Irish offshore sailor Jarlath Cunnane, the first Irish skipper to transit the northeast passage with Northabout in 2003-2004, has been among the first to congratulate Guo Chuan on his world record in transiting the treacherous 3240nm passage.
“This is a great and fantastic achievement. But it also shows how much the ice is retreating. Guo Chuan and his team were sailing in a mostly ice free waters in areas where – just eleven years ago - we were up against ice which was 5 metres thick”, Cunnane told Afloat.ie
After 13 days of racing on the the North East Passage, Qingdao China, led by Chinese skipper Guo Chuan, finally crossed the finish line on the Bering Strait at 16.48 UTC September 15, 2015. Skipper Guo Chuan and his five crew from Germany, France, and Russia completed the journey. For the very first time in history, a racing trimaran sailed non-stop successfully through the Arctic Ocean Northeast Passage from Murmansk to Bering Straits.
Departing from Murmansk around noon on September 3, Qingdao China crossed the start line at 13.41 UTC and started the attempt to challenge the first non-stop sailing world record across the Arctic Ocean’s North East Passage. The start of the voyage was treacherous as strong winds were expected for the first 3 days.
Because of the weather, Guo Chuan decided to pilot the trimaran to a more southerly route into the Kara Sea. After sailing among growlers and icebergs across the Laptev Sea, the crew experienced the extreme cold and big gusts on the East Siberia Sea. Sunshine welcomed them on the Chukchi Sea and after that, it took them only over a day to reach the finish line between the Cape Dezhnev and the Big Diomede Island on the Bering Strait.
As soon as they crossed the finish line, the crew jumped for joy and pride. For celebration, they prepared a special ceremony. German crew Boris took out a white board and Guo Chuan wrote the historic moment onto it, “Arctic Ocean, Northeast passage, World Record, 15 September, 2015.”
The Chinese skipper was so excited that he could not hold back his emotions. “I’m so on the top of the world. It’s such an unbelievable moment. Even two months ago, I wouldn’t have imagined I could have a moment like this. It is a moment that could only happen in a dream,” he exclaimed.
Looking back the 13 day voyage, Guo said, “I feel very proud of myself and my crew. It is a challenging and tough journey, especially as we were surrounded by ice and gusts under the extreme cold weather. The boat was bumping like roller-coaster sometimes and seemed totally out of control. For several times, when we were in a very difficult situation, I wondered if we could continue. But thanks to our determination and brave and excellent crew, we overcame the difficult times together and finally made it.”
As a Chinese skipper leading five international crew, Guo said it was not only a special experience for him as a leader but also carried the symbolic significance of “peace and sport”. “This is an international team, our crew are from China, France, Germany, and Russia. Obviously we come from different cultures, but we still work together and made a great voyage successful. As the only Chinese champion for ‘Peace and Sport’, I want to spread the peace message to more people. Now in the world, there are still nations at war, but we want to show that people from diverse backgrounds can do things together,” Chuan said.
Guo Chuan received the congratulations from “Peace and Sport” the moment after crossing the finish line. “No matter the difficulty of the journey through the wind and ice, you and your crew faced it all, showing commitment to your objectives, your passion and the core values of sport. It is a true example for the world and I am very proud to count you among Peace and Sport’s Champions for Peace.”, JoelBouzou, chairman of Peace and Sport wrote in the congratulations letter to GuoChuan.
This is another exceptional achievement for Guo Chuan, who is the iconic face of Chinese offshore sailing. Lingling Liu, Managing Director of Guo Chuan Racing, has been receiving congratulations from the world’s sailing community. “This is a project led by a Chinese skipper and managed by Chinese professional, and supported by experts from all over the world. We are so proud that we made it!” Liu said.
Weather expert Christian Dumard said, “It was like the first race around the world or the first person to climb to the top of the Everest.”
Yves Le Blévec, skipper of the Ultime trimaran, Actual said, “I’m watching Guo Chuan’s challenge closely. Making your way through such an extreme zone on this size of trimaran is clearly a huge challenge. Guo Chuan and his crew did a great job. ”
Kito de Pavant, skipper of the 60-footIMOCA Bastide Otio and an expert in multihull racing said, “This is a very interesting course and the challenge is bound to be tricky. But Guo Chuan is sailing perfectly reasonably. His performance is opening up new routes. Other sailors may well want to follow in his footsteps. We can even imagine that one day races will pass through there. It’s something we need to keep an eye on.”
Benoit Cabaret, designer of the Qingdao China trimaran (former IDEC) said: “As the boat’s designer, I was surprised to learn that an Ultime trimaran was going to attempt this tricky passage. New challenges are not that common today, which makes Guo Chuan and his crew’s accomplishment all the more remarkable.”
The Arctic Ocean Northeast passage non-stop sailing world record is the second world record Guo Chuan has achieved. In2013, he set the world record of solo non-stop circumnavigation in a Class 40 monohull. And maybe he has made one more.
At 14h00 UTC 8 September, Qingdao China touched the northernmost water that no other unpowered racing boat had ever reached in the past. She sailed at 78°33’25 North, only 1271 km (686 miles) from the North Pole. It is the first time that a racing boat has sailed so far north.
During the whole voyage, Qingdao China reached maximum instant speed of 37 knots on September 4, and covered 466 miles during one 24 hour stretch during the Arctic Ocean World Record Challenge between the 4th September at 11h04 and the 5th September at 11h04 with an average speed 19.43 knots.
The result of Qingdao China’s voyage will be delivered to WSSRC for validation and the world record announcement will be officially confirmed at a later date.
A weekly video series was produced by award-winning director Stewart Binns to follow along. Here is the series timeline:
August 18: Departure footage from Brittany, France
August 25: Arrival into Kirkenes, Norway
August 31: The Challenge Awaits: Arrival into Murmansk
September 4: Departure from Murmansk, Russia
September 10: Arctic Ocean halfway update
September 17/18: Northeast Passage finish