Polar 65 - A passion for the high latitudes

Since my adolescence I had a fascination for the explorers who pioneered in revealing to the world the most remote corners of our planet. Reading the sagas of these heroes, be them the trail-blazers of the central-African wilderness, or the brave discoverers who conquered Antarctica, aroused in me great interest for these remote places. When, during the eighties, I became involved with yacht design, one of the first projects designed by the office I helped to install was the cruising sailboat Maitairoa, a super sturdy fibreglass construction conceived for sailing in no matter what latitude. This project was developed with utmost commitment to quality and with that boat, my family and I accomplished unforgettable voyages in the South Atlantic and the Southern Ocean.

Fraternidade (Fraternity in Portuguese), was the first Polar 65 to be constructed. This boat already completed a round the world voyage and made a trip to the Antarctic Continent. Courtesy: Hélio Viana.

When I published a book about Maitairoa's voyages, even though never having sailed as south as the Antarctic Continent, a legend that we were specialized in high latitude sailing was born, and adventurers with plans for polar expeditions started to contact us. One of them was the Brazilian yachtsman Amyr Klink, who ordered us the design of a fifty-foot sailboat with which he intended to winter in Antarctica in solitary. This design was developed in partnership with a friend, Gabriel Dias, becoming one of our most challenging tasks up to that time. When its construction was concluded, the boat proved to be up to the expectations, doing the difficult tasks intended by our client with merits to spare. Amyr was pioneer in wintering in Antarctica alone, and for that achievement was awarded the "Tillman Prize", an honour given by the Royal Cruising Club of England to yachtsmen who performed outstanding feats of seamanship in polar latitudes.

The responsibility of designing a polar yacht, an issue about which we had practically zero experience, adding to the challenge of the fact that the boat had to resist to the freezing of the waters around the boat was a burden on our shoulders capable of affecting our night sleep. However, for a yacht design office worth its name, the more demanding in imagination a job is, the more interesting it becomes.

The yacht Paratii was designed and built during the eighties, being our debut as polar yacht designers. The non-stayed spar adopted, the so-called "Aerorig", a novelty at the time, was a tremendous success, taking Paratii along her journey flawlessly. Courtesy: Amyr Klink.

Amyr Klink was a very special client. Knowing that our background in yacht design was more involved with other areas, he gave us the freedom to decide about naval architecture issues according to our own ideas. At any rate, since he trusted us, it wouldn`t make sense not to let us work alone, never interfering in any important decision, since if what he wanted didn`t work in practice, the paternity for the problem had been lost.

About the risk of the hull being damaged when being trapped in frozen salt water, for that matter we found a logic solution which couldn`t fail. We designed the hull with wine-glass shape, so that when the water expanded when becoming ice, the boat would be lifted instead of being crushed by the ice pressure against the bilges. The only point where Amyr was adamant in demanding was about draught. He wanted the minimum possible, since he needed to be as close to shore as possible in order to avoid collisions with berg-bits that infest Antarctic anchorages, at least the larger ones. Once again we opted for the most warranted solution, choosing to install a shallow fin-keel aluminium case (the boat is specified for aluminium construction) where the lead ballast would be poured inside, having a centre-board slot in its centre for installing a deep swinging board to provide the required lift when sailing with the wind on the nose. This combination worked so well that the only thing we never heard about was Amyr complaining about the slightest conceptual defect in the project. The boat behaved in all occasions as a pedigree trained horse, being fast, stable and seaworthy.

The feats Amyr achieved with his Paratii were outstanding. In its maiden voyage he sailed south until reaching the Antartic Peninsula, where, as it was scheduled, he spent the most part of the year. As foreseen, the ocean froze around the boat for the most part of the winter. When spring finally freed Paratii from the ice, instead of sailing straight to her home port, he sailed north instead until crossing the Arctic circle. He then made a stop-over in Iceland and only then sailed bound for the tropical waters of Parati. Brazil, its port of register. The book he wrote about his adventures, "Paratii between two poles", was a best seller, with hundreds of thousands of copies sold, the story being translated into several languages. Two years later he hoisted Paratii`s sails again, this time bound for the direst adventure of his life, that of being the first sailor in history to girdle the Antarctic continent in a non-stop trip along the Austral Ocean, doing it single-handed. It was not for small reason that he had been awarded the "Tillman Prize".

Paratii`s brilliant accomplishments helped us a lot. We made friendships with several outstanding sailors with plenty of experience in sailing in high latitudes. Our office became sometimes, poorly comparing, sort of a branch of the Royal Geographic Society, so renowned some of our acquaintances were in relation to ultimate polar sailing. It was common to leave the office late in the evenings after hosting these famous sailors who visited our office, then established at Rio de Janeiro. Just to mention the name of some of them. we can remember Tim and Pauline Carr, of Curlew`s fame, their twenty-eight foot boat presently being exposed in the Cornwall Maritime Museum, for replicating Shackleton`s passage from Elephant Island to South Georgia, having a BBC reporter on board, besides having published the reference book "Antarctic Oasis", about South Georgia where Tim had been curator of the Grytviken Museum, Oleg Belly, the Russian physicist naturalized French citizen, who stepped down from a brilliant career in NASA, changing it for a life of adventures in polar regions, having travelled innumerable times to Antarctica with his astonishingly well conceived swing keel yacht Kotic, and many other lovers of frozen bones sailing, who invariably assisted us in our learning about the subject. By that time we never suspected that our office would be transferred to Perth, Western Australia, where we are presently established.

Since exchanging ideas about yacht design is a never ending subject, every so often during our chats the main topic was finding the best system to reduce draught while preserving adequate stability without hampering close-hauled sailing ability. It became clear that the shallow keel/centreboard system employed in the Paratii project, even though being quite efficient, didn`t allow the boat staying aground in upright position. The drop-keel system didn't please us also, since in case of accidental collision, it would cause serious damage to the structure. We had been studying this issue for a long time, and arrived to the conclusion that the best solution for this crucial detail resided in the swing-keel system, the keel being heavily ballasted. Adopting this system, the boat could be purposely put aground as many times as wished without causing any structural damage to the structure. This is bliss for expedition sailboats in places where tide range is of high magnitude,. To ensure maximum steering control, since the rudder should have to be shallow enough not to interfere with going aground, it became evident that the project required being equipped with twin rudders placed abaft two longitudinal skegs with aperture for the propellers, since the perfect next step in the Polar 65 project planning was to adopt the twin engines arrangement, for granting maximum manoeuvrability.

The functionality of the Polar 65 pilot house was reason of great concern from our part, since the safety of the vessel greatly depended on that. Even though having a duplicated steering post in the cockpit, the boat was to be controlled from the pilot-house for most of the time. Courtesy: Hélio Viana.

Developing a new project of a large sailboat, having to detail every single aspect of the plans, is a heavy burden for a yacht design studio. So, giving priority to other tasks for which we had been committed to produce, the work with the new project advanced at a slow pace, this work being done only in our spare time. However lady luck was on our side. Alexis (Aleixo) Belov, a locally well-known Ukrainian naturalized Brazilian yachtsman, knowing about our experience obtained when designing Paratii, came to our office looking for a polar yacht project. He knew well what he wanted, and for sheer coincidence, the boat he was dreaming with was practically the same as the one we were developing to be a stock plan.

The Polar 65 pilot house resembles that of a small tramp ship intended to operate on the seven seas. To work in this project was an unforgettable and pleasurable experience for our design team. Courtesy: Alexis (Aleixo) Belov.

The engineer Aleixo Belov owns a boatyard in Salvador, State of Bahia, Brazil, and it was there where his Polar 65 was built. The boat was called "Fraternidade", meaning fraternity in Portuguese. Since he is a skilled ship builder and didn`t spare efforts in providing the cream of the cream in equipment and gear, the boat became a top class yacht.

The Polar 65 Fraternidade was built by Alexis (Aleixo) Belov in his own boatyard. The standard of construction was the highest possible. This photo was taken when I visited the boatyard a short time before the launching. The photo shows clearly that the boat can be grounded and be left on the dry wherever tide range be larger than the hull`s draught. Courtesy: Aleixo Belov.

Aleixo is an old salt with three round the world trips singlehanded on his back onboard his former sailboat, the forty foot fibreglass cutter "Tres Marias". The next trips, those he intended to share with orders, especially young people, so that he could pass all the seamanship knowledge acquired along the years to younger generations, that being the reason for the name Fraternidade, and for that requiring accommodations for up to thirteen crewmembers, the owner`s cabin being the only one in suite. The internal layout, conditioned by the presence of the large trunk occupying the central area of the interior where the swing keel hides when risen, obliged us to fit the social salon abaft, under the aft deck in the cockpit area, while the cabins were placed around the trunk case. The engine room is placed abaft the keel trunk and the pilot house is located exactly above that compartment, a perfect solution for the case.

The Polar 65 interior layout is adequate to host a crew of up to thirteen persons. The option for locating the saloon under the cockpit area proportioned a perfect usage of the whole interior space.

No sooner the boat was launched Aleixo began to prepare it for a shakedown trip, this time girdling the world along the tropics in the traditional milk-run, trade winds sailing. Back to Salvador he began to prepare the boat for the first voyage to Antarctica, which he manage to accomplish successfully two years later. Now the boat is absolutely tested and is ready to face whatever nautical expedition his owner fancies to enterprise.

Fraternidade`s social saloon transmits an incomparable sensation of roominess, enhanced by Aleixo decision to eliminate the cockpit well. Courtesy: Aleixo Belov.

The opportunity of designing polar yachts left us with a passion for the subject. For that matter we never stopped working with polar yacht designs. After delivering the Polar 65 plans we have already designed two other polar yacht projects, the Polar 50 round bilge sailboat and the Polar 43, also a round bilge yacht, this last one being intended for those who do not require large crews for their intended cruises (see our list of stock plans). However, the taste for the subject only increases with the passing of time. At each new project we happen to get involved in, all we wish is to keep finding the same pleasures encountered when designing the first one.

Click here to know more about the Polar 65.