Fyodor Konyukhov is a well-known Russian traveler, writer, artist, ship captain, hot air balloon pilot and priest. He is a Merited Master of Sports of the USSR in sports tourism and a member of the USSR Union of Artists, the Union of Writers and the Union of Journalists of Russia. He is also an academician of the Russian Academy of Arts and a member of the Russian Geographical Society.
To meet and talk with Konyukhov is always a great piece of luck. Almost every year, reports about him come from different parts of the world, each more surprising than the last.
Konyukhov was the first in the world to conquer five poles of our planet: Geographic North Pole (three times), Geographic South Pole, the Pole of Relative Inaccessibility in the Arctic Ocean, Everest (pole of altitude), and Cape Horn (pole of yachtsmen.) He was the first Russian to cope with the Grand Slam program (North Pole, South Pole, and Everest). Konyukhov climbed all the 7 Peaks of the World on each of the seven continents. Mariners remember his solitary ocean-crossing voyages on row boats. At the first attempt, Konyukhov managed to fly solo around the Earth in a hot-air balloon in 11 days. It became another world record of our compatriot.
At the recent press conference, the first question of wek.ru was about this remarkable event.
“Mr. Konyukov, you planned to continue your conquest of the sky this year. To circle the globe in a balloon for the second time, and to break the world record by climbing into the stratosphere up to 25,000 m. And here is an unexpected turn. Are you going to challenge the water element this time?”
“I would like to reassure everyone present and the Russian aeronautical community,” said Konyukov. “Balloon flights have been postponed for various reasons. However, I hope they will take place. In the meantime, I decided to make the world's first solo crossing of the Pacific Ocean aboard the solar-powered catamaran.”
Konyukhov is to sail 9,000 nautical miles (over 16,500 km) in an autonomous voyage from the coast of Chile to Australia. According to preliminary estimates, the crossing will take more than 100 days.
“These are the plans for the time being,” said Konyukhov. “The roaring 40s latitudes of the Pacific Ocean require a careful study of weather forecasts and a thorough choice of the starting "window." I have to wait for a large anticyclone with sunny weather and moderate winds. These conditions will allow for a safe departure from the coast of South America. The start is scheduled for December this year.”
Fyodor Konyukhov is going on the next trip not only for sports records. First of all, he will attempt to sail single-handed across the ocean using solar energy and electric traction. Project technology has no analogues in the world.
“This is the first ocean-going vessel under the Russian flag, which can also operate in unmanned mode,” said Oskar Konyukhov, head of the expedition staff. “The duration of the autonomous voyage is about half a year. The range is unlimited. The NOVA catamaran can successfully function in the most difficult natural conditions and areas of man-made disasters.”
The environmental component of the expedition is the second most important point. Daily monitoring of sea water will detect pollution zones in the ocean. The catamaran will be equipped with a special flow-through unit and a set of replacement filters that are able to trap micro-particles of plastic.
The collected materials will be passed for further study to the Shirshov Institute of Oceanology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, which is the scientific partner of the expedition.
Like Konyukhov’s three previous paddle boats, the unique vessel was designed by his longtime partner Phil Morrison, a popular English designer. The catamaran has a displacement of 2.2 tonnes and is made of Russian carbon fiber composites which have zero magnetic field and, accordingly, no negative impact on the onboard research equipment. It also features unique home-made solar modules on an area of 66 square meters.
At the end of the interview I couldn't resist asking the question:
“Mr. Konyukhov, you will turn 70 in December and this does not prevent you from getting out of seemingly hopeless situations. Where do you draw your strength from?”
“Please, take my book about a single-handed voyage around Antarctica. You'll find answers to all your questions there,” he said.
I will cite just one paragraph from the reflections of the legendary Russian traveler: “Life teaches me that one should never give up or abandon oneself to despair. There is no poetry in poems for money. There is no inspiration in a painting for money. There is no spirituality in a journey for money. The Holy Spirit does not descend on a church that is built without faith. Every endeavor requires faith, inspiration and unselfishness."
Photo: On this boat, Fyodor Konyukhov survived 100 days of storms in the “Roaring Forties” and “Furious Fifties” (including a Force 12 storm), four overkeels and solitude in the spacecraft cemetery Point Nemo. / Oskar Konyukhov / From personal files