Round-the-World yacht race skipper Bob Beggs is on course for the start of the toughest sailing challenge left – a polar circumnavigation of the North American continent, and transit of the North West Passage from Atlantic to Pacific under sail power alone.
The circumnavigation route-1
Bob, skipper of the victorious Bristol Clipper in the 2001 Times Clipper round-the-world race, unveiled his plans at a media launch in Plymouth today (Wednesday March 19) together with the first hull of the 8.4m (29ft) catamaran in which he will set out from the Devon city in early June.
While several small craft have completed the dangerous passage through ice floes and fierce storms, they have all relied on engine power. Bob regards the light but immensely strong and well-tried catamaran design as ideal for the 20,000-mile voyage.
As well as sailing to victory in the Clipper race, he has won his class in both the Single-Handed and Two-Handed Trans Atlantic Yacht Races sailing similar Dazcats, designed by Darren Newton, of Millbrook in Cornwall.
The project is being supported by several major British marine companies and has been titled ‘Against The Floe’ as the transit through the North West Passage will be against the prevailing currents.
Bob, together with his two-man crew, will have a weather and ice window of less than 12 weeks to sail from Plymouth to Greenland and onwards to transit the North West Passage into the Beaufort Sea.
They will be following in the wake of several world-famous explorers who set out from Plymouth in search of a northern route to the orient including Sir Francis Drake, Capt Cook, Sir Martin Frobisher, and the ill-fated Admiral Sir John Franklin.
The existence of the North West Passage was not even confirmed until just over a century ago, when Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen completed an east-west transit after an epic three-year voyage.
‘Not only could this be a double world first, but - ironically - a last as well,’ says Bob. ‘We are racing against climate change to complete what up to now has been the impossible voyage under sail, and to really raise awareness of how the polar ice is melting so quickly.’
PPL PHOTO AGENCY - COPYRIGHT RESTRICTED Dateline 19/3/08 - Plymouth. British adventurer Bob Beggs at the launch of his 'Against the Floe' challenge to be first to sail through the Northwest Passage and circumnavigate North America. He and two crew will be sailing a 29ft (8.4m) catamaran designed by Darren Newton, which is currently under construction. Beggs plans to set sail from Plymouth in June and must complete the first stage of this 20,000 mile voyage through the North West Passage within