By Humphrey Carter
SINTO Bestard and his crew on board Snooty Fox aim to become the first Majorcan yacht crew to sail to the Antarctic and back. That alone is a demanding and dangerous feat, but Sinto is blind. Bestard and his crew, which includes one woman, were yesterday carrying out the final preparations to their 16 metre Oyster 55 yacht in the Real Club Nautico in Palma and will set out on their voyage this weekend. Bestard said yesterday that he hopes to reach the Antarctic by January; they have allowed nine months for the round trip.
Snooty Fox will not return to Palma until next June.
Bestard is no stranger to the high seas, he and Snooty Fox have already circumnavigated the globe, but the Antarctic is like no place else on earth, blind or not. What does Bestard expect to find on his travels, “high winds, high seas and freezing cold,” he said yesterday.
He will also become the first blind sailor to make the trip. “But we'll take our time, we want to follow the good weather and try and replenish our stores with fresh produce as often as possible,” he added.
The yacht is fitted with the latest technology and his crew is very able, but he sails with a sixth sense. “I can tell when the wind's coming up and where it's coming from,” he says turning his head, “the wind now is around 16 knots,” he added.
Bestard spends an average of nine-months a year at sea and has covered more than 100.000 nautical miles since 1996.
Bestard's “compact but highly experienced” crew includes Xuro Gomez, who was captain of the Greenpeace vessel Zorba for two years and has crossed the Atlantic 18 times and the Pacific twice. Jesus Renedo is a professional skipper and has crossed the Atlantic and Indian Ocean on various occasions.
Eduardo Moreno is an expert nautical mechanic, electrician and yachtsman as well as a qualified skipper.
Rafael Bestard, deputy manager of a bank in Palma, is a qualified skipper and has circumnavigated the world on board Snooty Fox and crossed the Atlantic five times. And finally, Sonia Moragues, who is a qualified yacht skipper and regularly competes in local regattas, has taken off from her job with a leading Spanish bank for the trip. Bestard and his crew know they will be taking Snooty Fox up against some of the harshest sailing conditions on the planet.
They could get hit by 70 knot hurricanes or 20-metre high waves, never mind the icebergs they will have to slip between when they reach Antarctica.
The crew will be harnessed and connected to life-lines at all times when on deck - Bestard said that the main fear will be falling into the sea, “it's extremely cold, down to -27ºC in some regions.” Ever since Captain James Cook, numerous attempts to sail Cape Horn and reach the Antarctic have failed. Shackleton on board the Endurance suffered severe problems and, those who survived, were trapped on the ice floes for two years. 71 -year-old Bestard has dreamt about sailing to Antarctica and following in the wake of the great explorers all his sailing life. This weekend part of that dream will come true when they set sail from Palma. But we will have to wait and see how the dream ends. One of the main danger areas is going to be the Austral Ocean in the Antarctic where the icebergs can drop to some 2000 metres below the surface while others will be 3000 metres high: floating mountains. Once they get to the Antarctic, they can expect a wind chill factor of -50.
This is the greatest adventure Bestard and his crew have ever embarked on and he says that he is very much one of the crew on all his voyages, despite his disability. “I've got set tasks which have to be carried out, just like every one else on board,” he says. “We're a team, and have to operate as one, I'm not going along for the ride,” he added. The yacht is fitted with an IKARUS computer system which will enable the crew to send and receive e-mails via satellite.
They will also be recording the journey on a mini-DVD recorder, however Bestard said that he is not going to start transmitting images during the voyage as it is too complicated and will take up too much time. “I'll tell you all about it when I get back...”


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