Single-handed circumnavigation via Svalbard and the Southern Ocean | Polarjournal
Yesterday, August 15, Norbert Sedlacek Koch left France for his world record attempt. His circumnavigation will take him via Spitsbergen and Antarctica across all five oceans. Photo: ANT ARCTIC LAB

Quite a few sailors have already demonstrated their skills, their feel for the forces of nature and their courage in single-handed non-stop circumnavigations. Austrian extreme sailor Norbert Sedlacek Koch has also been one of the round-the-world single-handed sailors since 1996. Yesterday, August 15, he set sail again, one of his aims being to set a new world record. With the project ANT ARCTIC LAB he plans to be the first who sails not only the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans, but also the polar regions single-handed, non-stop and without assistance.

Starting in Les Sables d’Olonne in France, the starting point of the Vendée Globe, Sedlacek will cover 32,000 nautical miles over about six months. His route will take him through the most dangerous waters on earth, through ice and storms and probably monstrous waves. First, he will head north into the Arctic Ocean, where he will circumnavigate the Svalbard archipelago, then sail south through the infamous Denmark Strait between Greenland and Iceland. Passing the Cape of Good Hope, the voyage will continue through the Indian Ocean towards Australia and around Antarctica, through the no less infamous Drake Passage back across the Atlantic to the starting point in France.

Norbert Sedlacek stowed food with a total energy content of 1.2 million kilocalories in the yacht on Friday. Photo: ANT ARCTIC LAB

With his project, Sedlacek wants to draw attention to climate change. That’s why he put great emphasis on sustainability when developing his yacht Open60AAL, to show that it is possible to build top yachts entirely from environmentally friendly and recyclable materials without sacrificing safety and functionality.
The Innovation Yachts shipyard, headquartered in Altlengbach, Austria, specializes in the construction of sustainable yachts and developed a completely new yacht building concept. For example, they used volcanic fiber and balsa wood for the hull and deck of the Open60AAL, which, when combined in a sandwich construction, are designed to withstand collisions with drift ice. According to the company, all materials used in the yacht are environmentally friendly, biologically safe and recyclable. The energy required on board is generated by hydrogenerators and solar cells. Sedlacek’s circumnavigation, which will include both polar routes, will be the ultimate stress test for the sustainable yacht.

Shown here during a test off the French coast, the Open60AAL yacht is expected to withstand collisions with drift ice without damage thanks to its extremely stable volcanic fiber-balsa wood construction. Photo: ANT ARCTIC LAB

Norbert Sedlacek was born in 1962 and began his sailing career in 1996 with his first single-handed circumnavigation, which he successfully completed in 1998 in the Italian port of departure, Grado. He was the first Austrian to circumnavigate Antarctica non-stop in 93 days between November 2000 and February 2001. He participated in the Vendée Globe twice, in 2004/2005 and 2008/2009, successfully finishing the latter in eleventh place.

The start of the first record attempt in 2018 from Les Sables d’Olonne in France.

Sedlacek had to abort the first starts of his record attempt with the ANT ARCTIC LAB project in 2018 and 2019 both times shortly after the start, due to technical problems and weather damage to the boat, respectively. The launch then planned for 2020 had to be postponed again due to the pandemic.

Julia Hager, PolarJournal

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