Konyukhov prepares for first solo circumnavigation of Antarctica

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Sydney, Jan 19 (UNI) Fedor Konyukhov, first and so far the only person in the world to have reached the five extreme Poles of the planet, is in for a next extreme voyage.

Konyukhov, 56, after climbing Mount Everest, rowing across the Atlantic Ocean, hiking to both North and South Poles, cycling the length of Russia from Vladivostok to St Petersburg, is preparing for the first solo circumnavigation of Antarctica staying south of 45 degrees latitude.

A member of the Russian Geographic Society, Konyukhov will set off from Albany on January 26 on a voyage previously deemed too dangerous to attempt.

Konykhov will spend all but a few days of his 25,000 km epic in the danger zone. The boundaries of the course for the new Antarctica Cup are the 45 and 60 degree lines of latitude, passing the three great southern capes of Horn, Agulhas and Leeuwin.

The Russian, aboard the 27 m maxi yacht Alye Parusa, will have to contend with the world's strongest average winds, mountainous seas, fog and icebergs on a route south of such far-flung outposts as Macquarie Island, Kerguelen and the Falklands, The West Australian reported.

Round-the-world yacht races presently include rules to minimise competitors' exposure to the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties after a number of competitors, the most famous being Tony Bullimore, who had to be rescued when venturing too far south in bad weather.

The World Sailing Speed Record Council will ratify the voyage, if completed, to provide a benchmark for others to beat in a 2009 race being planned as the highlight of centenary celebrations of Albany's Princess Royal Sailing Club.

Konyukhov, who has four world circumnavigations to his credit, said the race around Antarctica was the last great challenge in offshore sailing.

''I have always treated the Southern Ocean leg as the most extraordinary, risky and beautiful part of the voyage,'' he said, adding, ''I have considered previously the challenge of rounding Antarctica non-stop and the Antarctica Cup offers this opportunity.'' ''To me racing around Antarctica is about sport, adventure and history.'' UNI XC SHB SSC1148

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