Epic sailing, fending off polar bears, pods of whales, colonies of walrus, arctic scuba diving, paragliding off Norwegian cliffs and more. The crew of the international expedition team ‘Barba’ recently completed a successful circumnavigation around the Arctic Island of Svalbard, north of Norway, on a sailing adventure to explore the great North equipped and sponsored by Ullman Sails. Their journey took them 3,400 miles up the Norwegian coast into some of the highest latitudes accessible by boats. Andreas, the captain of ‘Barba’, discusses sailing into a world hardly touched by man.
Q: Tell us about your latest expedition to the Arctic Svalbard Archipelago.
A: We have just returned to mainland Norway following a 10-week sailing expedition to and around Svalbard. Svalbard, a group of islands that stretch from 76 to 80 degrees latitude north, has all the ingredients for a classic Arctic adventure: glaciers, sea ice, unpredictable weather, strong ocean currents and a fauna that includes whales, walrus and, most importantly, polar bears. The crew of ‘Barba’ is made up of five people from four nations including Norway, USA, Russia and Germany. Our interactions, the camaraderie that arose from being isolated for weeks at sea, and the mutual trust required for staying afloat only added to the adventure.
Our goal was to sail as far as the sea ice would permit. We pushed north until we reached the pack ice of the North Pole itself. At the 81st parallel north, above the Svalbard archipelago, we were surrounded by ice floes and unable to go any further. We did all this aboard a Jeanneau Sun Fast 37, a fiberglass boat designed for sailing in the Mediterranean. It was not ideal for the task, but the best boat is always the boat you have. The relatively fragile vessel pushed the crew to the limits, but through careful navigation, thorough research and a good understanding of the weather we managed to carry out the expedition in a way we deemed safe. Highlights of the expedition included diving (yes, scuba diving) at 81 degrees north, beautiful sailing, polar bear encounters, anchoring next to a walrus colony, and an Arctic char fishing bonanza.
Q: While sailing to and around Svalbard the crew saw an immense amount of wildlife. What did you do about the dangers of the polar bears and what were the precautions you took to ensure you were safe? What were your encounters like?
A: Polar bears are a real threat in Svalbard with human casualties every couple of years. There is good information online that you will find when you apply for the Svalbard sailing permit. Understanding bear behavior, staying constantly on alert and having the right tools should you find yourself in harm’s way is crucial. The first thing to do if you see a bear is to walk away, if possible. Should it display threatening behavior, you can scare it off with loud metallic noises, flash bangs or flare guns. Some of our crew had experience hunting since an early age and were familiar with how to use the rifles that we carried with us. However, having to shoot a polar bear is a sign of poor assessment ability and a defeat for anyone venturing up north.
The times we saw the bears, six times in total, occurred when we were not looking for them. They would appear out of nowhere, they are truly masters at stalking prey. The most interesting interaction was with a bear that swam up to the boat early one morning as we were pulling up the anchor. We scared him off shouting in four different languages, making loud noises and finally splashing in the water with our wooden stick intended for pushing ice. We had the stronger tools lined up, but fortunately never had to use them. The bear spent about 15 minutes trying to get to the boat and there is no doubt he would have climbed onboard had we not scared him off.
Q: What brought you to high latitude expedition sailing? What keeps you coming back?
A: I got into sailing rather late in life, back in 2009 when I was 29. It all started with buying a 37-foot Jeanneau charter vessel in England. With the Norwegian archipelago and changing seasons as a perfect training ground I spent all my available time out there, winter as well as summer. The following year we sailed her to Greenland and from then on there was no looking back. The sailboat was the ideal platform for combining a range of activities such as diving, paragliding, skiing, climbing and interacting with nature.
First and foremost, sailing is a hugely complex sport that will continue to challenge and fascinate me until the end of my days. In addition to the technical aspects of sailing you have to master a wide range of skills such as marine engines, communications, electronics, weather, currents, anchoring and gear repair. I grew up just next to the ocean in Norway, free diving since the age of seven; I got my first boat at the age of nine. Later, I went on to work in the Norwegian Navy for two years as a diver and parachutist, followed by an education as a marine biologist. My maritime background and experience all ties in with the huge range of knowledge required for venturing into the high latitudes. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I appreciate the human interactions and relationships required for doing what we do on ‘Barba’. I spend a lot of time talking to fishermen, scientists and captains on ice-going vessels to better understand the environment into which we venture.
Q: Where is the next sailing adventure? What is the next challenge for ‘Barba’ to undertake?
A: We are still sailing home from Svalbard right now, going along the spectacular Norwegian coast. As for our next trip, subject to finance and finding the right crew for the task, the plan is to sail back up the Norwegian coast in January. The goal would be to spend 4 to 6 weeks in Vesterålen, close to Lofoten in Northern Norway, diving and interacting with the orcas that number into the thousands here during this time of the year when they prey on the overwintering herring. Sailing ‘Barba’ will be the ideal way to following their migration. Norway is one of the only places in the world where you can legally snorkel with wild orcas – the closest I have been to an orca underwater is about 3 meters.
I am currently looking for a sailor with an appetite for sailing in snow blizzards and rough seas, as well as an underwater photographer and multi-purpose adventurer to join me for that expedition. We would then sail back south along the Norwegian coast in February and March with the goal of skiing and paragliding from some of the 1000m mountains that rise straight up from the ocean. For next summer I am working on sailing to the Russian Arctic, another expedition that will stretch the capacity of ‘Barba’ and push her crew to their limits.
Competent crew for the expeditions is always a scarce resource, and I would be interested in hearing from readers of Sailing Anarchy, who are encouraged to contact us via our webpage www.Barba.no
To learn more about the ‘Barba’ crew and their recent expedition check out their website at www.barba.no. Photos by Daniel Hug. If you have a question for the ‘Barba’ crew or any of the other experts over at Ullman Sails about anything sails from design and construction to boat handling and tactics, send them to the Ed and I will choose the best to forward on!
September 22nd, 2015
If the first two days of the China Club Challenge Match Qualifiers had been frustrating then the final day took things to a new level with an overcast sky making the arrival of the sea breeze less likely.
After waiting for the wind to settle, well what there was of it the PRO set things in motion only to have to give 3 toots at the first attempt. Second time around the fleet were a little better behaved and off they went with the wind seekers in the fleet at a distinct advantage.
The breeze steadily clocked left to the extent that the ideal world would have produced a course change but with the wide spread of experience in the fleet the back markers were still on leg one as the leaders rounded the bottom mark. In fact the breeze went round to such an extent there were boats on opposing legs with gennikers up. The fickle breeze then started to die leaving most of the fleet drifting on the tide with only the first 7 boats of the 30 boat fleet recording a finish. These 7 were however, the usual suspects.
Then the big man upstairs decided to switch off the wind entirely leaving the fleet drifting back and forth hopefully. The organiser’s RIB buzzed back and forward with the lunch boxes but that was the highlight in the middle of the day.
As the 1500 deadline for the last warning signal approached a few dark patches started to appear and coalesce so marks were dropped in the water again and a sequence entered. A combination of a windward going flood tide, light breeze and over eager fleet produced a general recall followed by yet another and with just 15 minutes to go to the cut off the 4 minute signal heralded the first black flag of the regatta to audible groans from the fleet. It didn’t stop all the pushers with 7 boats having their race ended by the umpire as they approached the top mark.
The rather got out of jail however as the wind had only been playing with the event and started to shut down and a move, firstly to an ‘S’ flag by the race committee and with only 2 boats likely to finish, leaving 28 DNF’s, reluctantly there was no option but to give 3 sound signals and raise the abandonment flag.
Better to have tried and seen the wind die than not to have tried at all.
The regatta concluded with the podium being filled by 1: Old Boys Dream Team, 2: Sea Blue and 3: Hero Racing Team
So, 185 competitors, 30 boats, 8 nations and 8 races run in what were challenging conditions for competitors and organisers alike, the 11th China Club Challenge Match once again grew a little in quality and reach.
The top 16 teams return to Xiamen in 6 weeks for the second half of the event, the Match Racing. Slightly different skills, slightly different rules, on past record significantly more combative and with the initial seeding determined by their final positions. The umpire team of Rountree (NZL), Boberg (NZL), Skinner (GBR) and Sakai (GBR) return to police the teams who already know that they won’t get away with anything untoward as long as they remember that ‘no flag, no foul’ and with only 2 boats at a time to observe there will be even less chance of escaping their gaze.
All back to Xiamen in November. – SS.
September 22nd, 2015
In Svendborg, Denmark 300 singlehanded sailors from 9 countries to the Silverrudder Challenge, witch first started in 2012. After sailing for 30 minutes, the 44-year old Dane, Jakob Madsen, sailing in about 24 true, capsized dramatically and was in the water, but climbed back at the boat where he was rescued 20 minutes later. The boat is probably totally damaged, and the carbon mast is broken. See the article and pictures.
First boat in the Silverruder Challenge, around Fyn, 134 miles, was the new Black Marlin, 31 feet carbon trimaran. See it here sailing in the race here. Black Marlin sailed the race in 15 hours and 48 minutes. And a Dragonfly 28 was second boat, awith an A-Cat was third. – Anarchist Troels.
September 22nd, 2015
The only thing more consistent than Oracle Team USA and Russell Coutt’s complete incompetence in the marketing and administration of the America’s Cup has been the stellar work of longtime OTUSA photographer Gilles Martin-Raget. The soft-spoken French photographer has apparently gotten the boot, according to an e-mail circulating on the web that says Raget has basically had all his passwords changed and gotten the axe without even the most basic explanation.
Thinking of working for the America’s Cup? Understand that no job is safe when there are idiot CEOs flailing around trying to divert blame for their very public failures. Loyalty is for the weak…
September 22nd, 2015
The always-positive Andrea Mura has been tooling around Europe for the past few years in various singlehanded boats called Vento Di Sardegna (Sardinian Wind), and we were extremely enthused to see some Italian blood finally returning to the Class that called Gio Soldini one of its founding members. Unfortunately, the lack of Frenchness continues to be a huge handicap, and Mura seems to have bitten off way more than he could chew with his 2016 attempt at the Vendee Globe in a latest-gen IMOCA boat.
His Italian sponsors paid for a gorgeous, brand new VPLP-Verdier Open 60, but according to Velablog, he’s broke, can’t get to the starting line for the TJV, and the boat is up for sale. Bad news for anyone who wants to see IMOCA as more than a Francais-only men’s club, but great news for anyone looking to get a last-minute entry with a latest-generation foiling 60 to next year’s Vendee starting line. MichDej, perhaps, just in time to defend his record against either of his two protegées?
Latest goss in the thread.
September 22nd, 2015
Ryan and Reynaud were pretty proud of the cross-channel record they nabbed back in April at the beginning of the Lending Club 2 record-breaking run, but the omnipresent Lloyd Thornburg just smacked the shit out of the big trimaran’s Cowes-Dinard record with his little green 70 Phaedo 3. It’s American vs. American for outright speed records in big trimarans…there’s a sentence we never thought we’d write!
Average speed for the run: 28.7 knots. Top speed: 40.9 knots, and we’re left forlorn that the creators of the MOD70 class fucked the business end of it up so badly; the MOD might just be the best all-around ocean racer ever designed, and there should be dozens of these things racing all over the world. Keep an eye on Phaedo’s Facebook page for interviews and bits of the ride. Rachel Jesperson/Team Phaedo photo with some more gorgeous ones over here.
September 22nd, 2015
With gasoline at around $2.00/gallon in much of the USA, commercial wind power is rapidly receding into the world of science fiction, but we’re not ready to give up just yet, so we dusted off our favorite VLCC rendering from just a couple of years ago when fuel was twice the price. It’ll happen again, and when it does, we hope this rigid-winged Panamax-size concept comes alive. It comes from Sauter Carbon Offset Design, and between the wings, solar power, and a narrower, shallow-draft hull, designers calculate the Deliverance to use less than half the fuel and earn billions more over her life than a non-hybrid ship of the same size.
More over here.
September 22nd, 2015
Brian Hancock gives some historical perspective on the Mini Transat.
This past Saturday the Mini Transat started from the tiny town of Douarnenez located in Brittany in the northwest region of France. There are 72, yes 72 boats competing, an enormous fleet of futuristic boats all headed for Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe with a stop along the way in Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. It’s 1,250 nautical miles from France to the Canary Islands, and 2,770 miles from the Canaries to the Caribbean for a total course distance of just over 4,000 miles. The Mini Transat is raced in highly strung, over canvassed boats that, by race rules, cannot be longer than 6.5 meters, or in American terms, just over 21 feet.
Now you would be correct in assuming that most of the competitors are from France because hurtling down huge waves in tea-cup sized boats with all sails up is a uniquely French thing to do, but in this edition they have 15 different nationalities competing. It’s truly an international event but sadly there is not a single American entry and I am sure that the race will receive minimal, if any coverage in the US whereas the start will be broadcast live on French television. Such is the difference in attitude toward sailing in Europe when compared to the US.
I have sailed a mini, I have sailed in Europe and I have sailed in the US so I have some perspective on this and I can see why there is little appeal to the average American sailor. When we go racing over here in the States we like to go out in well tricked out boats, we like to race hard, and then we like to return to the dock for beer and a variety of rum drinks. The idea of climbing aboard a boat barely bigger than the SUV parked in our driveway, loading it with freeze dried food, setting off to sail across the Bay of Biscay just as the early autumn storms are starting to gather, and knowing that for the next few weeks you will be soaking wet and mostly terrified holds little appeal when you stack it up against a nice prime rib and bottle of red at the yacht club to end your days racing.
The Mini Transat was started by an eccentric British sailor by the name of Bob Salmon. I met him in ’85 when I was racing the Whitbread on Drum and he was the skipper of a maxi boat by the name of Norsk Data. He was passionate about the idea of an affordable race and lamented the escalating cost to compete in an event such as the Whitbread. I never did get to ask him how he felt about the cost of an entry in the Volvo Ocean Race but I am sure it gave him plenty of heartburn.
The original intent of the Mini Transat was to have an event that many could afford to participate in. The boats were small and with just a single crew it was uncomplicated. The first race was in 1977 and started from the south coast of England sailing to the Canaries then on to Antigua. The fleet was all cruising boats less than 21 feet in length and to make a point Bob Salmon himself competed. In fact he competed in the following race and managed the event for another two races before handing things over to the French journalist Jean-Luc Garnier. Once in French hands the event exploded and has now grown to become one of the preeminent events on the French sporting calendar. It has given a start to many French sailors who are now household names in Europe among them Yves Parlier, Yvan Bourgnon, Thierry Dubois and two time Vendee Globe winner Michel Desjoyeaux. It was also where Ellen MacArthur got her start as well as Mark Turner who is head of OC Sport, the company that manages the Extreme Sailing Series and created and managed Dongfeng Race Team in the last Volvo Ocean Race.
There have been many mishaps in the nearly four decades since the race was founded including one fatality when Pascal Leys went missing in the Bay of Biscay, but despite various setbacks the race has flourished. In 1999, for the first time in the history of the race there was a waiting list to get an entry. For this years race I scanned the entry list but did not see a single name that I recognized but I am sure of one thing; down the road not too far some of those names will be household names, not here in the US but certainly in France if not the whole of Europe.
September 21st, 2015
The White Pearl: Because being a billionaire means never having to admit just how awful your taste is. For more pics and info on the latest godawful design travesty commissioned by yet another tasteless Russian oligarch with an overcompensation problem, hit the thread.
Pic scraped from NDR and the ‘other’ EPA.
September 21st, 2015
After a Sailing Anarchy community-sourced ride on a VO65 last summer in Newport, New England Minista and lawyer Josh Reisburg is starting to ask himself some hard questions about his future. His musings on the idea of going pro - and his blog – are must-read stuff for anyone who occasionally asks themselves “Why not go pro?” Here’s the intro, and the title of this piece hides a powerful movie recommendation for citizens of the world.
Back in July, with “real life” obligations heavily competing for my attention, I felt a strong urge to crush miles aboard my 21-foot Mini Transat, Abilyn, because that’s just what you do when you own a Mini Transat. But I was also motivated by something that pro sailor and co-founder of 13Fifty Racing, Jesse Fielding, said to me in Newport during the VOR stopover. He called me a name, and, in an anti-Marty McFly kind of way, I sought out to prove him right. In total, I sailed nearly 600 miles over these three weekends between my “real life” obligations to see if I had what it takes to be called a weekend warrior.
September 21st, 2015