Friday, November 16, 2007


Xplore Expeditions has been accepted as a member of the prestigious International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO). Founded in 1991, IAATO promotes safe and environmentally responsible tourism practices in the remote, wild and delicate Antarctic region.

Xplore Expeditions is an adventure sailing outfitter specializing in high latitude voyages to the Antarctic peninsula, sub-Antarctic Islands, the Falkland and South Georgia islands, and Tierra del Fuego. The company offers individual berths on scheduled trips; customized charters; and Royal Yachting Association (RYA) accreditation sails.

A relative newcomer to the Antarctic arena, Xplore Expeditions was founded in 2006 when skipper Stephen Wilkins, after three seasons and six expeditions to Antarctica, decided to launch his own yacht and adventure sailing firm with friend and “The Race” winner Nico Pichelin. As a result they’ve found the benefits of IAATO to be many, Wilkins says: first and foremost the “credibility” of affiliation with this leading industry group, and the associated governments and scientific foundations.

Plus, Wilkins adds, “We get constant updates on landing location information and do’s and don’ts as locations change or get too much impact from visitors. It gives us a network of sister vessels and shore-based resources we can call on in an emergency situation; and there’s the gathering of a statistical database of tourism information.”

Procedures and guidelines advocated by IAATO and honored by Xplore Expeditions include regulations and restrictions on numbers of people ashore; staff-to-passenger ratios; wildlife watching; pre- and post-visit activity reporting; contingency and emergency medical evacuation plans; and much more.

Xplore Expeditions offers a variety of passages, spotlighting ice formations; unexplored coastlines; native birds, marine and wildlife; and cultural, geographic, and historical attractions. Other trips focus on photography, documentary film-making, and support for land excursions. Trips take place in the Austral summer (November through March) when temperatures can reach into the 70s, and periods of clear, fine weather are common.

Originally a racing yacht that proved herself in two circumnavigation races, the flagship Xplore was refitted and re-launched in Plymouth UK in April 2007. She carries up to 12 passengers and crew, and can venture into remote anchorages large ships cannot. A fast heavy-weather sailing yacht, she is also swift under power, with generous fuel and water tanks, heat and hot water systems, and a full galley, making her comfortable and self-sufficient at sea for extended periods of time.

A full programme of scheduled trips is available on the website at You can also contact Nicolas Pichelin at +33 681 097 626 or; or Eleonora Mazzonis at + 39 028 905 5320 or For IAATO information go to

Sunday, November 4, 2007

XPLORE co-skipper Nico Pichelin takes early lead in Transat Jacques Vabre

Nico Pichelin and Bruno Jourdren, aboard the Class 40 Vecteur Plus/Groupe Moniteur, have taken an early lead in their 28 boat division in the Transatlantic Jacques Vabre, after just two days of racing.

The race, which began 3 Nov., takes competitors 4,340 miles across the equator from Le Havre, France to Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. Sixty boats, in four monohull and multihull divisions, were entered.

Pichelin, Co-Skipper and Project Manager for Xplore Expeditions, took advantage of the Antarctic off-season to compete in the challenging Transatlantic contest. Winner of the round-the-world race “The Race” on the maxi-catamaran Club Med, Pichelin was also a member of the French campaign for the America’s Cup in 2003, and part of the world championship team aboard the 60-foot trimaran Groupama.

On Day Two of the Jacques Vabre, race officials noted the contestants were, “trying to find their way amid challenging weather conditions in the Channel. The crews have to deal cautiously with a high-pressure system in the Bay of Seine and beyond to avoid losing ground.”

After their win in the Prologue race, Pichelin/Jourdren, were recognized as a team to watch; and by the second day of the Jacques Vabre had a slim lead over a pack of six frontrunners, with the balance of the division trailing. In addition, the 40-footers were said to be “on the heels of the IMOCA 60” class according to race organizers. A turning tide, with shifting winds that increased to 16 knots, helped them sail a more direct course to the mark. But they fleet will continue to be tested as another high-pressure system looms: bringing lighter winds from the west-northwest.

Meanwhile, Xplore Expeditions Skipper and Founder Stephen Wilkins held down the fort in Uruguay, where Xplore is being provisioned and prepared for the Austral summer sailing season.

For more information on Xplore Expeditions please click here. For the Transat Jacques Vabre Race, click here.