The vast unknown of the far north has fascinated adventurers for decades, but the bare bones facilities on board explorer ships kept away the best of us. Now, things are changing – and fast. As reports of melting ice in the Arctic makes headlines, there is another kind of revolution underway – of the adventure yachter. As the community gears up for the first-ever Arctic Race, here is a closer look at how all this is suddenly possible.
Arctic ice continues to melt
As the Arctic sheds its layer of ice faster than ever, the National Snow and Ice Data Center reported the lowest ever maximum extent of ice recorded this year. Essentially, the ice hadn’t covered as little ground, or more accurately, sea, as it did this year ever before, with the ice cover hitting a new low in the summer minimum.
Yachters have found the silver lining
Climate change and melting polar ice caps are usually accompanied by sordid tales of the devastation this might cause. But some find opportunities where others see none. The shipping industry stands to cut miles on shipping routes, enabling more products to be moved faster and is decidedly optimistic. The lower ice cover has also caught the fancy of adventurers around the world. And here’s why.
The proverbial silver lining is the possibility, for the first time ever, to have a proper honest-to-goodness Arctic Race. The organizers of what is being called the ‘Sailing the Arctic Race’, propose to hold an extreme yachting race in 2017 that skirts Canadian, US and Greenland coasts in a route that has been impossible so far.
The Arctic Race, planned for the summer-fall period in 2017 will involve sailing crews working against the odds, to navigate the 7700 odd miles from New York to Greenland and the Canadian Arctic and then Victoria in British Columbia. The race organizers hope to retrace the Northwest Passage in this one-of-a-kind race that will pit the best extreme yachters against each other in a battle to the finish line. The teams will compete to be the first to cross the iconic Passage while also breaking records for the quickest transit.
The race is to coincide with Canada’s 150th-year celebrations, as yachters trace a route that grazes all three Canadian coasts as well as the USA and Greenland. During the course of the event, participants, as well as fans, will have the chance to experience the splendor of the Inuit territories, the Pacific Northwest, and, of course, Canada’s Maritimes.
State-of-the-art racing yachts made to order for the Arctic Race
Crews will traverse the route in special Star46 Arctic racing yachts. And when you are up against the elements, nothing but the best will do. According to reports from the official Sailing the Arctic Race team, it is Yacht Constructions Consulting (YCC)’s Marion Koch and others at YCC, under the stewardship of GM Norbert Sedlacek who are behind the cutting edge design of these yachts. In a first, the racing yachts are to be built from a special volcanic fiber.
Luxury and adventure make great bedfellows
These beauties are to be constructed at Philbrook’s Boatyard, a 50-year-old, high-end custom boat construction facility in Victoria BC, Canada. Efforts are currently underway to put in place the special infrastructure needed to support the building of the grand racing yachts. The boatyard is considered by some, to be the best of its kind in the entire Pacific Northwest. A team of experienced craftsmen at the premier facility will soon get to work on the Star46 Arctic Racers. And if rumors from yachting circles are to be believed, this is the kind of workmanship everyone will be waiting to see.
A never-before 7 city hop on the route to the Arctic
The racing crews will tackle six legs in the Arctic Race, with stops at some of the most amazing cities in the world. The halts at these host cities will also present an opportunity for yacht aficionados and racing fans to get up-close with the Star46s, without taking on the challenging sail themselves.
The race is scheduled to kick off in New York, in July 2017, ending in Victoria, Canada in October 2017. The first stop on the route is in Halifax, Canada, with the first leg covering 550 nautical miles. A 1500 nautical miles run will bring them to exotic Nuuk, the capital city of Greenland, with its colorful storybook houses, sweeping landscapes, and rich cultural heritage. Next on the racing route is Cambridge Bay, Canada, 1600 nautical miles from Nuuk. Cambridge Bay is the location of the high Arctic research station in the Canadian Arctic and right in the Northwest Passage. A shorter but no less challenging sailing of 650 nm takes racers to the small hamlet of Tuktoyaktuk, the Arctic Ocean lapping at its shores. In the penultimate leg of the race, yachts will go 1675 nautical miles to get to Dutch Harbor in Alaska, USA before heading to the finish line 1750 nautical miles away in Victoria, Canada.
Racing with a conscience
The teams at Arctic Race, as well as the designers of the Star series, are looking to find ways to keep the impact on the fragile ecology of places on the route, down to a minimum. The race will give crews the chance to see beautiful, pristine parts of the world few others have seen before while participating in a landmark event. And the world is watching.