Please select your home edition
Edition
T Clewring - Generic

The tragic loss of the Berserk - an analysis

by Nancy Knudsen on 2 Mar 2011
Skip Novak, experienced Antarctic sailor, speaks about the loss of the Berserk and three of the five crew .. .
Skip Novak, renowned round world racing sailor and with 24 years of experience sailing in Antarctica, has questioned the wisdom of the yacht Berserk entering the Ross Sea. (See http://www.sail-world.com/CruisingAus/Yacht-Berserk-lost-in-Antarctica---safety-measures-questioned/80815!Sail-World_story) He says he advised skipper Jarle Andhoy strongly against sailing there, saying, 'It was not safe for small yachts at any time of year.'

...and Novak should know. He has done four Whitbread Round the World Yacht Races since 1977, and he took home a second place in his first race at the age of 25. As skipper of Simon Le Bon’s Drum he secured a third.

Later on he wanted to combine his sailing and mountaineering interest and built the expedition yacht Pelagic in 1987. Since then he has spent every season in Antarctic waters.

Andhoy, himself safe as he was on the mainland of Antarctica when the yacht foundered last month, contacted him last year for advice about his proposed voyage to the Antarctic.

Novak has told www.Explorersweb.com!Explorers_Web that he asked for his opinion about 'landing on the continent to make a bid for the pole', but had not mentioned the use of quad bikes. Andhoy is a well-known Norwegian television presenter, filming his adventures for a keen viewing public in Norway.

Novak went on, 'I get many of these ‘dreamers,’ who are largely ill informed of the basics of the geography and climate. I usually put them in the picture and that’s the last I hear from them. I remember all this because of the name of the boat – Berserk! In this case, I pointed out it would be almost impossible to get a small vessel safely near the coast or the ice shelf to deploy a polar party.

'The only place you can guarantee a landing is on the Antarctic Peninsula (South American sector), which is ice free to some extent in summer, and with plenty of shelter for small craft. But the problem is it is not a good place to start for the pole in other respects, not to mention that you can’t make a landing in the southern part of the peninsula (Marguerite Bay) where you can access the plateau until late January or February – too late in the season for a polar bid. Well, I never heard from the guy again.'

Novak went on to explain to Explorers Web how dangerous the Antarctic can be when the wind is up. To put his view in context, the winds during the loss of the Berserk were estimated to be as high as 80 knots.

'On Pelagic we sail habitually in 40 knots and above, but when it gets to 50 things become very dicey very quickly as the sea condition becomes dangerous. We make it a point with good weather forecasting not to get ‘caught out’ in the Southern Ocean if this is at all likely. If the temperature is sub zero, a blow above 25 to 30 knots will create wind driven sea spray that will quickly accumulate on the rigging and deck of a small yacht, which compounds the problem. Coupled with breaking waves and you run a real risk of capsize.

'This scenario within the pack ice – well . . . . My theory is either they capsized for the reasons stated above, or they were nipped by ice in the storm and the hull was breached. If the boat did not have watertight bulkheads she would sink within minutes – time enough to deploy an EPIRB, and maybe a raft, but no time for little else.'

As it is known that the yacht was already heavily overloaded, the evidence would lead the thoughtful sailor to conclude that the three sailors left on board the Berserk never stood a chance in the conditions that prevailed.

upffront 660x82NaiadAncasta Ker 33 660x82

Related Articles

Olympic Gold medalist and Volvo Ocean Race winner up for WS Board
Torben Grael (BRA) is amongst the 15 nominations for one of seven places on the Board of Directors of World Sailing Torben Grael (BRA) is amongst the 15 nominations for one of seven places on the Board of Directors of World Sailing in November. The five times Olympic medalist, Volvo Ocean Race winner and several times America's Cup competitor will bring a much needed sailing edge to the Board of World Sailing if he can navigate the politics of the controlling body of the sport.
Posted on 25 Sep
D-Marin Farr 40 Zadar Regatta – Overall report
Enfant Terrible and Plenty have been doing battle on the Farr 40 International Circuit for several years now. Enfant Terrible and Plenty have been doing battle on the Farr 40 International Circuit for several years now. Those two top-notch programs have resumed their rivalry this week in the waters off this historic city along the Dalmatian coast.
Posted on 23 Sep
Impressive tow-in freestyle show on the water in Cold Hawaii
The second day of the netIP Cold Hawaii PWA World Cup proved to be yet another lay day for the main competitio The second day of the netIP Cold Hawaii PWA World Cup proved to be yet another lay day for the main competition as expected with light winds and small waves.
Posted on 21 Sep
Brookes and Gatehouse Videos with Knut Frostad
Navico, the parent company for Brookes and Gatehouse (B&G), Simrad and Lowrance have prepared some terrific videos Navico, the parent company for Brookes and Gatehouse (B&G), Simrad and Lowrance have prepared some terrific videos with Knut Frostad, the legendary Volvo Ocean Race sailor and former CEO. See him talk about sailing in general, the B&G product choices and placement he made for his own boat, and then why he loves his Outremer 5X.
Posted on 8 Sep
Soft Padeyes – light, strong and versatile
Several types of soft padeyes are now available and are proving increasingly popular over traditional stainless steel pa Several types of soft padeyes are now available on the market and are proving increasingly popular over traditional stainless steel padeyes. They all capitalise on the incredible strength to weight ratio and abrasion resistance of Dyneema® which offers a reliable, robust, flexible and safe termination.
Posted on 6 Sep
The hurricanes headed for Hawaii and Florida
The National Weather Service has upgraded a tropical storm headed for Florida to hurricane status. The National Weather Service has upgraded a tropical storm headed for Florida to hurricane status. The first of two hurricanes headed toward Hawaii lost strength and was downgraded to a tropical storm. Meanwhile, in Florida, a tropical storm gained in strength and is now designated as a hurricane.
Posted on 4 Sep
Zhik sailors win 17 sailing medals at 2016 Olympic Regatta
The 2016 Olympic games are over and what a Games they have been - Zhik sailors dominated Zhik sailors won almost 60% of the medals contested at Rio de Janeiro. It was a regatta which tested sailors and gear - with one day being the most severe conditions ever experienced at an Olympic regatta. For the Zhik team riders on the waters of Rio, four years and more of hard work and dedication have paid off for many.
Posted on 29 Aug
Kids Polarised Sunglasses from Barz Optics
Barz Optics have developed a quality range of junior polarised sunglasses ideal for sailing and fishing. Barz Optics have developed a quality range of junior polarised sunglasses ideal for sailing and fishing. Each pair are supplied with a neoprene case and sunglass retainer.
Posted on 4 Aug
Reducing weight aloft with composite backstays
Reducing weight aloft is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing your boat speed and performance. Reducing weight aloft is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing your boat speed and performance. Every kilogram you take out of the rig is roughly equivalent to 4kg added to the bottom of your keel!
Posted on 26 Jul
Free $US3,000 Carbon Vang with SouthernFurl boom orders in July
Southern Spars is giving a free carbon vang - valued at US$3,000 - with SouthernFurl in-boom furlers ordered in July Southern Spars is giving away a free carbon vang - valued at US$3,000 - with all of their SouthernFurl in-boom furlers ordered in July. Carbon gas vangs make a great addition to the furling boom package, though if you’d prefer to keep your existing one, Southern Spars will offer you a 5% discount on the price of your boom instead.
Posted on 29 Jun