Jimmy Cornell's story

Jimmy Cornell aboard his first Aventura in 1974

When I started preparing for my first voyage, I had little cruising experience, so I read avidly every available book on the subject.

In those days most books on sailing had one major drawback, they reflected the point of view of only one person, the author. They tended to be subjective, sometimes dogmatic, and seldom gave alternative points of view a good hearing.

Having sailed in the company of people who made cruising their way of life, I realised that there was a vast font of knowledge among those experienced sailors waiting to be tapped.

Over the years I have taken full advantage of that wealth of wisdom by conducting several surveys on all aspects of cruising, their findings being used in my various books.

Gwenda, Doina and Ivan have helped me at every stage, and have also authored their own books. Some of the more recent editions have been written in close collaboration with Ivan or Doina, in the hope that they will completely take over future editions.

Cornell Sailing is indeed a family affair.

Gwenda, Doina, Jimmy and Ivan Cornell


Short biography

Jimmy Cornell has influenced the contemporary cruising scene more than any other sailor. An accomplished sailor, public speaker and author, he has sailed over 200,000 miles in all oceans of the world including three circumnavigations as well as voyages to Antarctica and the Northwest Passage.

Thousands of sailors have fulfilled their dream of blue water cruising with the help of Jimmy Cornell’s books, among them the international bestseller World Cruising Routes. Now in its 9th edition, and with over 200,000 copies sold to date, this is one of the best selling nautical publications in the world.

As the founder of the highly successful ARC transatlantic rally, Jimmy Cornell is credited with having devised the offshore cruising rally concept. In the last four decades, Jimmy Cornell has organized 38 transatlantic rallies, six round the world rallies and one round the world race, with over 3,000 boats and 15,000 sailors having participated in his sailing events.

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Jimmy Cornell was born in Romania in 1940. He grew up in Brasov, where he attended the German Honterus Gymnasium. He later attended Bucharest University where he studied economics.  With his British wife Gwenda, he moved to London in 1969. He took up sailing while working as a reporter for the BBC World Service in London.

In 1974 Jimmy Cornell fitted out a 36 foot fibreglass hull (Trintella III, van de Stadt design – the first Aventura).

In 1975 he left England with Gwenda and their two children (Doina 7 and Ivan 5) on a world voyage lasting six years, which took them to some 70 countries and totalled 68,000 miles. During the voyage Jimmy Cornell sent back regular radio reports to the BBC World Service and also made regular freelance contributions for various magazines and radio stations.

  • The Cornell family aboard the first Aventura

  • Aventura I sailing off the coast of Papua New Guinea

A second Aventura (Bill Dixon design, 12 metre/40 feet, in steel) was launched in 1989 and completed a circumnavigation between 1989 and 1992, some of which was part of the first round the world rally organized by Jimmy between 1991 and 1992.

Aventura II

Aventura III (OVNI 43, 13 metre/43 feet, aluminium, designed by Philippe Briand) was launched in May 1998 and sailed in 1999 to Antarctica. From there Aventura III sailed to Alaska and British Columbia. In 2001 Jimmy started his third circumnavigation of the world which he completed in 2006.

Aventura III

Aventura IV (Exploration 45, aluminium, designed by Olivier Racoupeau) , Jimmy Cornell’s fourth boat, was launched in 2014 as the prototype of a new design, the Garcia Exploration 45, conceived by Jimmy as the perfect cruising boat for both high latitudes and tropical waters. In 2015 Jimmy successfully navigated the Northwest Passage in Aventura IV.

Aventura IV in Disco Bay, Greenland

In tune with the current concern for the state of the environment, the new Aventura Zero is a fully electric boat with zero carbon dioxide footprint. Jimmy sold Aventura Zero in 2021.

Aventura Zero

To date Jimmy Cornell has sailed over 200,000 miles in all oceans of the world, including three circumnavigations and two voyages to Antarctica and two to the Arctic.

In his writing, Jimmy Cornell decided to tackle the various aspects of sailing and offshore cruising in a systematic way, and over the years he has conducted extensive surveys with cruising sailors in all oceans of the world, dealing with every aspect of voyaging under sail.

Articles based on these surveys have appeared in leading sailing magazines and have also provided a valuable source for some of his books.

Jimmy Cornell’s reputation as a writer on cruising matters was consolidated by the publication in 1987 of World Cruising Routes, which became an international best-seller, and has been translated into French, German, Spanish and Italian.

Now in its ninth edition, World Cruising Routes has sold over 200,000 copies and is one of the best-selling nautical publications in the world.

 Jimmy Cornell’s books  have been translated into several languages: French, German, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Romanian and Japanese.

In 1986 Jimmy Cornell launched and organised the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers), from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean. As a result of the success of the first ARC he founded the World Cruising Club which specialises in international sailing events.

Start of the first ARC – November 1986

Between 1986 and 2000, Jimmy organized four round the world rallies, the America 500 Columbus anniversary rally in 1992, the Hong Kong Challenge round the world race in 1996 as well as the annual ARC transatlantic rally. Jimmy sold his interest in World Cruising Club in 1998.

Jimmy Cornell’s most ambitious project was the Millennium Odyssey round the world rally, which started in August 1998 to celebrate the new millennium by carrying around the world a symbolic flame as a message of friendship and goodwill.

The round the world rally finished in Rome in April 2000, when the Millennium Flame, that had been lit in Jerusalem and had been carried around the world by the yachts sailing in the rally, was handed over to Pope John Paul II in Rome on Easter Monday 2000. Fifty yachts sailed in the Millennium Odyssey, making it the largest ever round the world event.

In December 2000, Jimmy and Doina Cornell launched www.noonsite.com, a website dedicated to cruising sailors which they ran until 2009. The website contains practical information on all maritime nations of the world and is considered an essential source of information by thousands of cruising sailors.

  • A Passion for the Sea, by Jimmy Cornell
  • 200,000 miles, by Jimmy CornellSail The World With Me

In 2007 Jimmy Cornell wrote and published A Passion for the Sea, Reflections on three Circumnavigations.

The book is based on his extensive knowledge of offshore cruising gained from his personal experience that stretches over more than four decades and three circumnavigations.

The book covered all essential aspects of offshore cruising, every specific subject being dealt with in an informative and entertaining manner, backed up by some telling incidents from the author’s wide-ranging practical experience.

A expanded and updated new version, 200,000 miles – A Life of Adventure was published in 2017. A new and updated version, Sail The World With Me, was published in 2021, with French and German translations published in 2022.

In 2010 he wrote World Cruising Destinations, which gives practical information on 184 maritime nations. A fully revised and updated third edition, written with daughter Doina, was published in 2022.

In 2011, Jimmy Cornell, together with son Ivan, produced Cornells Ocean Atlas, the first global set of monthly pilot charts to be based on recent satellite data of world winds and currents.

The atlas, published in English, German, French and Italian, became an international best-seller. Thoroughly updated editions were published in 2018 and 2023, taking into account the effect of climate change on world voyage planning.

This series of books on world cruising was completed in 2012 by the publication of World Voyage Planner whose aim is to help sailors plan a voyage from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world, with suggestions of alternative routes to certain destinations, recommended times and favourable seasons, tropical storm areas and critical months, and strategically located ports of call to be used in an emergency.

A 2nd edition by Jimmy and Ivan Cornell was published in 2018, with a thoroughly revised third edition published in 2023.

In 2014 Jimmy Cornell launched the Odyssey sailing rallies, a new series of transatlantic and transpacific rallies.

Start of the Atlantic Odyssey 2014 in Lanzarote

Jimmy Cornell aboard Aventura IV, in the Arctic

Also part of this new format of non-competitive and non-commercial events for amateur sailors was the Blue Planet Odyssey, a round the world event that took place from 2014-17.

Its aim was to raise awareness of the global effects of climate change, and Aventura IV’s voyage through the Northwest Passage was part of that event.

In 2016 he organised Barbados 50, a transatlantic event from London to Barbados, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of Barbados independence.

In recognition for his lifelong contribution to the international cruising community, Jimmy Cornell has been presented with special awards by the Royal Cruising Club, Ocean Cruising Club and Trans Ocean Club.

The President of Trans-Ocean Club, one of the largest cruising clubs in the world, presents Jimmy Cornell
with the prestigious Ocean Award in recognition for his services to the international sailing community.

In 2021 Jimmy was awarded the Spanish Order of Naval Merit in recognition for his sailing achievements and 35 years of close cooperation with the Spanish Navy.

Photo: Ole Henrik Nissen-Lie of Seilmagasinet.

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Books by Jimmy Cornell

• English language editions

Modern Ocean Cruising, 1982, Adlard Coles Nautical (UK), International Marine (USA)

Ocean Cruising Survey, 1984, Adlard Coles Nautical (UK), International Marine (USA)

World Cruising Routes, 1987, 1989, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2008, 2014, 2018, 2022 Adlard Coles Nautical (UK), 2014, 2018, 2022 Cornell Sailing Publications (USA)

World Cruising Survey, 1989 Adlard Coles Nautical (UK)

World Cruising Handbook, 1990, 1996, 2001 Adlard Coles Nautical (UK), International Marine (USA)

World Cruising Essentials,  2002 (World Cruising Survey) International Marine (USA)

Canary Islands Cruising Guide, 1991, 1992, 1995, 1998 World Cruising Publications

Around the World Rally, 1992, Adlard Coles Nautical (UK), International Marine (USA)

Azores Cruising Guide, 1993, World Cruising Publications

Madeira Cruising Guide, 1994, World Cruising Publications

Circumnavigators Guide, 1994, World Cruising Publications

World Cruising Guide, 1995, World Cruising Publications

A Passion for the Sea, 2008, Adlard Coles Nautical (UK), Bloomsbury (USA)

World Cruising Destinations, 2010, with Doina Cornell, 2017, 2022 Adlard Coles Nautical (UK), Cornell Sailing Publications (USA)

Cornells’ Ocean Atlas, with Ivan Cornell, 2011, 2018, 2023, Cornell Sailing Publications

World Voyage Planner, with Ivan Cornell, 2012, 2018, 2023, Adlard Coles Nautical (UK), Cornell Sailing Publications (USA)

200,000 Miles, A Life of Adventure, 2017, Cornell Sailing Publications

Sail The World With Me, 2021, Cornell Sailing Publications

• Foreign language editions

Rotte di tutto il mundo (World Cruising Routes) – Italian editions 1989, 2012

World Cruising Survey – Japanese edition 1992

Segeln über Ozeane (World Cruising Survey) – German editions 1990, 2003

Aventura– Romanian edition, 1996

Segelrouten der Welt  (World Cruising Routes) – German editions 1988, 1994, 1998, 2005, 2015, 2022

Seglerlexikon  (World Cruising Handbook) – German editions 1990, 1995, 2000

Atlantische Inseln – German edition 1999

Routes de Grande Croisière (World Cruising Routes) – French editions 1999, 2000, 2005, 2015, 2020, 2023

Escales de Grande Croisière (World Cruising Handbook) – French editions 2001, 2005

Objectif Grande Croisière (World Cruising Survey) – French edition 2002

Une passion pour la mer (A Passion for the Sea) – French edition 2007

Sehnsucht nach der See (A Passion for the Sea) – German editions 2007, 2012

Passione per il mare  (A Passion for the Sea) – Italian edition 2007

Szenvedélyem a tenger (A Passion for the Sea) – Hungarian edition 2007

Rutas de navegacion del mundo (World Cruising Routes) – Spanish edition 2010

Traumreviere der Welt (World Cruising Destinations) – German edition 2011

Destinazione per Tutto il Mondo  (World Cruising Destinations) – Italian edition 2011

Atlas der Ozeane (Cornells Ocean Atlas)– German editions 2011, 2018, 2023

Atlas des océans (Cornells Ocean Atlas)– French editions 2011, 2018, 2023

Pilots charts per tutto il mondo (Cornells Ocean Atlas)– Italian edition 2011

Voyages de Grande Croisière (World Voyage Planner) – French editions 2012, 2019, 2024

Törnplanung Weltweit (World Voyage Planner) – German editions 2013, 2019, 2024

Destinations de Grande Croisière (World Cruising Destinations) – French edition 2014

Ma Vie En Bleue (Sail the World With Me) – French edition 2022

Mein Leben Unter Segel (Sail the World With Me) – German edition 2022

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