With almost 300,000 nautical miles in his log, you'd think Paul Badenhorst had been offshore sailing his whole adult life. While sailing has been in Paul's heart and mind since his first experience at age five, he didn't take his first serious offshore sailing course until he was in his thirties. As a teen, Paul windsurfed and read voraciously about sailing, but sailing the world was always a "someday" dream after a career of doing something else.
However, life doesn't always send you on a straight path. After losing his wife some twenty years ago, Paul signed up for a course at the Ocean Sailing Academy in Durban, South Africa. There, he first heard about professional yacht deliveries. He made his first offshore passage the following year. Over the next few years, Paul crewed on several more passages, and by 2008 he was skippering his own deliveries.
Today, he's one of the top delivery skippers available for Leopard buyers. Plan ahead: his dance card can fill up two years in advance.
Owners and Crews
Some delivery skippers want to just get on the boat and get it to the destination. They don't want any novice sailors around, or worse, a new owner on board second-guessing their every decision.
Paul only sails with owners, and that's one reason he's booked years out. "Most of the owners I've sailed with have become lifelong friends," he says. "I love sharing my experience and teaching them how to sail their boats in ways that are conservative, yet fast and safe."
Finding an additional delivery crew is a careful and painstaking process. Paul checks references, social media, and even Chinese zodiac signs for everyone on board. Crew dynamics are crucial, and he likes to work with crew he knows personally.
Being thorough about personalities and skills makes a difference. "It gives me an idea of what to expect and how to deal with conflict," Paul says. "I'm an eternal optimist, and do not allow negativity to rule on a boat."
"After all, sailing should be a fun and uplifting experience," he adds, "and one is never closer to untamed nature than on the ocean."
The Best of Times
His best delivery to date is the Leopard 50 he just brought to Annapolis with its new owner. Fast, smooth, and easy - everything just went right on the 8,000 nautical mile (nm) trip. On a brand-new boat, there were only two minor issues. And in 30-40 knot winds off Cape Town, the Leopard 50 handled it like a champion.
The 50 and 46 are his two favorite Leopard Catamarans. "The 46 is a firm favorite. Classic look, softer lines, legendary," he says. "Compared to the 50, the 46 has a more homey feeling."
"The 50 has sharper lines, and is a massive entertainment platform with the lounge upstairs, the huge cockpit and saloon with an open plan to the forward cockpit. I enjoy sailing both these models enormously, but the experience on the 50 is much more versatile."
A month at sea on one of your favorite comfortable and seaworthy boats? What's not to love?
And the Worst…
Not every delivery comes up roses, and one of his worst was on a Leopard 58. It wasn't problems with the yacht - it was a race to get a charter replacement to Tortola before a fixed date. Experienced sailors know fixed dates are a challenge. They limit fuel and weather options and often require motor power instead of sailing.
"The only way to get the boat there in time was to run both motors," he said. "We would stop each motor for ten minutes a day to check the oil, coolant, belts, and other things."
On long deliveries without wind, Paul typically runs one engine at a time to maintain six knots. With better fuel economy, it gives longer range. But running one engine hard at 7.5 knots used more fuel than running two engines at lower RPMs. Even with that, they had to take on fuel twice to hit the tight dates and maintain that constant engine watch.
Light air sailing
Paul is more than a delivery captain. He's a business owner with sailing interests. He's offered a variety of services from coaching to helping people buy yachts. But one interest that's more of a passion is his relationship with Oxley Sails.
"I have logged nearly 300,000 nautical miles, and the biggest challenge has always been light air," he says. Most people think heavy weather is the big offshore problem, but light air means a slow trip. And that means you need more fuel and more food, all when you're thousands of miles from resupply.
"A good downwind sail is essential on ocean crossings, and also great for shorter downwind runs. The Oxley Levante is the only sail in the world that will get you sailing from only 2 knots AWS (Apparent Wind Speed), and good for up to 20 knots AWS."
On a Leopard 50 delivery from Cape Town to Miami a couple of years ago, Paul only logged 60 engine hours over the 6,000 nm trip. "This was possible by having an Oxley Levante on board." It's an interesting sail, with a slot in the middle and a wing to keep the sail stable and ease trimming.
More than a skipper
With the miles he's logged, you'd think Paul touched land only long enough to get from one delivery to the next. But between deliveries, he lives in South Africa in Krugersdorp, Near Johannesburg. He and his wife Sonja both grew up there. When he's in port, he helps her run a family pub, and they try to spend one week per month at their beach home in Amanzimtoti. He also has a twenty-year-old daughter who got her first offshore miles with him when she was five.
But Sonja was his high school dream girl. "She was always the girl I wanted to adventure with," he said. But life took them down different paths. During the pandemic, they reconnected and rekindled their friendship. Then they found themselves with a lot more. Paul just took her on her first delivery, and she loved it. Their next delivery is scheduled for early 2024.
"We're only going to do two deliveries a year, going forward. And Sonja will be part of my future crossings."
It sounds like they're going to get those adventures together, after all.