The greatest sailor of all time? Your votes are clear: the winner of our poll is Ernest Shackleton. After him, two French heroes, Bernard Moitessier and Eric Tabarly.
Ernest Shackleton story
Sir Ernest Shackleton was a polar explorer who led three British expeditions to the Antarctic. He needed to the crossing of Antarctica from sea to sea, via the pole. To this end he made preparations for what became the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, 1914–17. Disaster struck this expedition when its ship, Endurance, became trapped in pack ice and was slowly crushed before the shore parties could be landed. The crew escaped by camping on the sea ice until it disintegrated, then by launching the lifeboats to reach Elephant Island and ultimately the inhabited island of South Georgia, a stormy ocean voyage of 720 nautical miles.
Away from his expeditions, Shackleton’s life was generally restless and unfulfilled. In his search for rapid pathways to wealth and security, he launched business ventures which failed to prosper, and he died heavily in debt. Upon his death, he was lauded in the press but was thereafter largely forgotten, while the heroic reputation of his rival Scott was sustained for many decades. Later in the 20th century, Shackleton was “rediscovered”, and became a role model for leadership in extreme circumstances.