Norbert Sedlacek

Nationality: Austria

Age: 58

Extremesailing since: 1996

Biggest success: Icelimit 2000/2001, The Transat 2004, Vendée Globe 2004/2007 & 2008/2009, Founder Ant Arctic Lab

Interview

34,000 nautical miles around the world single-handed, nonstop, and without outside assistance.

How did you come up with the idea for this project?
After my successful participation in the Vendée Globe 2009, I felt that I wanted to improve yacht building materials, which is why we started to develop the volcanic fiber.

We asked ourselves: “Would that be a good material to build yachts with”?
The answer to that was “absolutely”. It is hydrophobic, which means water-repellent, extremely resistant to environmental influences, and recyclable. In a nutshell, just perfect to build yachts with. 

In order to validate this claim, I aim to be the first person to sail nonstop from one polar circle to the other. The biggest challenge during this quest is the Northwest passage where there is usually little to no wind. This is why nobody has ever managed to sail this route without motor assistance. It would be exciting to be the first sailor to make it through.  

For this project, we opted for a 60 foot yacht, a so-called Open60. 

Since every piece of equipment will be subjected to tremendous loads, making the right choices requires a lot of experience. You need to manage your resources with great care and circumspection if you want to make it from the start to the finish. The more people tell me that this is impossible, the more I want to succeed.

In addition, I will be measuring air pollution during my journey. Where do pollutants come from and what causes them? I want to gather hard facts and find out how bad the pollution really is and what it is caused by.

Why sail single-handed, meaning solo? 
Single-handed sailing is the supreme discipline of long-distance sailing, and for me it’s not more stressful than sailing with a crew. I want to find out if I’m capable of doing that.

What will be the biggest challenges?
- Demonstrating that by broadening my skillset I can achieve the things that I strive to achieve.
- Being able to improvise will be key as I’m bound to run into problems. 
- Coming up with the mental strength to make it to the finish. 

I know from experience that exposure to extreme experiences creates a stable personality. 

Describe your project in 3 words?
World record attempt – to be the first 
A balancing act
Stretching the limits (What has been possible so far, and what will be possible now?)

How long have you been working on this project?
We started developing the material in 2009 and finished the first prototype in 2012. Aboard this prototype (Fipofix), my son crossed the Atlantic twice. 

In 2014, we started working on the ANT ARCTIC LAB project and building the 60 foot yacht. Thus, it took us 6 years from the idea to her launch. 

It is very important to me that our production is clean (environmentally friendly). Our staff doesn’t need to wear masks or similar equipment to protect themselves from various solvents.

How long have you been sailing, and how did you first start? (being a public servant turned extreme sailor)

After completing an apprenticeship for cook/waiter/concierge, I became a public servant with Vienna’s public transport authority. However, this job wasn’t what I really wanted to do, and so I decided in 1996 to become an adventurer. Until then, I had only done some recreational sailing on Lake Neusiedl.

On my first journey, I realized that I had left my old life behind for good. There would be no looking back now.

You are an extreme sailor and a book author. How do these two activities go together?
I have always been interested in journalism, traveling, and photography. Therefore, it was only logical that this would be part of my new life. 
To me, a book is a document of reality. Failures and successes are described as what they are. 
Besides, writing and filming also helps you with self-reflection. 

What is the message you want to convey? What are the most important aspects?
Forward-looking products are better than existing ones in terms of quality and functionality. 
We are perfectly able to build “high-end quality” much cleaner and still obtain a good/fair price for customers.

You only use ropes from the Robline catalog. Which ones and what for?
We mainly use ropes from the Performance series. Admiral 10000 and Admiral Pro for sheets and trim lines. For runners, we use the SK 78, sheathed and unsheathed. Admiral 3000 and Admiral Pro Plus for the daggerboard trim lines. 

We wanted to demonstrate that the existing products are of high quality and long-lasting.

Having sailed 9,000 nautical miles with this material, we are very satisfied with it. In my opinion, an investment in quality also translates into better performance.

Do you have a favorite rope?
The Admiral Pro is very pleasant in terms of handling and a fantastic match with the design of my yacht.

What are the greatest loads for the ropes?
Definitely the load changes. Even when the ocean is relatively calm, there will still be high loads. In the course of the entire journey, the cordage will be subjected to about 17 million load changes. 

How are you personally getting prepared for this extreme effort? (mental stress, physical effort, heat, extremely cold temperatures, lack of sleep)
I always try to overcome my inner laziness as quickly as possible and pull myself together to deal with work right away that I realize is necessary, even if it is night and I’m already tired. 

What will you be missing most on your journey? Are you ever afraid to be entirely alone at sea?
A certain subliminal fear is necessary to stay alert. 

I’ll miss not being able to relax ever, because I’ll be under psychological pressure. 

How can sailing become more ecological (environmentally friendly)?
There must be some change in how the masses think.

We use only environmentally friendly materials such as volcanic fibers for our yachts. 

In addition, we buy yachts or materials back once they reach the end of their lifetimes and recycle them.
 

Pictures ©Innovation Yachts

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