Sailing Hugo - Emir and Xin's journey begins

Emir and Xin are legends! When we last spoke with them about their plans for Sailing Hugo, they were feverishly researching and working hard toward the adventure of a lifetime. Now the adventure has begun – they are sitting on Hugo, their beautiful NEW Oceanis 41.1P in Port Ginesta, Barcelona, a little over a month into their dream trip.

The couple share the highlights of their sailing journey so far and share some advice for others planning European delivery.

Behind the Scenes at Beneteau

Emir’s journey with Hugo began with a visit to the Beneteau factory to see his boat being built. Over the next month, it would be his job to get Hugo ready to sail around the Atlantic coast to the Mediterranean, where Xin would join him.

Together they have created this incredible video about the making of Hugo – giving us a behind the scenes look at the Beneteau Factory.

Smooth Handover

Smooth Handover

Emir met up with Flagstaff’s Micah Lane in Port Olona on the Atlantic coast in France for the commissioning and handover of Hugo. Now, Emir is a prodigious researcher but even he found the commissioning process came with a learning curve only experience can conquer.

“When I first started this, I was thinking – I wonder which port I should go and pick up the boat from?” says Emir. “My thinking should have been – Where is Micah’s relationship the strongest? Because it’s not Beneteau that does the commissioning, it’s Flagstaff. Micah’s got good relationships here in Port Olona and things just get done very, very quickly.”

Another piece of advice Emir wants to share was the incredible chandlers on hand in Europe. After spending months researching and buying supplies for Hugo online, Emir realized it would have been much easier and cheaper to have waited until Port Olona.

“I was really worried that I was going to get there and not be able to buy the stuff I needed, like safety gear and whatnot. So I kept going through catalogs, going online and it was really, really stressful … I could’ve just waited until I got there and I could’ve bought everything … If you go to a good port like Port Olona, you will be able to find everything and anything you want. Even specialty stuff.”

He also adds that giving yourself a bit more time during this stage is an advantage. “We were in Port Olona for only a day and a half. I would’ve liked a little bit more time to give myself time to buy tools and shopping and provisioning.” 

Bay of Biscay - Full On!

Bay of Biscay - Full On!

Not one to shy away from a challenge, Emir’s maiden voyage on Hugo was crossing the Bay of Biscay with Micah as his first mate. “It’s full-on and it’s a pretty nervous path because you’re in the middle of nowhere for two days,” says Emir.

Emir likens the Bay of Biscay to Europe’s version of Australia’s Bass Strait, “Shallow, vicious and like one big washing machine when the wind picks up.” So the only time to make this crossing is when the weather is just right. Emir thought with the changing seasonal weather patterns they would get a good window.

“Then Micah calls me and says, ‘What’s the weather like in Bay of Biscay?’ I looked it up and it was perfect. It could not have been more perfect weather, we felt: very light winds from behind, flat seas and I’m like, ‘Are we doing this?’ He was like, ‘Yes, we’re doing this.'”

Atlantic Coast - A Handful

Atlantic Coast - A Handful

Emir undertook the second leg of the trip with his dad – who is 74 and not a sailor – on board.

“Freezing cold, long night sails and really stressful,” is how Emir describes the trip around the Atlantic Coast. “Doing the sail from the Atlantic coast to the Med is a handful,” he warns. “It’s a handful! I would be very wary of doing this crossing for someone who doesn’t have some ocean experience.”

There are two ways to do this crossing: either port to port, which could take anything up to two months or Emir’s route, which delivered Hugo to the Med in just over a week.

“We did three hops, two days each, so two nights on the water, recovery in each location for a few days,” says Emir. “We would leave during the day; we would aim to arrive during the day and we would leave ourselves at least six hours of contingency and, every single time, we needed a contingency. Every single time we planned our passage, we were always delayed… You just want to allow yourself enough leeway to not have to rush because I’d much rather sit on a sail than turn on the motor and waste fuel.”

And remember it’s always much colder out on the water…

“We froze! I have never been so cold in my life,” says Emir. “I had my wet weather gear, I had my layers, but it’s still just really, really cold, so I would say to anyone that’s thinking about this, April might seem like a good idea when you’re looking at the weather reports and you’re like, ‘Barcelona is really nice in April.’ Out on the ocean, whatever temperatures you’re looking at, you’ve got to halve them.”

The Med - Crossing the Line

The Med - Crossing the Line

Those tough Atlantic conditions were worth it if only to serve as a stark contrast to the beauty of the Mediterranean.

“When we hit Gibraltar, it was a bit like a washing machine – lots of ships, dreary weather, and then it was like there was a line – you’re now entering the Mediterranean Sea,” says Emir. “When we crossed that line, the sea just went flat, the sky opened up into beautiful weather, the wind came from behind. It just became the Mediterranean. It was a 10-minute transition from miserable weather and shipping lanes, to this beautiful, flat water with a beautiful coast. It was just an absolute dream.”

Xin Arrives

Xin Arrives

Emir’s plan was to do the tough part of the trip without Xin so he could ease her into their new life onboard Hugo.

“For me, it is very important that Xin likes it,” says Emir, “which is why I didn’t want her to do the hard part, which is why we got everything ready and then, when she came, it was like she would be looking around going, ‘Wow, this is so beautiful.'”

He and his dad gave a lot of thought to what Xin’s first big sail should be…

We chose to go from Malaga to Almira,” says Emir. “It’s 100 nautical miles, and we chose to do it at night, and we chose a day that had brisk winds, so I’m talking 20 to 25 knots. I think we made a bit of a mistake there! We didn’t get 20 to 25; we got 25 to 30 and it was even hitting 35 knots at points… We had these waves picking us up and trying to spin the boat around and the autopilot couldn’t keep up anymore, so I had to grab the helm and I was handling the helm and trying to get the boat in a straight line. Xin was down below, doped up on seasickness pills and she was incredible, she slept through most of it!

This Is Living

This Is Living

Xin survived her first Hugo sail and Emir decided it was time to change tack…

“We chose a crossing with no wind at all,” says Emir. “We were literally in beautiful, flat water. I’m talking oil. It’s not water, it was oil and we were making it around in points and it was beautiful. There was this brown cliff face with a white rock right in the middle of it. We were sailing around this thing and we’re living.”

Emir makes a great point here. The key to really enjoying your time living on the water is making good judgments about your window with the weather.

“There’s this point in sailing where you can go from waiting to living and I think that’s a combination of wind direction and swell or waves. We were finally living, enjoying the brochure sailing.”

Xin #sailorgirl

Xin #sailorgirl

It took some convincing to get Xin to commit to buying Hugo. Xin loves to travel and adventure but she is not a sailor. Plus, as a young couple, they had to make a lot of sacrifices to make the dream a reality. But so far #sailorgirl is taking life on board in her stride.

“I’m enjoying this,” says, Xin. “For me, it’s more about sightseeing and the different culture and food. I know for Emir it’s sailing, but it kind of goes well because he’s enjoying his sailing and I’m enjoying my side of the journey. Yesterday, we just drove through Montserrat. Every night we go out to Barcelona… we can literally go wherever we want.”

It seems like Emir and Xin have hit on the perfect formula for a happy life on board.

Putting the P in Performance

Putting the P in Performance

Emir chose the Oceanis 41.1P because of the performance options, including the taller mast and carbon sails and a bunch of other features Emir dubs ‘cool go-baby-go bits and pieces’. He also invested in a top of the line cruising spinnaker.

So far Emir’s choices are proving a good call – he’s been blown away by Hugo’s ability to deliver performance in low winds.

“I’m blown away by how good this boat is. I thought the performance was only reserved for race boats… Anything up to about 6 knots of wind, we can match the wind speeds… If the wind is 6 knots, we’re doing 5.5 knots. It’s incredible. We’re sailing at 3 knots in 3 knots of wind, but we’re sailing and we’re not wasting fuel… We are enjoying ourselves, we are sunbathing, we are slicing roasts, we are doing whatever.”

As for the spinnaker, Emir jokes that Xin is running a timer every time they put it up in light winds. The couple are on a mission to see how much fuel money they’ll save.

“I don’t know when, but it will pay itself,” says Emir. “We’re doing a tally and we’ll find out how long it will take.”

41Ft the Perfect Size

41Ft the Perfect Size

For Emir, the Oceanis 41.1P is the perfect size. Big enough to store enough water for a longer journey but not so big that marina fees impinge on their travel budget.

Emir is also a big fan of the autopilot.

“The autopilot is a must. The only time I’m at the helm is if I want to have a bit of fun,” says Emir, “If you’re thinking you don’t need the autopilot, remember it replaces two people because it runs 24 hours. So I just need one other person to sail this boat.”

Emir can sail Hugo two-up or as he puts it – one up and a cat! At least that’s what he told his mum when she was worried about his non-sailor dad being too old, at 74, to handle the 1500-mile sail.

“We have cat called Fluffy,” says Emir. “I said, ‘Mum, I don’t need a sailor. I reckon I could almost teach Fluffy to press the little button to wake me up when the wind goes over a certain number… I just need someone checking the instruments and reporting back.’”

Sailing Hugo

We’ve loved catching up on Emir and Xin’s Sailing Hugo journey. What’s really exciting is that they are documenting their entire adventure across multiple platforms – so we can all live the dream along with them.

As Emir says, “Buying our first yacht, this changes our life. This trip is a life-changing experience, but once we are back in Sydney with the boat, our lives will be different.”

Like us on Facebook or LinkedIn where we will keep you updated on Sailing Hugo’s progress. Check out Sailing Hugo’s YouTube and Instagram.

Thanks to Emir and Xin for their fantastic photos and video. Happy SailingHugo!

Please also see our other boat owner stories.