Lisa Blair becomes first woman to solo circumnavigate Antarctica

By Corrina Ridgway 26 July 2017
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She arrived home yesterday.

AUSTRALIAN YACHTSWOMAN Lisa Blair has sailed into the record books, finishing a massive ocean odyssey to become the first woman to solo circumnavigate Antarctica. Lisa undertook her epic journey as the recipient of the 2017 Australian Geographic Society Nancy Bird Walton Sponsorship, which supports ground-breaking projects led by women. The official record time for Lisa’s circumnavigation is 184 days, taking into account eight weeks spent repairing her vessel in Cape Town, South Africa, after it was dismasted 895 nautical miles off of the Cape of Good Hope in April (see AG139).

After spending 104 days at sea on her 15m yacht Climate Action Now, battling snow storms, sea sickness and the dismasting, Lisa was met on Tuesday afternoon by crowds cheering her across King George Sound and into Albany, on Western Australia’s southern coastline. She described the trip as a “rollercoaster” noting her dismasting and having to jury-rig the vessel as one of the “really tough times”.

“I did almost quit,” Lisa acknowledged. “I rang mum up several times in tears, saying it’s too hard, too dangerous.” But, she added, it’s been worth it.

 “It was as hard as I imagined and even harder at times, but it was one hell of an adventure and that was what I was out there for.”

Lisa Blair

Lisa was met on Tuesday afternoon by crowds cheering her across King George Sound and into Albany, on Western Australia’s southern coastline. (Image Credit: Corrina Ridway)

Just to make it a voyage to remember to the very end, the weather gave Lisa one last set of obstacles. After heavy going that saw her “smashed” in storm after storm, weather conditions lightened off and winds dropped and swung against her in the final 24 hours. “But that’s the challenges of sailing and being on a boat in the middle of the ocean,” Lisa said.

Lisa crossed the finish line at 17.42 according to World Speed Sailing Council Commissioner, Mark McRae. He welcomed Lisa back to Albany, saying, “It is an amazing achievement and I congratulate her on completing one of the toughest and most challenging voyages.”

An elated Lisa described herself as running on adrenaline during the last day. “I’m pretty stoked, I definitely won’t be sleeping tonight,” she said before going on to spend the night celebrating her return with family and friends.

Although the 32-year-old doesn’t intend to attempt the feat again, she is already considering other adventures. “I’ve definitely got my eye on other trips,” she said. “I’m not stopping sailing for my adventures, it’s just fueled the fire a little bit more.”

Blair set out on her circumnavigation attempt to raise awareness about human impact on the planet through climate change, after noticing the effects while sailing. She plans to attend the Sydney International Boat Show on 3–7 August.