sailing | Labeaume dreams of the North Pole

Mayor Regis Labomme dreams of “putting Quebec back on the map” by making the capital a springboard for an ambitious and perilous new sailing race to Vancouver across the North Pole.


Gabriel Byland

Gabriel Byland
Journalism

(Quebec) The idea is not new. A promoter from British Columbia broke his teeth in 2015 at such a company. The sailors speak of a “fairly risky enterprise” and “a very difficult challenge”.

But now Quebec has joined forces with a famous French regatta organization to relaunch the crazy project of a sailing race across the fabled Northwest Passage, called the Arctic Race.

“This is a very big international sailing race,” Mr. Labeaume rejoiced this week at the full city council. It is specifically intended to make the world’s population, and I mean the world, aware of the effects of global warming. ”

Photo Yan Doublet, The Sun

Regis Labium, Mayor of Quebec

“This is to demonstrate that it is now possible to sail in the Arctic because the ice has melted and the Northwest Passage has been removed,” continued the mayor, who is completing his fourth and final term.

The organizer of this 70-day race, which will take place every two years from 2023, is the French group OC Sport responsible for the famous Route du Rhum.

Hervé Favre, president of OC Sport, explains that the idea has been boiling since 2013. He himself has sailed part of the fairway as a site.

“It’s very natural that we got close to Quebec City. There is of course the maritime history of Quebec. Then we spoke with Mr. LaBoume and he was very excited,” explains Mr. Favre.

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Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged, during a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Labomme, partial funding for the project, according to the latter. Ottawa will award $10 million over five years, or 35% of the total funding.

OC Sport should save 17 million. The city must pay the $2.2 million missing, but says it hopes to pull Destination Quebec and the François Legault government out of their pockets.

Less dangerous, but…

Traverser le passage du Nord-Ouest est moins dangereux aujourd’hui qu’en 1845, quand l’explorateur John Franklin et ses 128 équipiers ont trouvé la mort, prisonniers des glaces, vaincus par la famine et le scorbutés parisons paris conserve la mort of lead.

Artwork provided by the Agostini Picture Library

This painting represents the British ship HMS horror, caught in the ice of the Canadian Arctic during an expedition in 1836. The horror It would be one of two ships on the disastrous 1845 Expedition to cross the Northwest Passage.

Climate change has reduced the amount of sea ice in passage over the years.

But the fact remains that this is a “rather risky challenge,” notes Guy Lavoie. A Quebec navigator crossed the pass in 2012, with Claire Roberge and a crew of two aboard the 35-foot-tall sailboat. Balthazar.

We can say, in the Northwest Passage, there is still ice. Even if the ice sheet melts more than before in the summer, if winds blow from the north, the ice masses move south.

Guy Lavoie, navigator

Rescue operations are very complex and dangerous. A few years ago, a Coast Guard helicopter crashed,” the adventurer recalls.

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Of course, the crossing is no longer as risky as it was in Franklin’s time. But it’s still relatively rare: a review by experts from the University of Cambridge last April concluded that only 319 ships have made it completely through the pass since 1853, when the feat was first successful.

Regulators say they are aware of these challenges. OC Sport is developing a racing boat specifically designed for the Arctic. It will be a ship about 50 feet long made of aluminum. “But it’s all still introductory,” Herve Favre notes.

Photo provided by Guy Lavoie

the boat Balthazar By Jay Lavoie and Claire Roberg, while crossing the Northwest Passage, in 2012

The sailboat selected should be “quick enough to make the crossing in two months, for the window is not large”, but not so long that they are not prohibitively expensive.

The issue of mechanization has not yet been settled, either. Guy Lavoie recalls that the winds are unpredictable there. He himself had to use his engine for a quarter crossing.

OC Sport has not yet decided if and in what form the engines will be allowed. Herve Favre talks about the possibility of electric motors. Burning diesel in order to educate the population about climate change would be a contradiction to say the least, it is true.

Adventurers are back

The idea of ​​such a race is not new. British Columbia businessman Robert Molnar launched a similar idea in 2015. The race called Sailing The Arctic Race was scheduled to take place in 2017, from New York to Victoria, for 150NS Canada birthday.

The announcement of the project at that time captured the attention of the media around the world. Then the race was abandoned and no one heard of it again.

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“It was a great idea on paper. A few T-shirts and hats were produced, but that’s it,” laughs Rick Worrall, who was a technical advisor for the event.

Disagreements between project managers plagued the project. The sponsors were not there. The race was quickly abandoned.

Rick Worral is excited to see OC Sport relaunch the idea of ​​racing through Northwest Passage. “I hope they are successful. I will probably be at the finish line to receive them if it does.”

But he adds that the journey is “extremely arduous”.

Ice is unpredictable. There are difficult years. There are always sailboats who ask for help from the icebreakers. You can have bits of ice destroy a sailboat.

Rick Worrall, technical advisor, on the Northwest Passage

Herve Favre says he is aware of these risks. If passage is impossible for a year, as he suggests, the route will have to be adjusted accordingly.

What kind of sailor would be interested in such a challenge? The president of OC Sport thinks adventurer-type sailors will answer the call.

“The races we usually organize are very professional races with sponsors. I don’t think we will attract racers to this event, more adventurous, like the Vendée Globe in the early years,” he said.

In any case, the pure regatta audience gathers “maybe 50,000 people in the world,” notes Mr. Favre. “What fascinates the general public is the adventurous aspect of sailing.”

Régis Labeaume is certainly already a fan of this upcoming race. The man appreciates the idea of ​​this event at the junction of sports, adventure and the environment. He is convinced that he will not be the only one.

“From this race, there will be documentaries, television, magazines, whatever you want… and there will be an extraordinary following, assures the mayor. It will put Quebec back on the map for a very important reason.”

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