Hungarian round the world sailor Nandor Fa could best be described as his country’s version of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. During the mid-1980s, when Hungary was still part of the Eastern block, he and a friend József Gál became the first people from their country to sail around the world. He was subsequently one of the pioneers of singlehanded round the world racing and helped forge the embryonic IMOCA class. Now, after a 17 year absence from the class, the understated Hungarian sailing legend is back with a new boat and a taste for resolving unfinished business.
Although Fa comes from a family of wrestlers, his main sport up until his first circumnavigation had been canoeing, but he became disillusioned when he didn’t make the Hungarian team going to the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. To compensate, and inspired by the voyages of Joshua Slocum and Sir Francis Chichester, Fa designed and built a small, but solid cruising boat and at a time when it was thought impossible for people from his country to carry out such actions, set off with his friend on a lap of the planet that would take two years.
It was during this voyage that Fa learned about the BOC Challenge, the singlehanded round the world race with stops, sailed in boats that were the forebears of the present day IMOCA 60s.
And so, against all odds, Fa made it to the start line of the 1990-1 BOC Challenge in a 60ft yacht that once again he had designed and built himself, called Alba Regia. In this race he finished 10th despite his boat suffering much damage, including both its rudders breaking soon after leaving Cape Town, forcing Fa to sail back to port steering with the sails alone. However he completed the race and in doing so became Hungary’s first ever solo circumnavigator.
Fa went on to compete in the second Vendee Globe in 1992-3 aboard the same boat, albeit much modified and improved, in which he finished a creditable fifth, and was first non-French skipper home.
For the third Vendee Globe in 1996-7, Fa built himself a new, more modern IMOCA 60, Budapest, complete with several ground breaking features such as a canting keel, operated via a purchase system rather than the usual hydraulic rams. Sadly, while the boat had great potential, she sustained keel damage and after three stops to effect repairs, a subsequent collision with a cargo ship put Fa out of the race, in turn ending his solo offshore racing career….until now.
After filling in the intervening years in business, building marinas, in Hungary, Austria and Croatia, Fa has returned to the IMOCA class.
His new boat Spirit of Hungary is of his own design. He was fortunate that Zoltek, a US-based carbon fibre manufacturer of Hungarian origin, agreed to supply him with carbon fibre to build his boat, and on this occasion the shell of his boat was constructed by leading Hungarian composite boat builder, Pauger and finished off by Fa. The boat is significant for being the first built to the latest iteration of the IMOCA 60 class rule.
Obviously over his 30 year career, sailing around the world has changed beyond recognition. Back in the early BOC Challenge days boats were constructed in fibreglass or aluminium, and were heavier and less powerful. On his first circumnavigation there was no GPS and no computer on board and he navigated classically, using a compass, a sextant and paper charts while using an HF/SSB radio to stay in touch with those on land, in this era prior to satellite communications for sailing yachts.
With GPS, the latest satcoms and safety gear IMOCA 60s are obliged to carry, the sport has become much safer. Since he was last involved in the IMOCA class (in which he spent five years as an early President), its circuit has also changed from being centred around one event – the Vendée Globe – to having a fuller schedule that now forms the IMOCA Ocean Masters World Championship.
IMOCA races historic
2015 - Transat Jacques Vabre
2015 - Barcelona World Race
1996 - Vendée Globe 1996-97
The boat was named BUDAPEST - called after capital of Hungary.
The main sail was wearing the symbol of the Hungarian millennium.
– designer: Nándor Fa
– implementer: Fa Hajó Ltd. -Nándor Fa's company
But technical problems...
1993 - Vendée Globe 1992-93 non-stop singlehanded sailing race
60 foot sailing boat
designed and built: Nandor Fa (rebuilt the former Alba Regia 60)
name of the boat: KandH Bank-Matáv
First non-french skipper finished the Vendée Globe
1991 - B.O.C. Challenge Around the world sailin race - with officially 4 stopover
Nandor Fa designed an built his 60 foot racing boat in Hungary.
Name of the boat: ALBA REGIA - the historical name of his hometown.
Result: 11th place - he lost 4 weeks cosed by broken rudders.
Spirit of the BOC Award
1987 - St. Jupát 31 foot crusing - around a world - 2 handed
First Hungarian sailor around the world by sailingboat -31 foot crusing boat - around the capes, west to east.
Nandor Fa built the sailingboat to make this trip with his friend, after he couldn't participate the Olimpic games in Los Angeles - even he was the top elected Fin sailor - he was unable to because of the Soviet bycott against the LA Olympic games.
During the trip he was listening to the radio and realized there is an exiting race, named BOC Challenge - meantime they were sailing, started to draw his ideas about a 60 foot racing boat.
After he arrived back of the 2 years sailing trip to Hungary - the 2 friend became really heros with their freedom-philosophie,
NANDOR has written his book " 700 days of St Jupát" - became a really bestseller in Hungary.