Hamble sailor calls on marine companies to get involved in record-breaking circumnavigation

Ella Hibbert

A 25-year-old British sailor is calling for help in the form of donations, support, equipment and expertise, as she attempts a record-setting circumnavigation of the Arctic.

If successful, Ella Hibbert, an RYA Yachtmaster instructor based in Hamble-le-Rice, would become the first woman to solo circumnavigate the Arctic without stopping.

During her voyage, Hibbert is also working to raise funds and awareness for two environmental charities that work to protect Arctic ecosystems.

Ella Hibbert says she hopes to inspire young activists to see they can "genuinely make a difference"
Ella Hibbert says she hopes to inspire young activists to see they can “genuinely make a difference”

“I am very determined to make this voyage a reality, and that comes with a flurry of mixed emotions,” says Hibbert, who is intending to depart on the five-month voyage in summer 2024. “I know that I will be putting all my skills and knowledge to the test and that I will solely depend on myself to pull this off – which is the part that excites me the most.”

Hibbert’s journey isn’t just about setting a record. She is also sailing to raise awareness about global warming, melting sea ice, and how this is wreaking havoc on the Arctic ecosystem.

“The Arctic has always fascinated me, but I don’t think enough people are aware yet of the dangers the Arctic is facing,” she says. “I want to bring awareness to the fragility of the Arctic ecosystem – and by being able to do a full circumnavigation non-stop, I’ll have proven that the sea ice is at dangerously low levels.”

Ella Hibbert
Sailing a dinghy aged 6, in 2002

Hibbert has launched a fundraising campaign to help her buy a 38ft steel-hull ketch she has found, which has been surveyed and found seaworthy. She is currently at £3,600 of a £30,000 target and is calling on those in the industry to get involved in her record-breaking circumnavigation attempt in any way they can.

Upon completing her trip, Hibbert will auction the boat and its equipment, with all proceeds being donated to the Polar Bears International and Ocean Conservancy environmental charities.

“Once [fundraising] has been accomplished, if anyone would like to provide equipment, help, expertise, or knowledge, they can contact me through the website or social media pages,” she says.

Ella Hibbert
Hibbert works as an RYA Yachtmaster instructor at Port Hamble Marina

“I will need equipment such as a water maker, dive compressor, solar panels, life raft and safety equipment. I will also be giving the boat some maintenance work in a shipyard, so if anyone would like to offer hands to help, that would also be amazing. I will need to learn a few skills, such as drysuit diving, welding and expedition first aid, so I’d be happy to hear from anyone with expertise in these fields.”

Hibbert adds: “I’m also actively looking for a sponsor to help me achieve all of this, so if a company would be interested in sponsoring, I’d love to talk to them about what I can offer in return.”

In the time between now and the departure date, Hibbert will spend the time making ready the yacht, as well as honing her own skill set.

Ella Hibbert

“Although my experience of long-distance sailing alone isn’t extensive, I have set myself a two to three year timeline for this voyage that will ensure I have time to take the yacht out on offshore passages before embarking on the Arctic circumnavigation,” she says.

“I plan to sail from the UK to Iceland and back, to push the boat and myself and make sure we’re fully prepared for the Arctic. I’m also in talks with a vessel currently operating in Arctic waters, which I may be able to join for a delivery voyage, to gain experience with, and learn from, sailors that have been in Arctic waters for years.”

While she admits her parents think she’s “mad” and remain “understandably apprehensive” about their youngest child doing something so challenging, she says that her family are all incredibly supportive of the voyage. “They know that once I set myself a goal, I don’t let it go until I’ve accomplished it,” she adds.

Hibbert is still debating whether or not to pause in Greenland before undertaking the non-stop circumnavigation, but this will be decided closer to the time.

“There’s a lot of work to be done prior to leaving – the biggest challenge at the moment is finding and funding the right boat,” says Hibbert. “I have two in mind that are currently for sale, and I am fundraising for the costs while keeping an eye on the market for other steel yachts that may become available,” she explains.

“Once the boat has been bought, I’ll be able to start giving it the TLC it needs to be ready for the voyage, such as sand-blasting the hull, coating with epoxy, fitting a water-maker, wind generator, and so on. Once those are done, and she’s back in the water, it will then be a case of training, in all weather, getting to know my boat inside and out – as well as developing my own skill set.”

Polar bears in Alaska
Scientists have predicted most polar bears could be lost by 2050

While Hibbert says she feels slightly apprehensive about adjusting to the low Arctic temperatures and irregular sleep patterns that come with being alone on board, she is more concerned with the bigger picture.

“The Arctic has always seemed to me an unreachable, harsh land. But, the reality is that as global warming and climate change keep rising, the Arctic is becoming more and more accessible,” she says.

“I would love to see a change in how people think of the Arctic – not as some remote area of the world that’s unreachable and unaffected by our activities, but as a fragile ecosystem that needs us to do more to protect it. We can rally together, support each other, and set an example for how we should be taking care of the thing we love the most – the ocean.”

One response to “Hamble sailor calls on marine companies to get involved in record-breaking circumnavigation”

  1. Cherry Crawford says:

    Wishing Ella Hibbert success in this venture, and an amazing, dedicated sponsor to support it. What an opportunity for one company to showcase it’s commitment to conservation and maritime good practice.

This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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