ADVENTURER: Lisa Blair wants to become the first woman to circumnavigate Antarctica solo.
ADVENTURER: Lisa Blair wants to become the first woman to circumnavigate Antarctica solo. Barbara Yendell

Coast woman preparing to sail solo around Antarctica

NINETY-foot swells, 80-knot wind gusts and a chill factor of -20 degrees Celsius await Lisa Blair, who is preparing to sail solo around Antarctica.

Lisa, 32, would be the first woman to achieve the feat and she hopes to do it in record time. It's a bold challenge for someone who doesn't like the cold.

"I'm hugely affected by the cold. That is something I'm very conscious of, ensuring I don't get hypothermic," she said.

"That is one of the biggest risks and then you've got to manage the storms.

"Once the boat is bedded down for a storm there is not a whole lot more you can do. You've just got to ride it out and go with it."

Lisa will guide the Robert Hick-designed 15.25m vessel Climate Action Now, raising awareness for environmental care.

And she's just put the boat through a test, sailing from Portland, Victoria to Albany, Western Australia.


HAPPY AT HOME: Lisa Blair relaxes at home.  Photo: John McCutcheon / Sunshine Coast Daily
BOUND FOR ANTARCTICA: Lisa Blair looks relaxed on the Sunshine Coast but she will soon be pushed to the limits in a southern adventure. John McCutcheon

"I had a pretty good storm in the Bight and I had 60 knots of wind for two-and-a-half days so that was a good test for the boat," she said.

"It's been really good to see how she handles and how she manoeuvres and I'm much more confident (now)."

But there's still plenty to be done before she leaves on January 15.

"I need to find some specialists like a rigger and general shipwright and a few key people to do different jobs on the boat," she said. "We've got some major chafe issues on some of the ropes. These are problems we're finding out now, so I can actually do something about them.

"I haven't had a chance to really get excited yet because there's still that list that I've been trying to nut through."

Lisa was raised in a house west of Nambour, in the rainforest, near Wappa Falls.

The Yandina Primary and Sunshine Coast Grammar graduate caught the sailing bug as a cleaner and cook on a charter boat in the Whit- sundays.

She competed in the Sydney to Hobart in 2015, aboard the same boat but with a different fit and name (Funnel Web).

But it was her participation in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race in 2011/12 which really brought out the adventurer in her.


Mooloolaba sailer Lisa Blair during the Solo Tasman Yacht Challenge 2014

Photo Contributed
Mooloolaba sailer Lisa Blair during the Solo Tasman Yacht Challenge 2014 Photo Contributed Contributed

"No-one I had known had done anything like that, so to raise money and then sail around the world was an immense achievement and I realised I was capable of doing anything," she said.

"At that point I'd already had ideas of solo sailing and it's just developed."

Now based in Sydney for campaign opportunities, she first dreamed of the icy journey four years ago.

Her mother, Linda, didn't like it.

"I said 'ah mum, what do you think about me sailing around Antarctica solo?' and she's like 'absolutely no way. No chance in hell'.

"I let it slide but then I sailed to New Zealand and back solo and so I raised it again and this time she was like 'yeah, well I guess you know what you're doing."

In fact, Linda is her daughter's biggest supporter and handles her communications and social media.

"Because she's been so involved on such an intimate level - we talk every day and she knows everything about the boat - it helps the family deal with it," Lisa said. They know I've taken many precautions and safety is my focus."

She's got the support of adventurer Dick Smith and sponsors but has also crowd- funded and borrowed $200,000 for the 14,000 nautical-mile quest.

She will be the only competitor in the Antarctica Cup Race Track (below 45 degrees south).

Only two people have achieved the feat. Russian Fedor Konyukhov holds the record of 102 days.

Lisa hopes to complete it in 90 days, although her main goal is to finish.

"There is quite a lot of luck with weather but I feel confident in my ability and my stubbornness just to get through. I feel like it will happen. I've just got to grit my teeth through the bad times and enjoy the good times and safely make my way around the ice."

Lisa also hopes to motivate others.

"I really want to show people that you can achieve anything," she said. "What I've done previously has inspired people, whether it's to finally have that vege garden in their backyard or to run a successful business or go on an adventure.

"I'd love to continue inspiring people to go out and live their dream, whatever it is. Life's too short not to."