In 1895, the Canadian-American seaman Joshua Slocum set sail on what was to be the first single-handed voyage around the world. Since his return in 1898, many keen mariners have followed his lead. Last month the Herzliya-based Via Maris sailing club waved goodbye to a yacht it sent on a round-the-world trip that is expected to take five years to complete. The difference between this journey and those traditionally embarked upon is that it will be carried out in a relay style, whereby different club members will fly to meet the yacht every week in order to sail each consecutive leg. An estimated total of over 300 members will participate in the voyage. This is the first time an Israeli yacht club will take turns navigating a yacht around the world, according to Via Maris owner Yossi Sokolov. The yacht will spend the first few months sailing through the Mediterranean Sea and is expected to arrive at the Balearic Islands in October. It will sail through the Straits of Gibraltar to the Canary Islands and further west across the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean Islands. Following that it will sail through the Panama Canal, the Pacific Ocean and on to the Pacific Islands, where various crews will spend an entire year visiting rarely embarked upon villages and islands. "Some legs will be more challenging and others more leisurely. There are different clients to suit the different legs. The clients who are looking for an adventure will go through the ocean and those who are looking for fun will join legs that sail through [the party life of] the Caribbean Islands," said Sokolov. Following the Pacific Islands, the yacht will visit Australia and its famous Great Barrier Reef, the Indonesian islands, Indian Ocean, Madagascar and Africa. Finally, it will return through the Atlantic Ocean back to Israel. The trip will cover at least 30,000 nautical miles. Every couple of days the yacht will stop over on land, except when it sails through the ocean. When sailing on open seas, the boat will not see land for 20 days at a time. Sokolov explained that there are two ways of sailing around the world. One is eastwards, which involves sailing south under Africa, Australia, and America and back to Israel. Eastward sailing requires west winds, which are very strong and accompanied by lots of heavy weather. This suits what is known as "extreme sailing." THE VIA Maris sailors are not attempting to break any records with this voyage. They are simply looking for a leisurely trip that will enable them to explore the world and enjoy the sea, said Sokolov. As such, they chose to sail westwards, using east winds that will carry them through the tropical areas of the world at a speed of around 5.5 knots, or approximately 10 km per hour. "Sailing around the world, 'ocean cruising,' is a big dream," said Sokolov. "It seems like something that is impossible to do. But one day we decided that if other people can do it - and other clubs around the world have already done it - it's about time we fulfilled on our wish, too," he said. The decision was made after a day of sailing in March this year, while members of Via Maris sat around the club bar on the deck of the Herzliya Marina sharing visions of their ultimate sailing adventure. The alcohol had lightened their moods and they were feeling ambitious and powerful, so when one member said, "Why don't we do it?" the rest were instantly in on the idea. As they sobered up the reality of practicality challenged their confidence, but they dealt with the logistics and within four months were already on the water. They called the project Janana, which means "acting with insanity, craziness or uncontrolled behavior." "In order to go for such a dream you must act with insanity," said Sokolov. At the time, Via Maris had 13 yachts, all of which were only suitable for simple coastal sailing, so they needed to buy one that would handle ocean voyage. The new yacht had to be stronger, bigger and rigged with specialized equipment. They found two candidates: one in Turkey and the other in the British Virgin Islands. Via Maris bought the one from Turkey and its club members worked day and night for two months to upgrade the boat to the required standard. They installed a water generator, got the sails adjusted to handle both light winds and heavier weather conditions, bought emergency equipment and took the boat on trial sailing trips. The Janana Jeno is 49 feet long (approximately 15 meters), which is large compared to other yachts that have sailed around the world, said Sokolov. According to Sokolov, the ideal size for such an expedition is 45 feet but the Via Maris sailors decided to take a bigger boat for added comfort. Inside the boat are four cabins with double beds and facilities including a fridge, oven, stove, a stereo, books, maps, navigation instruments and a water generator, which enables the crews to take showers along the journey and not have to limit their water consumption to just drinking water. There is also a computer on board with Internet access and a satellite telephone. At 7 a.m. on Sunday, July 5, a mass of club members and friends gathered at the Herzliya Marina for an official bon voyage. The other 13 boats, adorned with balloons and flags, accompanied the Janana Jeno 49 for the first 10 miles of its route. "The Janana was the fastest of all the boats and I had to slow it down a bit in order to avoid insulting the others," said captain Yaniv Mizrahi, who had the privilege of sailing the boat for the first week-long leg. "There was a moment when I felt I was getting too far away from the shore when I took the VHF [marine radio] and spoke to the other boats, saying, 'Thanks very much, guys, but from now on we're going to be sailing outside of Israel's territorial water.' They turned to go back to shore and we kept sailing on. You couldn't ignore the feeling of being alone. The crew that was on the boat only then started getting to know one another. They understood that from now on it's [just us and the] blue water," he said. THERE WERE high winds that eventually caught up with the Janana Jeno 49 to form a small storm. "That was a very strong and powerful initiation to the beginning of the journey," said Mizrahi. At 9 in the morning on the following day they caught a huge swordfish. "From then on the first week was pure fun," he said. The boat coped with the Mediterranean waters well. But at the end of the week it experienced an electrical malfunction. "This is very common when you try to give birth to a new ship. You have to overcome certain phases until it acts harmoniously with all the systems on it," he said. Mizrahi's crew corrected the mishap and the yacht continued to sail with ease. Mizrahi explained that the work done on board, which includes working night shifts and cleaning and maintaining the boat, helps crew members to bond. "The dynamics between human beings are completely different on sea to what they are like on land," said Mizrahi. The crew entrust their lives in each other's hands and work hard together, so by the end of the week have become friends, he said. Most of the Via Maris club members participating in this voyage are aged in their 30s to 50s. They include, among others, working adults with families, high-tech workers, lawyers, accountants, pensioners and young university graduates. Each leg of the Janana voyage will be sailed by five to seven people, some with sailing instructors and others without. The crew will change every week in places like the Mediterranean, but when crossing the ocean the crew will only be changed once a month. Via Maris charges participants 600 Euros per week on board. "I don't know if this project will be profitable or not. I don't know how much it will cost me and how much I will earn from it. I just know that I want to do it," said Sokolov. When asked about the dangers involved Sokolov answered, "Sailing is not dangerous if you do it smartly, take care, train yourself well, sail during the right seasons and avoid areas where there are pirates." The Janana Jeno is equipped with emergency equipment that includes a water purifier (that enables the crew to make drinking water), fishing equipment, flares, special food, communication equipment (including an EPIRB - Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and a bottle of whisky - "very important for the spirit," said Sokolov. This is the first time Via Maris has taken on an adventure of such a scale since Sokolov established the club with Dudi Simmon 11 years ago. The club normally offers weeklong smaller adventures in locations such as Turkey, Croatia, the Caribbean Islands and Thailand. "When someone comes to my sailing club and asks for a sailing course he is not asking for a sailing course; he's asking for an adventure. Crossing the ocean is an experience that will change his life [forever]," said Sokolov. Anyone interested in joining the Janana can contact Via Maris at (09) 957-8811 or (09) 957-8848 in Herzliya or (04) 841-3841 in Haifa. More information at www.janana.org.