One of the 9lb muzzle loader guns landed in 1893 to shore up Albany's defences against a perceived Russian invasion, finally had a Russian in its sights today when Fedor Konyukhov set out from this historic West Australian port to set a solo sailing record around Antarctica.
The 56 year old adventurer who sailed his Open 85ft monohull 'Trading Network Alye Parusa' half way round the world from Falmouth UK to take on yachting's last great frontier, crossed the line at 10hrs 21 minutes 40secs W.Australia Summer Time, to the signal from the gun and a cacophony of car horns and cheers from crowds lining the foreshore.
Conditions could not have been better with bright, warm sunshine and flat seas -- a far cry from what Konyukhov can expect once he is down within the 'Roaring Forty', 'Furious Fifty' and 'Screaming Sixty' latitudes that mark the the Antarctica Cup Racetrack.
Among the well wishers here to see Fedor off was Jon Sanders, the only other solo sailor to have ever circumnavigated around Antarctica before in southern latitudes. He completed the 14,000 mile circuit aboard the S&S 34, monohull 'Perie Banou' on the first stage of a remarkable double global circumnavigation back in 1981/2. His first circuit around the icy southern continent during which he suffered two horrific knockdowns, took Sanders almost three times Fedor's expected time of 60-65 days!
The Russian will be hampered for the next three days by very light southerly winds -- exactly the direction he needs to enter the Antarctica Cup Racetrack. 'It's typical! The winds have been blowing hard from the east for the past two weeks. This will at least give Fedor some time to find his sea legs and re-acquaint with 'Trading Network Alye Parusa' before finding the westerlies' Said Richard Williams, one of the race organisers.
Fedor's departure marks the end of a 6 year programme by Richard and his Father Robert Williams to bring the Antarctica Cup to fruition. Now, the race has sparked interest from American, British, French, Portuguese and Scandinavian sailors to take on the most exciting sailing conditions in the world -- a 14,000 mile sleigh ride around the ice-strewn seas of the Antarctica. Not something for the feint-hearted.
Or visit: www.antarcticacup.com