Serge: in the following years he still sailed a lot, and in the early 1990s (already with his wife Robin his) he built a 60-foot boat. Charming steel sloop. On this yacht, the Testa couple sailed around the world in 1993-97 with much more comfort than the Acrohc Australis would ever allow.
Serge Testa with his boat thirty years later