With inspiring comments and anecdotes from Captain Scott Whittaker, the story of Gayle Force is one of adventure and intrigue, as well as epitomising Vripack’s design philosophy; to create safe, durable yachts with light, elegant and comfortable interiors that make you feel at home, at sea.
Heading to Antarctica is never a simple task. Even on board an expedition vessel the risks are plenty. But when cruising on an “unproven” 29m explorer – the smallest private Marshall Island flag boat to ever venture to the Southern Peninsula – you need to be sure of two things, a) that you have an open mind, and b) that the vessel is designed by Vripack.
Captain Scott Whittaker grew up sailing. With 30 years of marine industry experience under his belt there are few places on Earth where he hasn’t travelled. But when Wayne and Gayle Laufer, owners of 29m Gayle Force (ex PATRIOT) requested to see the wilds of Antarctica, he knew it was “game on”.
First built in the Netherlands in 2003 by Bloemsma & Van Breemen, Gayle Force forms part of Vripack’s legendary Doggersbank Offshore series. Known for its heavy duty use, low emissions, clean engine rooms and long-lasting equipment, the Doggersbank epitomises Vripack’s design philosophy; to create safe, durable yachts with light, elegant and comfortable interiors that make you feel at home, at sea.
For Captain Scott, however, the real adventure began long before the voyage itself, with a long 20 months spent in the shipyard “decomplicating” the numerous changes that had accrued over time.
Captain Scott shares; “One of the biggest things that Vripack helped us with was weight/balance. We ended up taking around 25,000 pounds off the bow of the boat, and replacing the unnecessarily large 23mm anchor chain with the original 16mm version,” he says. “We also converted the crew lounge into a third guest cabin, and importantly added zero speed stabilisers. I really feel that with an expedition boat, the only defence you have is to slow down. It’s not a long enough boat to stick your nose into it, but to slow to 3-4 knots, stay upright and keep running – GAYLE FORCE does that really well now.”
On 20 November, 2018, Gayle Force left Panama City, Florida, and made the non-stop 3,800Nm journey straight to Valparaíso, Chile, “essentially unproven”. For Captain Scott, it demonstrated that the yacht “has a solid 5000Nm range, if not more like 6,500Nm, which is huge for a little boat”.
It went without a hitch, and they spent a few weeks cruising the vast waters around Patagonia where they experienced “relentless winds and high seas, and the boat took a phenomenal beating, as did the crew”. Captain Scott tolerated his fair share of adversity, too, having elected to bunk down on the bridge for the Antarctic leg in a bivy sack and -20 sleeping bag to accommodate the ice pilot and naturalist.
Follow the rest of Gayle Force's story, to be continued in Part 2...