12 April 2022
Lisa Blair is 400 nautical miles ahead of her Russian record rival’s time as she hits the half-way mark in her attempt to set a new world record for circumnavigating Antarctica solo and unassisted.
Blair currently holds the record as the first woman to complete the voyage after her 2017 journey on the same route. She was dramatically de-masted in the Southern Ocean and had to salvage her life and boat, eventually completing the journey after retiring to repair in South Africa.
In 2008, Russian solo sailor Fedor Konyukhov set the 102-day record that Lisa is now chasing. She has recently rounded Cape Horn, the equivalent of summiting Mount Everest in the sailing world. The treacherous point marks halfway on her journey and starts to track back to Australia, which she aims to complete in approximately a month.
Blair has endured freezing conditions, 50 knots winds and giant three storey high waves propelling her to lead the current record, which she is hoping to beat by ten days or more. Ahead, she now faces the notorious Iceberg Alley as she treks below the Falkland Islands.
Behind her she has passed Point Nemo, the most isolated place on earth. Blair has now sailed for over 40 days without seeing another vessel or land, however marine mammals and birdlife have been present, as well as hazardous seas.
“We were airborne and I was mid-flight in the navigation station, and I knew in my mind that this wave was different,” said Blair.
“It just felt so much larger and more powerful than the others. We landed with a jarring impact. Instead of rolling over or under us the wall of white water from the broken wave just continued to shove us along. It wasn’t going around us, instead it was clearing a path for itself.
“Climate Action Now was getting pushed along on her side completely at the mercy of this wave. It was not a short distance either. It felt like we had been pushed over 50 meters along by this wave. It seemed never ending until it finally passed us and left us wallowing in its wake.”
In this extreme environment, Blair has been a living science experiment with her boat, Climate Action Now literally being a mobile weather station for the Bureau of Meteorology.
She has also deployed three weather drifting buoys in this remote environment that help monitor currents, pressure and temperatures, dramatically improving forecast models according to the Bureau. The data Climate Action Now supplies will improve both forecasts and warnings systems.
Working with the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) and Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), she has also been able collect valuable data rarely able to be observed.
Samples and readings collected by Blair will be studied for issues, including microplastic levels, once she returns to Albany in Western Australia.
Among other achievements, Lisa Blair also holds the record for the first woman sailing solo, non-stop and unassisted around Australia. She was given the Spirit of Adventure Award by Australian Geographic and has published a book about her first Antarctica voyage called Facing Fear.
Lisa is available for live interviews on camera from her boat via zoom. Her exact position is on a live tracker on her website.