24 Feb 2012
Spike in Antarctica-bound superyachts predicted
With the industry in the midst of an unequivocal rise in the popularity of explorer-style yachts either launched or unveiled as concepts, yacht traffic to the Antarctic is also up.
This is according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO), which estimates traffic for the current season, which ends in March, will see an increase of ‘roughly 50 percent’.
Steve Wellmeier, Executive Director at IAATO said:
“During the 2010-11 Antarctic season, IAATO yacht operators accounted for 182 passengers on 24 voyages aboard 15 different boats.
"These numbers are up for the current season, and we expect around 300 yachts will be accounted for. That’s roughly an increase of 50 per cent more passengers anticipated aboard authorized IAATO Member Yacht trips.”
The significant increase has prompted the IAATO to ramp up its educational campaign, aimed largely at private and charter yacht operators.
Steps include a revised “Sailing to Antarctica” multi-language pamphlet, more posters and literature delivered to yacht clubs and port authorities in southern Argentina and Chile, the most common launching points for yacht expeditions to Antarctica. It is also marketing free information for yacht operators on the IAATO website
Arcadia became the 145th yacht to make a complete transit of the Northwest passage last year
The support is needed. As recent events in Greece have demonstrated, superyachts are not immune from accidents, and Antarctic waters are inhospitable to say the least.
No better placed to describe the challenges of the Polar environment is Captain James Pizzaruso, fresh from the significant feat of a complete transit of the Northwest passage on board 36m Royal Huisman motoryacht Arcadia.
“You really cannot afford to be complacent up here...you are so isolated and...some of the conventional rules just don’t apply and what you have to do is counter-intuitive. A good example would be where you expect to find shelter and security – in a protected anchorage.
"The reality is that ice caps on the capes and islands can create powerful catabatic winds and steep seas just metres from the shore. Safety and security are actually to be found in the normally more exposed areas of deep open water.”
Arcadia is no steel-bound ice-breaker: a luxury cruising yacht constructed from aluminium, with some carbon composite elements in her superstructure. But even explorer ice-class vessels face dangers as Captain Winston Joyce-Clarke, of Big Fish who also cruised the Antarctic waters last year, explained:
"There’s a large proportion of it that you can prepare for, but then there’s a huge element of good fortune when it comes to conditions.”
Joyce-Clarke described watching a tender scrape over the top of an iceberg and a case where storms literally smashed windows of an 88m cruise ship.
Big Fish in stormy weather in transit to Antarctica - credit Cath Carlsen Winston Joyce Clarke and Big Fish / Aquos Yachts
There is also the threat to the pristine and cherished environment of Antarctica by 'renegade' explorers who don't go through the proper procedures, register or take safety precautions. IAATO says this is a chief concern of the Antarctic Treaty Parties who supported the formation of IAATO several years ago following an extraordinary case of disregard for the environment. According to Wellmeier, men from two yachts broke into Wordie House, a historic site and monument on Winter Island named after Shackleton's chief scientist, and damaged property in it.
Hump back whales spotted off Arcadia - credit Royal Huisman
The beauty of Anarctica sunsets captured on board Big Fish - credit Cath Carlsen Winston Joyce Clarke and Big Fish / Aquos Yachts
Eyes are also turning with renewed attention to these rogue offenders with the return this month of a self styled ‘wild viking’ to the Antarctic's dangerous Ross Sea.
“The Norwegian Jarle Andhøy went down last year without a permit from the Norwegian government. He and a colleague went ashore with quad bikes after landing on the yacht Beserk. They tried to get to the South Pole. Beserk sank with the loss of three lives. He’s down there again with a sail boat, to the Ross Sea where almost no yachts go.”
Whilst these figures offer a significant indicator of the increasing trend of yachts visiting more adventurous regions, it is also a reminder that safety and environmental considerations must be taken. Antarctica may be the ideal 'unchartered territory', quite literally, and provide an awe-inspiring trip, but it is not for the faint hearted or the ill prepared.
Royal Huisman Profile | Royal Huisman Website
Jarle Andhøy's Wild Vikings website
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