YBW catches up with Lisa Blair as she continues her journey to become the first woman to circumnavigate Antarctica: solo, non-stop and unassisted

27 March 2017

Having passed Cape Horn earlier this month, Lisa Blair is now flying across the Southern Ocean, facing guests of up to 50 knots.

YBW caught up with the Australian skipper, who completed her RYA Yacht Masters in the UK as part of her training for the 2011-12 Clipper Round the World Race.

She tells us about missing good conversation, banking sleep and what keeps her motivated.

You have been sailing solo now for 64 days, how are you coping with being on your own?

So far so good. I feel that because I am on the home stretch I am less patient with things as I am getting to the point where I simply want to get there. That said, over all I am still enjoying my time at sea and the lifestyle of eat, sleep, sail and I don’t feel lonely, but I know I will be looking forward to some good conversations when I get back. The boat is really bad at holding a conversation and I know all the punch lines to my own jokes.

Do you have any tricks for dealing with the lack of sleep?

I am a great believer of sleep banking. That is sleep when you are tired and rest at every available moment because you never really know when you are going to be needed for days at a time. Surprisingly just little snatches of sleep do help a lot so don’t discount that nap.

How do you motivate yourself when things get tough?

I remind myself that I’m in the final stages of three years of hard work and in reality this is the easier part of the whole thing. I also remind myself that there is only me out here and only I can fix or deal with what needs doing, so I should stop moping and do something. I basically give myself a little lecture in my head and carry on.

Lady skipper Lisa Blair during her world record attempt in Antarctica

“I am still enjoying my time at sea and the lifestyle of eat, sleep, sail and I don’t feel lonely..”

What are the greatest dangers you face? How do you tackle them mentally and physically?

You can only prepare so much with a trip like this and there are many perceived dangers like big storms and seas, the constant cold weather and icebergs. It is the attitude of ‘slow and steady that wins the race’ so when I am getting storm ready or nearing land I just need to implement my safety procedures and take my time doing things, and above all make sure that I don’t put my body in the firing line. I am the weakest link on this trip and I need to ensure that I don’t get hurt from rushing to deal with something.

What is the one thing you are missing most?

Good conversation!!!

How confident are you that you will set the record?

When I complete my journey I will have set the women’s record as I will be the first female to have ever achieved this and that is really motivating. I am currently about 60% through this voyage, and there is still another whole ocean to sail through so my finish is still a long way away, however if I can keep travelling the way that I have been then I am in with a really good shot at breaking the record.

Are you looking to set more records?

Put it this way I don’t plan on stopping after one, however they may not all be record attempts just interesting adventures and I haven’t yet chosen what’s next, but I will be sure to let everyone know when I know.

 

14 March 2017

Sydney-based sailor and adventurer Lisa Blair has successfully crossed Cape Horn in her attempt to be the first woman in history to circumnavigate Antarctica solo and unassisted.

The 32-year-old is also on track to being the fastest, and only the third person to ever accomplish this feat.

Day 49 was marked with Lisa’s first sighting of land – the snow capped mountains of Chile – since departing Albany, Western Australia on 22 January 2017.

Her 50th day, Monday, 13 March 2017, saw her successfully round the perilous Cape Horn at 2108 AEDT (1008 UTC) with an elapsed time of 50 days, 7 hours, 44 minutes, 00 seconds.

Lisa Blair passes Cape Horn in her attempt to circumnavigate the Antarctic

 

Cape Horn is considered to be the Mount Everest of sailing and is located on a perilous stretch of water which passes between the bottom tip of Chile, South America and Antarctica.

The region is plagued by shallow waters, unpredictable winds, large waves and icebergs.

After facing one storm front in the last fortnight, Lisa had been attempting to reach Cape Horn ahead of another with forecasted winds of 70 knots.

The Antarctic circumnavigation is expected to take Lisa three months and does not permit land stops, physical contact with another person, or assistance of any kind.

Lisa is racing on the Antarctica Cup Racetrack and is set to complete a time trial world record, set by Russian Fedor Konyukhov in 2008.

Konyukhov completed the Track in 102 days 00 hours 56 minutes and 50 secs and is the only person to have done so to date.

Currently Lisa is approximately 200 nautical miles as the crow flies from the half way point of 62 degrees west and on target to beat Kunyukov’s record.

She is targeting a return to Albany in late April.

9 February 2017

Despite the chilly conditions, Lisa Blair is upbeat; she has passed the South West Cape in New Zealand and is now sailing towards Cape Horn in Chile.

Writing on her blog on 8 February, 2017, she said: “The winds are now a steady 15 knots from the W and I am sailing on a course of 60 degrees towards to the Antipodes Island. The plan is to sail below this island but by traveling NE over the next day or so I should miss the worst of the swell coming off the forecasted Low heading my way.”

“I have now cleared both the Auckland Island and Campbell Island and I also managed another big milestone……..the of passing my second cape. The South West Cape which is off the bottom of New Zealand was passed at 11:10:51 my local time this morning. The next cape is some ways away. It is Cape Horn.”

Lisa is attempting to circumnavigate Antartica and break some records along the way.

She is aiming to become the first woman to circumnavigate Antartica solo, non-stop and unassisted in less than 100 days.

The 32-year-old left Albany in Western Australia on 22 January 2017 to compete in the Antartica Cup Ocean Race – the first woman to do so.

Rules mean that she can’t sail above the 45th parallels south or below the 60th parallels south.

Up to now, Lisa’s course has been around the 50th parallels south.

She is hoping to reach Cape Horn by the end of February/beginning of March before setting a course for Cape Agulhas off South Africa.

 

31 January 2017

Lisa Blair has left Western Australia in her attempt to become the first woman to circumnavigate Antartica solo, non-stop and unassisted in less than 100 days.

She is hoping to break the current record set by Russian yachtsman Fedor Konyukhov in May 2008.

Konyukhov took 102 days, 35 minutes and 50 seconds to solo circumnavigate, with his route falling entirely between the 45th and 60th parallels south.

Blair, who is the first woman to compete in the Antarctica Cup Ocean Race, is also hoping to become the first woman to circumnavigate below 45 degrees South.

First Golden Globe entrant heads to the start line

The 32-year-old sailor left King George Sound in Albany on 22 January 2017.

Her departure had been delayed because of an electrical problem.

Blair, who took part in the 2011-12 Clipper Round the World Race, will be attempting her world record in the purpose built Climate Action Now, named to raise awareness of the impact of climate change.

Originally based of the Open 50 racing design Climate Action Now, the yacht, which was originally called  Funnel-Web, was purpose built to race in the Double Handed Melbourne to Osaka Yacht Race.

“I will be taking on the gigantic swell of the Southern Ocean with all of its stormy anger while dodging icebergs and sailing in the frigid temperatures blowing off Antarctica,” noted Blair, who said winning the 2011-12 Clipper Race on board Gold Coast Australia showed her what “we are capable of if we work hard and put our minds to it”.

The 16,000-nautical-mile Antarctica Cup Ocean Race passes by the world’s three most notorious capes — Cape Leeuwin in Australia, Cape Horn off the coast of Chile and Cape Agulhas off South Africa.

Writing on her blog following her departure, Blair said: “Well I still can’t believe I am here sailing south…This is three years in the making with so many hurdles and set backs to overcome.”

“There was also so much to get done in Albany that I never really got the chance to just sit and assimilate the challenge before me.  I was a constant blur of energy going from one task to the next and now that I am at sea I still don’t feel like I have left,” she continued.

“To be honest I feel like I am just setting off for a week at sea not three months. I am sure in a few days once the initial excitement passes I will come to terms with the scale of the challenge before me,” she said.

Blair began sailing professionally in 2006 after completing a Bachelor of Education and a Bachelor of Visual Arts at university.

She has since clocked up more than 50,000 nautical miles of ocean sailing.

Following her Clipper win, she sailed with Vendée Globe skipper Alex Thomson.

In 2014, she was the only woman to take part in the ITL Solo Tasman Challenge, which sees sailors race across the Tasman sea from New Plymouth in New Zealand to Mooloolaba, Australia.

She has also competed in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

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