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ADVENTURE AWAITS ON QILAK

Arctic Expeditions with North Sails

Qilak Arctic Exploration North Sails 3Di
📸 Florian Ledoux

Qilak owners, father and daughter Philippe and Marion Carlier, know they need dependable equipment to survive the Arctic ice onboard their purpose-built Owen Clarke 66. When we spoke to them, they were 69 degrees 29 minutes North, in Norway’s Lyngen Alps, well above the Arctic Circle. For Qilak, a combination of the right equipment and years of expertise make it possible to safely bring guests to explore high latitudes, sharing their passion for sailing and the sea.

The Right Connections

Why did the Carlier’s choose North Sails for arctic exploration?

“I had North Sails on my three-quarter tonner, and she was fast– World Champion fast– so I’ve had confidence with the product from the very beginning,” says Philippe. But it was the relationship they built with North sailing expert Frank Gerber that cemented their decision for this project. “We all had the same understanding of what we were looking to do with the project,” says Philippe. “Frank was the key piece that tied all the parts together.”

Marion says they first met Frank at The King and Queen Pub in Hamble, UK. “Frank’s mother owns it, and it quickly became our central meeting place, along with every other sailor in the area in England.” That’s also where they met Naval Architect Merfyn Owen. It was a combination of all the right people at the right time–and the right place.

Qilak Arctic Exploration North Sails 3Di
Philippe [Left] Marion [Right]. 📸 Florian Ledoux

The Right Boat + Sails

Qilak was purpose-built, and her solid aluminum hull can break through the ice. She has a retractable keel to go where larger ships cannot, an open cockpit—with heated seats and a warm cabin to take cover when underweigh. “Even the view from down below is stunning,” Marion explains. “The combination of boat design, rig, and sail plan was exactly what we needed and is why we can explore the arctic waters safely, comfortably, and with ease.”

Philippe and Marion knew they needed a long-lasting sail product that was efficient through the wind ranges. It wasn’t just about getting new sails, though; it was about all the necessary systems easily working together. “The relationship we built with Frank has made this project successful,” Marion says. “He worked closely with my father–carefully listening to make sure he knew everything we were trying to accomplish with Qilak. He then bridged contact between my father and Naval Architect Merfyn Owen. North Sails made our project run smoothly, with the best sail options. They are true sail experts.”

Qilak Arctic Exploration North Sails 3Di
Qilak has many options when it comes to inventory. [Left]: NPL TOUR Furling Solent headsail [Middle]: G2 Gennaker with Snuffer [Right]: 3Di OCEAN furling headsail.

Qilak’s inventory consists of a full-batten 3Di OCEAN mainsail, NPL TOUR furling solent, 3Di OCEAN furling inner jib, NPL TOUR furling reacher, a storm jib, a storm trysail, and a G2 Gennaker with a Snuffer. They’ve got every wind range covered with their new setup.

“As a retired pilot, I like when I can see my sails acting like wings,” Philippe explains. “Our 3Di mainsail is so stable. It generates a great deal of power, and you can feel it.” Qilak’s furling headsails make it possible to adjust the amount of power as needed, without clients even noticing. “We can achieve zero percent or 100 percent, or anything in between,” he continues. “It’s all done so easily. The convenience of furling headsails allows us to do so much more.”

North expert Frank Gerber based in Gosport, UK commented, “I’m glad we were able to help them achieve their sailing goal and provide them with peace of mind along the way in their adventures.”

Though they use their engine to reposition or avoid ice, the feeling onboard under sail is a special one, says Marion. “This is a great opportunity to teach our guests and enjoy each moment.”

In the Arctic, the wind funnels through the mountains and down fjords and delivers varying conditions. “You can go from very light air to 40 knots just like that,” Marion says. “This is why we are always conservative when it comes to how many sails we have up at the same time. It’s for everyone’s safety.”

Qilak Arctic Exploration North Sails 3Di
Catch the last light before dark, or the first sun as it comes up over the mountains. If you are lucky, you can even see the Aurora borealis from on deck. From what we’ve heard, it’s spectacular.

The Carlier’s have covered roughly 15,000 nm on Qilak, more than half the time under sail power alone. “We sail about 65% of the time, “We choose to motor sail when the high pressure is on us,” Marion explains. “We use our mainsail and our solent most because they are easy with guests and provide us stability.”

Their longest passage so far is 600 miles, which took three days. Their best 24 hour run so far was 220 miles. “Very impressive for us non-racing sailors,” Marion laughs. “We saw 12.5 mph, with the wind at 15 knots. We stayed tucked into our pilot house with our heated seats. It was just a beautiful ride.”

It’s All About the Adventure

“We insert ourselves into nature and share the beauty of sailing and the environment with our guests,” says Philippe.

Maneuvering under sail allows Qilak to get close to arctic wildlife. “We see so many amazing things,” says Marion. “Last year, we witnessed billions of herring moving back into the fjords, and behind them followed Orcas and humpback whales. Everywhere we went, whales surrounded us. We move slowly, with just our solent, and the whales and dolphins are curious. It is so quiet, we don’t have our motor on, and they come in very close to see what we are up to.”

“The walrus are fascinating”, says Philippe. “They look sleepy most of the time, then all of a sudden they move and they are faster than you think. They are true torpedos in the water– magnificent animals.”

Qilak Arctic Exploration North Sails 3Di
Choose your adventure! Anything from sailing, trekking, climbing, kayaking, or relax down below in the onboard sauna… (yes, we said sauna!)

There are also millions of Arctic tern, puffins, reindeer, and fox. “The reindeer are a bit more curious, said Philippe. “They often get within 10m if you are standing still. If they take off, it’s generally because a polar bear is near.”

Greenland sharks are another common species they’ve seen while adventuring. “Have you ever seen one? This given species of shark could be over 400 years old– it’s just unbelievable, says Philippe. “I would not hesitate to swim with whales and orcas, but that shark, no way.”

“One time, we had a polar bear reeling us in,” said Philippe. ” It was less than 50 meters behind us. They are beautiful animals, but we keep our distance. When you hear someone yell ‘polar bear, polar bear!’ it is no joke up here.”

Charters on Qilak are scheduled around the best weather window. “Most of our guests like having a destination, but every now and then we get a group that is just there to go explore at our own pace,” says Philippe. “This allows for a sense of freedom. It’s a different experience to have no real limits. There is no race, nowhere you have to be, no other sailboats around, just you, the ice, and nature.”

Qilak is built to make safe ice passages in the arctic territories.

Why Qilak?

The Qilak logo stands for the sky’s dome, the protective layer with all the living things under it. “We wanted to pick something that would be fitting with our project. A celestial sky and, by extension, like heaven all encompassed inside Mother Earth. We wanted to choose a name that was relatable to this arctic area of the world.”

They wanted to name their boat something different, something unique. “We were speaking to an Inuit, and he asked us why we named our boat Qilak because his name was Qilak! It was funny. I guess we were not the only ones who thought it was a good name,” said Philippe.

With a new year ahead, the Carlier’s stay positive and are ready to get creative to continue to follow their plans for adventure. “There is uncertainty still with the pandemic, but we’re not giving up. No matter what, we will still take on the adventure, and with a little creativity, it will still be successful,” says Philippe.

Want to learn more about Qilak and how you can jump onboard? With tons of trip options, you can see parts of the world you would never have imagined. Visit Qilak’s website to learn more. Get the full tour and see her under sail here:

🎥   Courtesy of Expedition Sailing Virtual Boat Show, produced by Arctic Yachts. Thank you to 📸  Florian Ledoux for professional imagery.

All other images + video links provided by guests onboard Qilak. Thank you Manta Vizbaras, Julie la Québecquoise, and Secret Atlas. To see what Qilak is up to, follow Qilak on Facebook  and on Instagram.