Antarctica is very different from the Arctic, it is land mass, a continent in its own right, surrounded by the Southern Ocean.

The vast majority of yachts that visit do so by crossing Drakes Passage from the South American ports of Puerto Williams (Chile) or Ushuia (Argentina) to the South Shetland Islands, a distance of 700 miles. Whatever time of year, weather can delay departure crossing ‘Drakes’ in either direction and that has to be allowed for. Depending on the length of the vessel, from the smallest yacht to the largest superyacht there is always the likelihood that for at least some part of the journey you will encounter a Southern Ocean depression. An understanding of weather systems, good preparation of the vessel and experience of heavy weather sailing is essential. It’s not a place to practice for the first time.

“My second rounding of Cape Horn was as skipper in the BT Global Challenge sailing from east to west. As we neared the Cape, I recall I said I’d be back to cross Drakes and cruise South but I’ll never be as experienced as my wife Ashley, who spent three seasons as the boating officer for the British Antarctic Survey, living in the region.

Ash now runs ANTARCTIC ICE PILOT and Arctic Ice Pilot, an invaluable source of information of how and where to go, as well as providing pilotage and expedition support as well as new build and refit consultancy for private and commercial yachts that plan to explore the polar regions.”

As in the north the Polar Code applies and a sister organisation to AECO, IAATO publishes guidelines for yachts visiting south of 60S.

Text and image source: owenclarke