Arctic sailing race planned in Canada to highlight climate change

·2 min read
Ice chunks are seen in the Canadian High Arctic in September 2015 (AFP/Clement Sabourin)

A French sports group on Saturday announced plans to launch a sailing race in the thawing Canadian Arctic to raise awareness of global warning.

Due to kick off in 2023, the North Pole Race will see ships sailing from Quebec to Vancouver along the Northwest Passage, a sea route through the Arctic Ocean along North America's northern course.

Crews will sail on special aluminum boats designed for polar waters, according to Herve Favre, president of the French group OC Sport.

These ships will have to be "fast enough to make the crossing in two months, because the window is not large," between the summer period free of ice and the return of winter precipitation, Favre said, according to a story published in the Montreal daily La Presse.

"The North Pole Race will make the world population aware of sustainable development and the importance of acting now to save our environment," Quebec City Mayor Regis Labeaume said last week, when the race was first reported.

Quebec City's municipal government said in a statement that the North Pole Race will bring together teams from 10 countries, including Canada, China, Russia, France and Denmark. Each team will consist of a scientist, an experienced skipper and citizens of the country it is representing.

This race "could not have existed without global warming, because the melting ice in the Northwest Passage makes it possible to travel along this strategic nautical route," a statement from Quebec City said.

Passing through the Canadian archipelago, a vast network of isolated and inhospitable islands located beyond the Arctic Circle, the Northwest Passage saves ships approximately 7,000 kilometers (4,300 miles) of distance between Europe and Asia. But the lack of infrastructure, the remoteness of emergency services and the limited cartography of the Arctic Ocean make navigation in these waters very perilous.

Favre, whose group also organizes the Route du Rhum transatlantic solo yacht race, said the North Pole Race was more likely to attract adventurers rather than professional racers.

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