Austrian sailor to circumnavigate Northwest Passage and Antarctic

12 November 2015 • Written by Philip Reynolds

An Austrian extreme sailor is attempting to become the first person to sail, singlehanded, without assistance or stopping, from Europe to the Arctic - and through the Northwest Passage - as part of project ANT-ARC-LAB.

Over the next two-and-a-half years, 53-year-old sailor Norbert Sedlacek will prepare for this Arctic voyage. His world record attempt will start from Les Sables d’Olonne on the French Atlantic seaboard in the middle of July 2018 and cover a distance of about 34,000 nautical miles before (hopefully) ending back where he started in February 2019.

Project ANT-ARC-LAB map

The momentous seven-month undertaking will be tackled by Sedlacek in a 18.28 metre Open 60 AAL, constructed of volcanic fibre and balsa wood.

The 60 AAL prototype is built entirely from renewable and recyclable materials and the builders hope to prove that sustainability and nautical robustness are not mutually exclusive. Yacht Construction Consulting is the company behind the Open 60 AAL and Lorient-based Lorima, which has America’s Cup pedigree, made the yacht’s carbon mast.

Sedlacek’s route will take him from Les Sables d’Olonne to the Arctic, through the Northwest Passage, down the Pacific Ocean, passing round the notorious Cape Horn to circumnavigate the Antarctic. After rounding Cape Horn a second time, his odyssey will continue north through the Atlantic Ocean and back to Les Sables d'Olonne.

Skipper Norbert Sedlacek

By any standard Sedlacek has set himself a daunting challenge, but the former waiter and transport worker from Vienna, who is married with one child, is no stranger to these. Between 1996 and 1998 he became first Austrian sailor to single-handedly circumnavigate the world; in 2000-2001 he was the first Austrian sailor to circumnavigate the Antarctic non-stop. And last but by no means least, in 2009 he became the first German speaking skipper and finisher of the Vendée Globe, finishing 11th overall.

It has been some journey for Sedlacek, who discovered sailing in his early 30s in 1994, swapping his Viennese tram for a sailing boat cockpit. He has not looked back since and his achievements are manifest, but he now faces what could be his ultimate test.