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French Yacht Completes First Polar Circumnavigation

By James Greenwald last modified Oct 01, 2003 02:13 PM

Published: 2003-10-01 14:13:36
Countries: USA , Canada , France , Greenland

Nuuk, Greenland, 23rd September 2003,

While crossing the Davis Strait on 20th of September, the yacht Vagabond reached the Labrador Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Her crew is proud and happy today of her success through the North-West Passage, following her success through the North-East Passage, the 2 arctic routes that link the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. Sailing these 2 famous passages one after the other, each one without wintering and without any ice-breaker assistance, is a first in the sailing history. Our emotions were worthy of the adventure !

Heavy ice conditions this year in the Arctic. Polar Bound and Dagmar Aaen seem to be trapped for the whole winter in the dangerous Franklin Strait, where we waited for 8 days before being able to force our way further, we were then only 50 nautical miles ahead of them. The Canadian ice-breaker Pierre Radisson could not help them last week, the ice pressure was already too strong. In Russia, the Chelyuskin Cape remained surrounded with a lot of ice over the summer, the sail boat Campina will spend the winter in Tiksi and will try to complete the North-East Passage next year.

Tonight, the crew was very warmly welcomed by Olga and Yvon. We met Olga last year in Anadyr, she is Chukchi. Her husband Yvon, from Switzerland, is teaching Inuit culture to Greenlanders. Our meeting was fascinating and symbolic after our trip around the Arctic, and we enjoyed some reindeer and muskox meat with delicious French wine.

We hope to reach Saint-Quay-Portrieux, our home port, before 15th October.

Noonsite also received an earlier report concerning the successful completion of the NW Passage:

Pond Inlet, Nunavut, 14th September 2003,

Despite very pessimistics forecast from the Inuit and from the Coast Guards, Vagabond went accross the ice of the North-West Passage and reached today Pond Inlet, North of Baffin Island. We have been sharing the adventure for 2 weeks with the incredible English trio of Norwegian Blue, and it was great to celebrate together our success last night, riding at anchor in front of a glacier of Bylot Island. About the others sailboats, 3 abandonned this year because too much ice, and Dagmar Aaen is still trying, trapped in the heavy pack ice of Franklin Strait. Polar Bound is there also, the 2 captains are waiting for better winds, they know pretty well the North-West Passage as they both sailed accross few years ago, from East to West.

On 9th of September, after 8 days waiting for ice to open up, a strong gale (50 knots) moved the floes away from the coast for few hours, allowing us to reach Bellot Strait, the Northest point of America. A polar bear and her cub were surprised to see us there, while quickly dodging in and out the ice and pushed by a strong and dangerous current. We finally reached Fort Ross on 10th of September, exactly one year after the sailboats Nuage and Apostol Andrey. Then the wind changed and helped us sailing to Lancaster Sound, while the ice charts were showing that the ice was closing up again behind us...

Still a long way to go, the crew is getting ready to sail to Greenland, and then to cross the Atlantic Ocean to Brittany, determined to overcome not anymore the ice but the autumnal storms!

Eric Brossier

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