Cow­per nav­i­gates through the ‘world’s most dif­fi­cult’ route

Yachting World - - On The Wind -

Bri­tish sailor and ex­plorer David Cow­per has suc­cess­fully tran­sited one of the most dif­fi­cult routes of the North West Pas­sage, the He­cla and Fury Straits. On 27 Au­gust, ac­com­pa­nied by his son, Fred, Cow­per be­came the first to nav­i­gate through this pas­sage since Wil­liam Parry dis­cov­ered it in 1822 with the ships HMS He­cla and HMS Fury.

Cow­per, on whom we re­ported in our Oc­to­ber is­sue, is one of the world’s most ac­com­plished yet lit­tle-known mod­ern ad­ven­tur­ers. He has made six cir­cum­nav­i­ga­tions of the world, first beat­ing Fran­cis Chich­ester’s non-stop record in 1980 and, in 1982, bet­ter­ing Chay Blyth’s record in the other di­rec­tion, both in Ocean Bound,a 41ft Spark­man & Stephens sloop.

This sum­mer, he de­parted from Mary­port in Cum­bria at the end of July in his strength­ened and spe­cially de­signed 48ft alu­minium mo­tor­boat Po­lar Bound, nav­i­gat­ing sin­gle­handed to Green­land. Then, joined by his son, he con­tin­ued be­yond the Arc­tic Cir­cle, and south of Baf­fin and Vic­to­ria Is­lands on a route con­sid­ered by some to be the world’s most dif­fi­cult.

Con­di­tions were fe­ro­cious at times, with strong ti­dal rips, seas of 7m and more and winds gust­ing over 60 knots. In Hud­son Strait they en­coun­tered sev­eral miles of ‘swirlers’, which he noted was ‘like be­ing in an 18ft sea that couldn’t find its way out of a wash­ing ma­chine; we were trapped in the cabin be­ing washed around with green water fly­ing over Po­lar Bound.’

The boat was nearly pitch­poled and fa­ther and son were bruised from be­ing thrown around. They lay ahull for sev­eral hours un­til the tide turned. David Cow­per noted: ‘con­di­tions were atro­cious’.

“That is pretty strong lan­guage com­ing from him,” com­ments Jane Maufe, who has ac­com­pa­nied him on a pre­vi­ous Arc­tic voy­age. Cow­per is a for­mer Yachts­man of the Year and Cruising Club of Amer­ica Blue Water Medal­list. Maufe be­lieves he de­serves to be more widely recog­nised, but says: “He just does it for the chal­lenge. If it is seem­ingly im­pos­si­ble, that is enough for David to want to prove that he can. He is a man born af­ter his time; he is re­ally an Ed­war­dian ad­ven­turer of the old school.

“He doesn’t in­volve any char­i­ties, nor spon­sor­ship, al­though one or two ma­rine com­pa­nies have most gen­er­ously vol­un­teered their prod­ucts to his cause.”

Above: Bri­tish ex­plorer David Cow­per’s spe­cially de­signed 48ft alu­minium mo­tor­boat Po­lar Bound

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