Trimaran circles the Arctic in a single season

Northern Passage - the route
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Northern Passage on its way
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A trimaran sailing boat has circled the North Pole in a single summer season, a feat made possible by global warming and the melting of the Arctic ice cap, the boat's international crew said this week.

Skipper Boerge Ousland chose to use a relatively modest yacht, a Corsair 31 trimaran. The lightness and the manoeuvrability of this multihull craft enabled the sailors to thread their way between the icebergs, to sail where other heavier and more keeled yachts (Corsair 31 has a draught of only 40 cm) couldn't go, and to draw the boat on to ground when the need arose.

The trimaran was delivered to Ousland in August 2009. Since then, the Norwegian explorer made endless tests in the Arctic water close or not so close to his home in preparation for the voyage.

A triumphant crew - AFP
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The 'Northern Passage' left the western Norwegian port of Bergen at the end of June and was expected to arrive back there Thursday after first sailing the northern passage off Russia and then the northwestern passage off Canada.

Just a few years ago, the trip would have been impossible to complete so quickly due to the polar ice. Following in the wake of the Russian ship 'Peter I,' which sailed a similar route at almost the same time, the Norwegian trimaran is the second vessel to ever complete the mythical voyage in the space of a single Arctic summer.

'Less than 10 years ago the first steel-hulled sailboat managed to get through just one of the passages, and 100 years ago, a circumnavigation would have taken six years,' the 'Northern Passage' crew said in a statement.

'This is a clear indication that climate change affects the Arctic,' it added.

The crew comprises two permanent Norwegian members, explorer Boerge Ousland and navigator Thorleif Thorleifsson, and a rotation of one other Norwegian, two Frenchmen, one Russian and one from Dubai.