Bound Away Around Cape Horn // ICEBEAR in the Ocean Globe Race

15 Jan

ICEBEAR Swan 59_2.jpg

January 2020 // Stockholm, Sweden

Lives there a sailor who would not have made a Cape Horn passage in his own small vessel rather than any other voyage in the world?

— Vito Dumas // Legendary Solo Circumnavigator

ICEBEAR is headed around the world, and the hard way. Come fall 2023, 59 North’s Swan 59 will be at the starting line of the inaugural Ocean Globe Race, a fully crewed retro race in the spirit of the 1973 Whitbread Round the World Race to mark the 50th Anniversary of the original event, bound for the Southern Ocean and Cape Horn. Sailing in the OGR feels like a logical evolution of our business model of ‘sharing the high seas with those wise enough to seek it out,’ and it’s an appropriate step up in challenging ourselves more and more each year. After a successful season in the High Arctic on ISBJORN, our Swan 48 in 2018, and a planned return trip to Svalbard in 2021 on the 59, a proper doubling of the Horn seems a no-brainer!

“I’m romantic for the sea. I love the old traditions, the challenges that an ‘analog’ circumnavigation presents, the old boats, the adventure and philosophy of it all. The OGR feels like it was made just for us – it’s the right time in our business, the right time with us starting a family this year in Sweden, we’ve got the right boat in the Swan 59 and we have an awesome team around us. I always knew I’d have to take a crack at the Horn, and what more logical way to do it?” -Andy Schell, OGR skipper.

Andy Schell, OGR Skipper

Andy Schell, OGR Skipper

Mia Karlsson, Andy’s wife, business partner in 59 North and mate for the race is equally excited “What a unique challenge, and to be able to be a part of the 1st edition of this retro adventure,” she said. “Getting to 80º North on Svalbard with ISBJORN was such a huge accomplishment for us, and we gained a ton of confidence. This feels like the ‘right’ next challenge. Of course we have to do it!”

Mia Karlsson, OGR Mate

Mia Karlsson, OGR Mate

“Jesus Christ, Andy, I can only get so excited!” wrote August Sandberg, from Bergen, Norway. August is skipper of 59 North’s second boat, their classic S&S Swan 48 ISBJORN, and will be the navigator on ICEBEAR for the OGR.

“I LOVE this! I don’t care what anyone says, I love Don Mcintyre and all his endeavours. This is grand! I’m in! I’ve got a freezer full of film and an unfulfilled dream ready for action!

August Sandberg, OGR Navigator

August Sandberg, OGR Navigator

ICEBEAR will be a joint Swedish/American entry, and will be skippered by Andy Schell (USA), with mate Mia Karlsson (SWE) and navigator August Sandberg (NOR). The rest of the crew will be rounded out by a combination of 59 North team members and paying crew, as per our standard business model, and we aim to sail with a 50/50 mixed team of men and women. The campaign will be funded by a combination sponsorship and paying crew – we see it in the spirit of the original Whitbread as an adventure for the beauty and challenge of it.

We’ll be taking applications for paying crew & sponsors eventually, but for now, interested parties can check out 59-north.com/ogr or email us on holdfast@59-north.com. There will also be ample opportunity to get involved as a volunteer. ICEBEAR will spend the winter of 2020/2021 in the shed at Vindo Marin in Sweden, and we’re already starting to plan a few weeks of ‘refit parties’ to get hands-on with boat work ahead of the race and next year’s Svalbard passage.

OHHH we’re bound away around Cape Horn!
We wish to hell we’d never been born!
GO DOWN YOU BLOOD RED ROSES, GO DOWN!
OH, YOU PINKS AND POSIES,
GO DOWN YOU BLOOD RED ROSES, GO DOWN!

— Blood Red Roses // Storm Weather Shanty Choir

The original Whitbread Race, 1973.


So, what’s the OGR?

Almost 50 years ago, in 1973, the first-ever crewed, big boat, round-the-world yacht race was run, some five years after the famous single-handed and nonstop Golden Globe Race in 1968. The Whitbread, it was called, and was run in four legs. Well, after successfully running a ‘retro Golden Globe’ in 2018, 50 years after that races origin, founder Don McIntyre wanted to give the Whitbread the same treatment with the Ocean Globe Race. In Don’s own words:

“The OCEAN GLOBE RACE (OGR) is a fully crewed retro race in the spirit of the 1973 Whitbread Round the World Race to mark the 50th Anniversary of the original event. It’s an eight-month adventure around the world for ordinary sailors on normal yachts. Racing ocean-going GRP production yachts designed before 1988, there will be no computers, no satellites, no GPS, and no high-tech materials. Sextants, team spirit and raw determination alone in the great traditions of ocean racing are allowed on this truly human endeavor. These will be real heroes pushing each other to the limit and beyond – in a real race! Following the success of the 2018 Golden Globe Race, the concept of retro fully crewed, traditional ocean racing around the Globe has returned!”

Read the inspiring backstory to Don’s recreating this iconic race here in his ‘Back to the Whitbread!’ column.


“Back to the Whitbread” // The Backstory

I must have known this would be the ‘next big thing.’ Sitting in our farmhouse in Sweden in the fall of 2018, after we’d successfully sailed all the way up to 80º North and back again, I pondered aloud that I felt listless, restless. Svalbard had been the singular focus of all our efforts since I first pinned that chart up on the wall of my office in Pennsylvania way back in 2014. And after years of preparation, we did it. I didn’t know what to do next.

Andy & Mia on landfall in Spitsbergen, our biggest accomplishment to date.

Andy & Mia on landfall in Spitsbergen, our biggest accomplishment to date.

“Just relax,” Mia said. “Focus on doing nothing for a while. Enjoy the feeling of success. Relax, and let the next thing come to you. Don’t force it.”

Fast forward to summer 2019. I’d sort of followed Mia’s advice – we got a second boat, the Swan 59 ICEBEAR, and that presented a whole other kind of challenge in expanding the business. 

Up in Newfoundland, during a week-long break between passages, Mia & I were staying at a friend’s cottage in the swear-to-god-its-a-real-place town of Dildo, drinking beer at the Dildo Brewery, when this popped up on my phone:

Yo Andy, this is a confidential email….you seem like the ideal player for this…

Cheers, Etienne Giroire // ATN inc.

Etienne Giroire, a friend and hero of ours!

Etienne Giroire, a friend and hero of ours!

Etienne, of course, is our French-American friend in Ft. Lauderdale, he of OSTAR and Route-du-Rhum fame, and who sailed in the Whitbread aboard the Swedish entry THE CARD back in the 80s. 

His confidential email was a note from Don Mcintyre sharing the secret of the soon-to-be-announced Ocean Globe Race. “Back to the Whitbread” was the title of Don’s manifesto attached in Etienne’s email, and in it was Don’s passionate explanation of why, and how, he would pull it off on the iconic race’s 50th anniversary in 2023.

Holy shit, this was it. We’d found our ‘next big thing.’


The Business Decision

The reaction of the 59 North team was instant and passionate.

“Jesus Christ, Andy, I can only get so excited!” wrote ISBJORN’s new skipper August Sandberg, from Bergen, Norway, when I shared the idea with him. August is an old soul, raised as a third generation filmmaker, from the days when films were shot on actual film, and who shares an unbridled passion for classic boats, analog everything and old-school navigation.

August at the bow of ISBJORN in the Caribbean, fall 2019.

August at the bow of ISBJORN in the Caribbean, fall 2019.

“I LOVE this! I don’t care what anyone says, I love Don Mcintyre and all his endeavours. This is grand! I’m in! Got a freezer full of film and a unfulfilled dream ready for action!”

In fact, August has a history with the Volvo Ocean Race – he tried out to be an onboard reporter and made the final cut, getting to sail a training passage on VESTAS WIND with skipper Liz Wardley before narrowly missing the real action when the race was short one team.

August at the masthead of team VESTAS WIND during Volvo Ocean Race OBR trials.

August at the masthead of team VESTAS WIND during Volvo Ocean Race OBR trials.

Mia was in too. “Why not?!” she said. “What a unique challenge, and to be able to be a part of the 1st edition of this retro adventure. Of course we have to do it!”

Perhaps not coincidentally, only a few days after I first got wind of the OGR, Mia & I sort of suddenly decided it was time to try to have kids. If this OGR thing was going to happen in 2023, the older they were by then the better. To our surprise and delight, it happened almost immediately – we found out Mia was pregnant in September 2019, and she’s due May 9, 2020. 

We’re having a kid!

We’re having a kid!

Another challenge, and an altogether different one at that. In the immediate future, our biggest challenge would be figuring out who would replace us for the 2020 season. Turns out I needn’t have worried – almost immediately we hired Emma Garschagen, a 22-year-old sailor who quite simply has ‘the right stuff’ to replace Mia as ICEBEAR mate starting in April; and just last week we got confirmation that famed solo sailor and Golden Globe racer Susie Goodall will be replacing me as ICEBEAR’s skipper. So the boat, and her paying crew this year, will be in VERY capable hands. I plan on returning as skipper in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, for the trans-Atlantic to Ireland, and we’ll finish off the 2020 season by sailing ‘home’ to Marstrand, on the west coast of Sweden.

Sitting outside in the garden at the farmhouse, after learning we were going to be parents, and reflecting on the decision to enter the OGR, Mia and I made a pact – no matter what, there’s no WAY I’d be sailing around the Horn without her. So come hell or high water, the grandparents will have a three-year-old on their hands for six weeks while together Mia and I complete the challenge of challenges, Around the Horn.

Around the Cape we all must go!
Around Cape Horn through the ice and snow!
GO DOWN YOU BLOOD RED ROSES, GO DOWN!
OH, YOU PINKS AND POSIES,
GO DOWN YOU BLOOD RED ROSES, GO DOWN!

— Blood Red Roses // Storm Weather Shanty Choir

cropped-OCEANGLOBERACE2023_W.png

Ocean-Race-2023V2.jpeg

Confirmation

October 9, 2019

Hi Andy,

Congratulations…Happy to inform you’re a Provisional Entrant in the SAYULA CLASS of the OGR!…and we’re very excited to have you and your team involved and really looking to meet personally!…you guys ROCK!!! :)

You are refreshingly professional and I can feel the passion, so that makes you special! I also respect your opinions on all issues, so never be scared of telling me how it is, as firstly while I have to control and protect the principles and key elements/concept of the OGR I understand that sometimes we must listen. It is all about the sailor and always will be.

Don McIntyre, OGR Founder

Don McIntyre, OGR Founder

I enjoyed reading your application. We are really impressed overall at the back stories of all entrants to date. It is going to make for an amazing event for sure.

So THANKS for your solid support for the OGR and good luck with everything. Happy to chat anytime. All the very best 

–Don McIntyre
OGR Founder & Chairman


This was one of the easier decisions we’ve ever made as a business. During our recent staff weekend at the Sweden home base, 14 of our skippers, mates, interns and best friends gathered around the fire pit outside to talk about the reality of actually attempting not only a Southern Ocean circumnavigation, but as part of a race. We deliberately waited until the second day of talks to actually make the call. 

Fireside deliberation on the OGR at the 59 North farmhouse in Sweden.

Fireside deliberation on the OGR at the 59 North farmhouse in Sweden.

On Sunday morning, we read the pre notice of race and them immediately queued up a 30-minute YouTube documentary about the very first Whitbread. That was all it took – not halfway through the grainy video, we were hooting and hollering, laughing out loud at the clothes, mustaches, headbands and foul-weather-gear of the time, and vowing that we’d have to reproduce that in our own effort to do the race ‘right,’ in the spirit of the original.

The vote was unanimous. 59 North was in. In that instant, the next five years of our business became crystal clear.


The Next Five Years // How You Can Get Involved

And just like that, we have another singular focus. 2023 feels less a long way off now that we’re into the 2020’s. It’s going to come FAST! There’s a lot to do in the run-up to the OGR, and indeed we’re planning another ambitious summer in 2021 taking the 59 up to Svalbard again.

Given the immense preparation it’s going to take to get to the OGR starting line in good shape both boat-wise and financially, the interim several years will be sailed in familiar waters – namely both side of the the North Atlantic. The plan is to have ISBJORN continue on her ‘normal’ offshore passages while we’re in the race on ICEBEAR, and one idea is to have her sail into the Pacific and meet the racing fleet in Australia or New Zealand…now THAT would be cool!

'19.10.19_HOLD FAST Spin Shakedown_4.jpg

In 2022 we expect to sail several offshore races on ICEBEAR to get properly ready for the OGR. I have Gotland Runt in the Baltic on my radar, as well as the Fastnet and perhaps the Middle Sea Race. ISBJORN will continue her cruising passage schedule in the North Atlantic, and both of those schedules will launch sometime in summer/fall 2020.

We will have ample opportunity to be on the OGR volunteer team – whether that means coming to help at refit parties in Sweden, working at the race stopovers in 2023/24, being on the radio ‘comms’ team, etc. Email holdfast@59-north.com for more info, and stay tuned to 59-north.com/ogr for specifics on how you can get involved as a volunteer!

So, the secret is out. My mom always said that once you announce your plans to the world, the universe conspires to make them come true. Alright universe, let’s see what you got!

This article was syndicated from 59º North Sailing // 59º North Blog

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