Lisa Blair sails the World against all odds – What it takes to be the first woman to circumnavigate Antarctica solo

2017-04-20 19:00 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
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Cape Town - Physical human limits are mere suggestions when it comes to extreme ocean adventurers... 

Over the past year alone, we've seen multiple records smashed - from rowing all the way across the Atlantic Ocean for one South African couple on their honeymoon to another Saffa, Chris Bertish, completing the first, solo, unsupported Transatlantic SUP Crossing

SEE PICS: SA adventurer powers to new world record

As it stands, we're on the verge of witnessing yet another world-first and record, as well as the defiance of what our human bodies are actually capable of. Meet Lisa Blair, Australian climate action activist and aspiring first woman to circumnavigate Antarctica solo. 

Blair recently sailed into Cape Town on a skeleton of a boat after her Open 50 monohull sailing yacht named Climate Action Now suffered severe damage at sea.

This is her arriving at the V&A Waterfront, greeted by members of some members of Woman Who Sail... 



Climate Action Now, a purpose-built to race in the Double Handed Melbourne to Osaka Yacht Race, is Blair's lifeline and a reminder of why she embarked on the journey to circumnavigate Antarctica all of 86 days ago. 

Since Lisa began sailing in 2005 she has noticed the impact that man-made climate change has on our environment. "The storms are more aggressive and less predictable, the absence of wildlife when years earlier those seas were brimming with life and the increased risk of collision with ice as the glaciers keep melting," she writes on her blog Lisa Blair Sails the World.

"What we know is that action needs to be taken and a greater awareness needs to be reached."

Her Climate Action Now project aims not to focus on the problems, but rather the small actions we can take towards a solution. Notes printed all over her yacht serve as a reminder of what people have done to fight climate change... 


Against all the elements 

But, in getting her message out there, it has been these exact worsening climate patterns pushing all the elements against her. 

What she had hoped to be an unassisted sail around Antarctica turned into a nightmare 'survival' when the mast of her yacht broke, four weeks before she reached the end of her record. "I have never seen a mast come down before," she remembers the night when scratching metal summoned her from the yacht's belly. And "I wasn’t expecting that it would snap clean off at deck level..." but that is exactly what happened. 

"The mast had fallen 90 degrees to the boat over the beam of the vessel and a section of the boom and the bottom meter of the mast was still on deck." Along with the fallen mast, Blair cut loose her dreams of circumnavigating the White Continent unassisted.  

"I was only four weeks away from the end of my record.  So close, however, the need to survive kicked in," she says. With no mast left, Blair spent her next days jury rigging Climate Action Now. From now on, she would need fuel - and not wind - to propel her forward. 

Tragedy two struct when a troublesome fuel transfer with a Chinese vessel, Far Eastern Mercury seized up Climate Action Now's morse cable - the cable that allows the sailor to select the gears in the cockpit. The issue prevented Blair from being able to go in to forward gear, meaning that she had "to climb below to the engine, take off the engine cover,  change gears and then rush back up to the cockpit to steer the boat" all the way to Cape Town, she says.  

Blair is currently in Cape Town, regrouping and rebuilding Climate Action Now with the aim of taking on the record again as soon as all the repairs have been completed. The repairs, understandably, were not part of Blair's initial plans to circumnavigate Antarctica, and she is now fundraising for the extra costs associated with the de-masting.

If you'd like to lend a helping hand or donate towards getting her back on the open seas, you can do so on her website

Onwards and upwards 

Regardless of the massive setbacks and life-threatening conditions, Blair is passionate and positive about becoming the first women to circumnavigate Antarctica solo. This is her getting a proudly South African welcome... 


She tells Traveller24 that she aims to leave Cape Town's safety to complete her mission, although the journey will now have one stop. “My plan is to leave as soon as the repair work is completed - in three weeks - and re-start the record and sail the final leg back to Australia.  

“I will still be the first women to sail solo around Antarctica with one stop.”

The Antarctica Cup Ocean Race is a non-stop race of around 14 000 nautical miles. Circumnavigating Antarctica by passing the three most notorious Capes on the planet - Cape Leeuwin, Cape Horn and Cape Agulhas. 

Originally founded by Robert Williams the race has only ever seen one edition with current record holder Fedor Konyukhov being the only competitor brave enough to take on this challenge. 

For now, however, Blair is enjoying some Cape Town hospitality and gearing up to take to the open seas soon... You can follow her blog here


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