Heading to Antarctica is never a simple task. Even on board an expedition vessel the risks are plenty. But when cruising on an “unproven” 29m explorer – the smallest private Marshall Island flag boat to ever venture to the Southern Peninsula – you need to be sure of two things, a) that you have an open mind, and b) that the vessel is designed by Vripack. Captain Scott Whittaker grew up sailing. With 30 years of marine industry experience under his belt, there are few places on Earth where he hasn’t traveled. But when Wayne and Gayle Laufer, owners of 29m Gayle Force (ex-PATRIOT) requested to see the wilds of Antarctica, he knew it was “game on”.
First built in the Netherlands in 2003 by Bloemsma & Van Breemen, Gayle Force forms part of Vripack’s legendary Doggersbank Offshore series. Known for its heavy-duty use, low emissions, clean engine rooms, and long-lasting equipment, the Doggersbank epitomizes Vripack’s design philosophy; to create safe, durable yachts with light, elegant and comfortable interiors that make you feel at home, at sea.
When Gayle Force left Panama City, Florida, and made a non-stop 3,800Nm journey straight to Valparaíso, Chile, “essentially unproven”. For Captain Scott, it demonstrated that the yacht has a solid 5000Nm range, if not more like 6,500Nm, which is huge for a little boat. It went without a hitch, and they spent a few weeks cruising the vast waters around Patagonia where they experienced “relentless winds and high seas, and the boat took a phenomenal beating, as did the crew”.
One of the biggest things that Vripack helped us with was weight/balance. I really feel that with an expedition boat, the only defense you have is to slow down, stay upright, and keep running. Gayle Force does that really well now.
CAPTAIN SCOTT WHITTAKER
Vripack was instrumental in bridging Patriot’s history to the present-day Gayle Force. The ability to access the history of the build and actually work with some of the Vripack team that was on the build, throughout our yard time and chosen modifications, was priceless.
CAPTAIN SCOTT WHITTAKER
The Owners typify the ambitious and visionary clients that Vripack’s creative, holistic, and collaborative approach attracts, and so despite being in their 70s, the rough conditions only added to the excitement. “Wayne is an old adventurer, and it wasn’t that cold,” says Captain Scott. “The coldest we saw was around -26, although with the wind it was probably chillier. I think we saw colder in Patagonia!”
Wildlife abounded, with humpback, fin, and blue whales aplenty. Penguins were in their thousands, and every type of seal was sighted. The highlight for Captain Scott, however, were the two nights spent drifting with the ice in the Gerlache Straits. “We had amazing evenings there, it was truly beautiful. It felt like something out of Space Odyssey, semi-light out, just watching the ice, silently drifting together.”
After so many nautical miles in 9 months, Gayle Force is back home.
Running the numbers:
70 to 75 nautical miles per day,
at 9 knots.
That’s almost 10 hours running per day. Average!
Well prepared she left Fort Lauderdale, Florida with a permit to visit Antarctica, to sail back along the coastline of Chile via the Galapagos Islands and many more jaw-dropping locations. A true explorer adventure!
Captain Scott: “At any rate, she’s a hell of a boat. We had some bumps, but, at the end of the day, this boat is everything I thought she was and more!”
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