Lisa Blair on her successful circumnavigation of Antarctica

On Monday night as I sailed the final leg of the journey the winds were blowing from the NW to the NNW at 15 knots and I was making steady progress towards Albany.  I was right on schedule racing along with an eta of lunchtime into port.  I couldn't have planned it better if I tried that was until I sailed into the first wind hole…  

It was past midnight with less than 60nm left to sail and the winds started dropping to 8 knots and then 7 knots and then 4 knots…  I parked up, coming almost completely to a full stop.  I had been lying in bed trying to get some sleep because I knew when I got a little closer I would then begin to start to encounter the shipping traffic that goes below Australia and my chances of sleep would me slim to none but now with the winds dropping out I was needed on deck.  In order to make the finish line at lunchtime the winds needed to remain consistent and I needed to sail some 6.5 knots or higher on a direct course.  Currently I was drifting at the rapid speed of 1.5 knots.

This was not going to help me at all.  The winds then started knocking me towards the east as they shifted to the North and then NNE and I was suddenly sailing east instead of North.  As I watched, the winds completed their shift and went all the way to the S before starting to come around again from the W and finally settling back in from the NNW.  As I had very little boat speed I had almost no steerage so all the alarms started to blare and create a racket as the wind shift alarms went off, the low wind alarm went off and the off course alarm went off.  So much for sleep then.  On deck, I got the boat settled finally on the right course again and the winds started to fill in slowly.  20 minutes later I was again sailing along in 8 knots of wind making my desired speed of 6.5 knots and I was back to getting into Albany at the right time…

Another hour later and that plan went out of the window as I again sailed into another wind hole, went through another full 360 of wind shifts and parked up again.  This time however the winds didn’t come back so quickly.  It was now 4 am I drifted for over an hour going 1.5 knots.  Finally, the winds filled in to 6 knots and I started to crawl forward at 4 knots.  Not my required speed but still a whole lot better than 1.5 knots.  As I was now slowly moving along I was finally able to get a little sleep in and managed to shut my eyes for an hour.

As the sun rose on my final day at sea I was now 45 nm from reaching port but the winds just didn’t want to make this final stretch easy as they continued to move more around to the North and started to knock my course to the NE.  I was just about to cross onto the Continental shelf as I sat in the cabin watching my position on the electronic chart (all charts supplied by Cairns Charts and Maps) drift off to the left until eventually I was sailing a course parallel with the Australian coast line, I was no longer sailing a direct route.  The winds now were blowing from 340 degrees wind direction and the best course I could make was 040 T as I sailed close hauled. I was 30nm off the coast and now my final trip into port was going to be 60 nm long instead of the direct run of 30 nm…  I was now having to sail parallel to the coast until I was abeam of the entry to the King George Sound before tacking as the best course I could get on the other tack was 260 T.  I spent the next 4 hours in light winds sailing along the coast looking at Australia but still getting no closer to port.

As it now appeared that I wasn’t going to arrive at my eta but in fact, I was going to be late to my own party I decided to finally have that bucket bath that I so needed before I could get close to another human. So, as the boat was now leaning over quite a bit in 15 knots of wind I ended up crouching like a cave man but naked in the bathroom doing my best to wash my hair whilst trying to stop the bucket of water from falling over…  It was definately not the blissful shower I had wanted but at least I was cleanish…

As I neared the position of the tack the winds shifted a little and started to blow from 320 T so a more westerly direction which was great as I needed to go north but as soon as I tack I will be trying to sail west and again I would need to fall off causing me to tack again…  I just couldn't believe that the weather gods were playing these games with me after everything but I refused to let it bring me down as today I was sailing into the history books regardless.  I tacked around 1pm and was just able to hold 250-260 T Course so I was doing better than expected, I still had 20 nm to go as I neared the coast and the winds had now built to 20 knots making it difficult to sail.  

I changed over the genoa to the jib and contemplated putting the first reef in the main sail however I knew that as soon as I neared the coast of Australia I would likely have easing winds in the lee of the land so I opted to keep it up.  I also wanted as much power as I could get as I was going to be very late for my own party…  It was just after 5 pm by the time I sailed into the entry of the King George Sound and the sun had now set leaving me with a colourful display of pinks and golds in the sky. I decided to sail through the middle channel because my angle was good but as I went behind the island the last bits of daylight fled taking the wind along with it.  I was now drifting at my rapid speed of 2 knots with the finish line only half a mile in front of me…  


I changed back to my genoa and hand steered the boat trying to just keep moving.  In the dark now I ever so slowly drifted across the line and officially finished my circumnavigation around Antarctica.  Mark McRay the official time keeper for the World Sailing Speed Record council shot off a parachute flare signalling my official finish.  Not 2 minutes later the winds filled in and I had a healthy 15 knots blowing me up the channel.  Typical just typical…

I was joined by Chris on his motor boat and was surprised to hear my family shouting their congratulations to me from the water.  I was so excited and bursting with joy as we cruised together the last 8 nm of my journey toward Albany.  As I sailed up the bay I was joined by boat after boat until I had my own little entourage welcoming me back to port. Each boat was packed with people and we called out to each other in the dark.   As I neared the Rotary Lookout all the cars in the parking lot started to flash their lights and blow their horns in celebration.   

I dropped my sails and motored into the marina where again there were crowds of people lining the break wall calling out and welcoming me back.  The marina also filled with people many of whom I had never met but who at 8 pm at night stood in the cold to welcome me home.  I was so surprised, given that I was over 5 hours late and it was so nice to see the amazing support from the Albany community I was overwhelmed with the welcome.  I spent a short bit of time talking to the media who were so patient in waiting for me to get in and then finally, I jumped off my beautiful boat Climate Action Now who had seen me safely through so many storms and get that hug from my family.

After I cleared into the country officially by the lovely customs people I went up to the Earl to enjoy my first meal ashore.  I can say that that was the best veggie burger that I have ever eaten and nothing could have made it better.  I was greeted with the local singing group, The Albany Shanty Men.   They sang me a great song about welcoming me back from my home in the sea at it was a perfect finish to an epic adventure.  The rest of the evening I continued to down those Champaign’s.  We ended up sitting up in my families’ hotel room until 5 am having the time of our lives together.  Needless to say, I slept through my alarms in the morning…

I just want to take a minute to thank you all, each and every one of you, for joining me on my journey. It has been my privilege and pleasure to share my story with you all.  I will continue to keep my blogs up as I move towards my next sailing adventure.  I hope that you can continue to follow me along and if you would like to help support me please remember we have some amazing and warm beanies for sale, the funds will help me pay out my outstanding bills from the dismasting.

Thank You
Lisa Blair

Selden Asymetric Rib Technology
Jeanneau JY55
Race Yachts