Fedor Konyukhov
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Putting a string around the world with a balloon: the Konyukhov RTW flight weather strategy

The goal of the Fedor Konyukhov RTW flight in July 2016 was to beat the record of 13 days flying around the world in a balloon, held by Steve Fossett since 2002. I was also involved in the Fossett record, and I helped him in the 3 successful RTW flights in Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Atlantic Global Flyer in 2005 and 2006.

Fedor Konyukhov has crossed the Pacific Ocean in 92 hours!

On July 18 at 11:30 (UTC) the MORTON balloon and its pilot, Fedor Konyukhov, completed the crossing of the Pacific Ocean from continent (Australia) to continent (South America). Fedor Konyukhov became the second pilot in history to cross the Pacific Ocean solo nonstop in a balloon.

Fedor Konyukhov is approaching coast of South America

During the last 24 hours Fedor had to perform a few difficult manoeuvres. Yesterday afternoon the pilot saw large cumulus clouds (cumulonimbus) on the horizon, at the height of 10-11 km, well above the Morton balloon flight level.

Jumping over cold front in the Pacific

In a few hours Fedor will have to negotiate a large occluded front stretching across the Pacific Ocean from the coast of Antarctica to 20 degrees south latitude.

Morton balloon is at Western hemisphere!

15 July 12:00 UTC Fedor crossed 180 Longitude and now in Western hemisphere. He went back to the past - it is Thursdays 14 of July for Fedor again!

A memorial plinth to commemorate the transpacific rowing is erected in Mooloolaba, Australia

Last week Fedor Konyukhov arrived in the City of Mooloolaba, Australia where almost a year ago he finished his transpacific row on the city’s public beach. Fedor Konyukhov was invited by the city council to attend the opening ceremony of a commemorative plinth dedicated to his 2014 solo trip from Chile to Australia on the 9 meter long ocean rowboat “Tourgoyak”.

Circumnavigation on a crewed monohull for the Jules Verne Trophy

There have been 12 people who landed on the Moon; 340 people have crossed various oceans on row boats; and more than 3,500 people have climbed Mt. Everest. However, as of July 1st, 2014, there has yet to be a team to sail a monohull non-stop around the world. The remaining frontier to be conquered by a crewed monohull is winning the Jules Verne Trophy.

Fedor Konyukhov’s Trip to Chelyabinsk Region and Lake Turgoyak

Upon completing his solo rowing across the Pacific Ocean, Fedor didn’t linger in Australia for too long. He had an important event to attend back home in Russia. He was expected as an honorable and long awaited guest at the annual children’s sailing regatta “Fedor Konyukhov Optimist Cup 2014”.

The row boat Tourgoyak has left the Pacific

On December 1st, 2013 the Tourgoyak boat was released into the waters of the Pacific Ocean at the Chilean yacht-club Higuerillas (Concon, Valparaiso region). Today, May 3rd, 2014 it was lifted from the water and put on keel blocks at the Australian yacht-club of Mooloolaba.

Land at last! Day 160

On Saturday, May 31st, 2014 at 13:13 Brisbane time, Tourgoyak landed on the east coast of Australia finishing the continent to continent rowing marathon across the Pacific Ocean. Fedor Konyukhov had crossed the largest ocean on the planet solo, non-stop, unassisted and in a record time of 160 days.

Update from Fedor Konyukhov

30 of May 18:00 local time. Fedor reported that he is 27 miles from entry to Mooloolaba river (light House). Averaging 1.5-2 knots. Winds S-E-E 10-15 knots. Not much current. Surrounded by 7 trawlers, they are not approaching to him. He expect to be within 5 miles from the coast at 8:00 A.M. on Saturday.

Preparations to meet Fedor Konyukhov are underway

If the weather cooperates, Fedor will arrive to Mooloolaba Marina morning Saturday, May 31st. The current plan is that Fedor's transpacific crossing is scheduled to take place at The Yacht Club Inc. which is located at 33-45 Parkyn Parade, Mooloolaba, Queensland 4557. Everyone wishing to see Fedor's arrival is welcomed to come to The Yacht club Commodore dock, located right in front of the main building.

Tourgoyak from Above

On Thursday, May 29th, the land support team for Fedor Konyukhov's expedition across the Pacific flew 70 miles into the ocean to see Fedor and his row boat. Initially, we were going to take off when Fedor would be only 50 miles away from the coast. However, the last 24 hours turned out to be very challenging for rowing: Fedor entered the coastal current that carried him north during the night but by morning it turned around and started pushing him south.

90 miles before the finish

It's the morning of May 28th. Last night went well, the wind was weak but shifting. I could accomplish 38 miles in the last 24 hours. It's a good result considering the situation. Right now, the most important thing is to keep the course steady, which means I'll have to sacrifice some speed. I can no longer just follow the wind but must row strictly west. Currently the wind is northerly and later today it is expected to blow from the north-west.

150 miles until the land. Day 155

The ocean is still, like a lake. A weak wind is from the south-east. I only did 35 miles since yesterday. If I keep this tempo, God willing, I'll see the Australian coast by the end of the week. I don't want to get ahead of myself though, the weather is too unstable.

Day 153

It's the morning of May 24th. Last night was fair and uneventful. At sundown, I saw 5 whales going north, and thankfully, they didn't pay the slightest attention to me. At the sight them I froze and brought the oars back on deck. When whales are around, it's better to not attract their attention.

250 miles left to go. Day 152

The last 24 hours were great; Tourgoyak and I covered an entire one degree. The wind is east-north-easterly, 10-12 knots. The waves are helping the boat along the course. There were six flying fish on deck this morning. I am not fishing any more, to save time, but it's nice to get a surprise like this. I cooked three of them and the other three are drying on the railings.

5 months at sea

It's the morning of May 22. Last night went well. The wind is weak, less than 10 knots. The 40 miles covered is a good result considering I have no help from the wind. There is no current, the ocean is calm: not helping but not interfering either. I'm praying that it will continue this way. I'm in full control of the boat: I can turn it south-west, west, or north-west. I'm at the latitude of the Mooloolaba marina, and will stay here until the end. There are 300 miles left to go.

9000 miles behind the stern. Day 149

I’m staying on course. The weather is stable. The wind is 10-15 knots. The waves are 1 meter tall from the south-east. There are 350 nautical miles until Australia. As of today, Tourgoyak and I have covered 9000 nautical miles (16200 km). I don’t like getting ahead of myself, but I must say that my team and I have correctly estimated the duration of my route across the Pacific.

500 miles to go!

The Ocean is driving me west, towards Australia. For the last 48 hours the wind would not lower down than 25 knots, and oftentimes the gusts would reach 35 knots. The surface of the ocean is completely white. These conditions are very difficult for an ocean row boat. It’s challenging, or even impossible, to effectively row in such a strong wind. The boat, propelled by the wind and the waves, is already going at 3 knots speed.

Day 144. 700 miles to go!

The wind is south-east, 25-30 knots, with gusts of up to 35 knots. Tourgoyak and I covered 70 miles in the last 24 hours. The port side is ballasted. In general, the boat stays steady when the waves slam at her. In fact, Tourgoyak rises above the waves and only the wind crests plunge hard onto the deck. When that happens, the port side gives a sharp roll and there is a risk of capsizing.

Day 142

I left Norfolk island (Australia) at the port side. There are no more islands to pass or to stay away from. The only land ahead is the continent of Australia, but it’s still 780 nautical miles away. The wind is south-east, 15+ knots, and it’s expected to raise up to 25 knots. The week is going to be windy with the gusts up to 30 knots. The formation of a new front will bring steady south-east wind for the next thousand miles. If nothing interrupts this front my boat will advance rapidly.

Day 139

It took me 44 hours to cross the 171 degree; almost two days to cover one degree. The weather has been difficult with the wind from the south, periodically coming from the west. The boat has been dragged towards New Caledonia. It’s early Sunday morning, just before the sunrise. I can feel the wind’s shifting, and hopefully it will become easterly. My wind barometer stopped working long time ago. With the wind from the east it will be possible to keep the course at 280-285 degrees, as opposed to 310.

Day 137

It’s early morning, May 9th. It’s WWII Victory Day. My best wishes are to the veterans of my country who fought in World War II. I salute to my father, Konyukhov Philip Mikhailovich, who considers May 9th one of the most important dates in his life. My father was born in 1916. He was drafted as a young soldier as soon as the war began.

999 miles until Brisbane.

On the night of May 8th, the Tourgoyak boat had crossed the 172 degree of the Eastern Longitude. This information is confirmed by the International Ocean Rowing Society (London). Fedor Konyukhov is now in less than 999 miles from Brisbane.

Day 132

The wind is from the north-east, 6-8 knots. The boat is moving westward, staying close to the main course. It’s a new moon and I’m thankful for that. The ocean should become a bit calmer and inviting. The new day is promising to be nice and sunny.

Fedor Konyukhov’s current project: unassisted, non-stop, solo rowing across the Pacific Ocean - Project Completed

On his birthday, December 12th, 2012 Fedor Konyukhov announced his new project to row across the Pacific Ocean from Chile to Australia. The solo expedition proposed to be a non-stop and unassisted transpacific crossing.

Day 98

Last night was a plight. The weather forecast didn’t prove to be true. By sunset, the wind became southerly and rose to 25 knots, with gusts of up to 30 knots. Within an hour the surface of the ocean bulged: the old swells from the north met with the newly formed wind waves from the south. Together they buffeted and pressed the boat.

Day 67. Fedor passed Fatu Hiva

February 27th was a significant day in Fedor’s transpacific expedition. For the first time, since his start in Chile 67 days ago, Fedor saw land. It was Fatu Hiva, the southernmost island of the Marquesas archipelago.

Day 65

All is well on board. I@@apos@@m staying on schedule: 55 nautical miles in 24 hours. The ocean is tranquil: no waves, no wind, and the sea-surface is really warm. I had a visitor last night. She looked like a pigeon. The bird decided to camp out on the solar panels, and then she was gone by morning.

DIY bottom cleaning

All is well on board. The ocean is calm, the waves are less than one meter, and the wind is no more than 10 knots. Today I decided to take the risk and clean the bottom of the boat. Equipped with a harness belt, a life vest, a snorkel mask, gloves and cleaning tools I submerged myself under the boat.

Day 60

Today marks my two months on the ocean. During this time Tourgoyak and I covered almost 4000 miles, rowing from the South Pacific into the tropical latitudes. Now, before us is the expanse of Oceania. I continue to row towards the equator.

Tropical Cyclones

In our last telephone conversation with Fedor he mentioned the risk of getting caught in one of the cyclones that are predominant in the Oceania between November and April.

Day 58

The conditions in the ocean are changing every day as I move closer and closer to French Polynesia. Today I saw birds and yesterday dolphins came close to my boat, but didn’t stick around for too long. I guess my rowing is too slow and they quickly got bored.

Day56

At dawn the AIS system detected a fishing boat 5 miles in the distance. I didn’t radio them because my experience has shown that as soon as fishing men hear that there is an ocean row boat, more often than not, they want to come closer to take a look at my boat.

Day 54

Last night the wind rose to 20 knots with gusts of 25 knots. The seas rose up to 4 meters. The sky is crystal clear without a single cloud. The ocean continues to push Tourgoyak westward. The boat is facing the ocean well, keeps the course and doesn’t turn sideways.

Day 50

It’s been 50 days since my start from Chile on December 22nd, 2013. Back on land people celebrated Christmas, New Year, and now have welcomed the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, but there haven’t been too many changes for me out here on the ocean. The fifty days of constant tipping and rolling of the boat and my rowing have conditioned me to be under a constant stress.

Day 46

Day 46 on the ocean brings memories of my other ocean rowing. Back in 2002 it took me 46 days to row across the Atlantic Ocean from La Gomera to Barbados. The 46 days is the longest I've been on a row boat.

Tracking Tourgoyak from Space

Starting on February 1, 2014 the Tourgoyak boat is being followed by the Russian astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS). They will rely on the coordinates of the boat received from the Yellow Brick beacon. The goal of this tracking is to provide images of the boat, weather permitting, and also to enhance visual weather report charts.

Day 45

My situation in the Pacific Ocean is intense. It’s exhausting to keep the boat turned into the wave, especially when the gigantic waves are trying to turn the boat sideways. They look like mountains raising high and then dizzyingly fast run under the boat. The wind is a non-wavering 20 knots, from the east. Hopefully, as the weather report forecasts, the wind should slow down to 15 knots to give me some relief.

Day 43

The trade winds are blowing full on. It feels as if some invisible force tilted the ocean and I'm rolling downhill following the direction of the westward flow. It's been almost a month with east to west wind and the Humboldt current in the same direction. These conditions are perfect for my 24 hour mileage goal which is 60 nautical miles at the minimum.

How Turgoyak (K9) rowing boat is made

K9's hull and fore and aft cabins were built from CNC machined polystyrene moulds, split down the centreline of the boat. The hull below the sheerline was 12mm Corecell foam sandwiched between carbon fibre skins.

Day 41

As it turned out, the weather report didn't reflect that the wind could be much stronger. The expected 20 knot wind by morning turned into squalls of 35 knots. The ocean is white, the waves are five meters high, the deck is completely drenched with each slamming of a wave.

Day 40

Greetings to all. It’s Friday morning, and I have a busy week-end ahead of me. Last night the wind intensified up to 20 knots. Today the squalls reached 25 knots. According to the weather prognosis the strong wind will persist until Monday. The waves will become high and tall.

Day 39

As it turns out, the Tropics have very contrasting temperatures. During the night, it’s quite cool and I have to wear pants, jacket and even a hat. However, during the day with the temperature reaching 30°C I sweat profusely, but at the same time can’t strip down for the fear of getting a major sun burn.

Day 37

I continue to advance north aiming to enter the 12th degree of the Southern Latitude. This will provide a better angle at approaching and maneuvering through the islands of French Polynesia. Today I had my first visitors from the ocean. For the first time since the start I saw dolphins.

Week five

It's been five weeks since I left Concon. I'm still living by Chilean time but eventually I'll need to switch to Greenwich time. I'm starting to count the days until I arrive in the waters of French Polynesia. It's my main focus to get to and pass through the islands, or rather, away from the islands.

The North Wind

All is well without any major changes. Tourgoyak continues to fly across the ocean driven by strong wind and the current. The ocean is loud and the waves are crowned with whitecaps. I crossed the 100th degree of the Western Longitude.

The first 2,000 nautical miles are done

The wind, the squalls of 25 knots, and the intermittent rain kept me occupied all day long. The weather is still stable, in my opinion. The wind is constant, 15 knots, and the current is present. Judging by the mileage left behind, I am over the 2,000 nautical mile mark.

The wind is back

After a short pause for a couple of days, the wind is back with 15-18 knots. The waves are fairly large, up to three meters. The deck is constantly washed off with the waves and I’m staying soaking wet, but thankfully the temperature of the water is much warmer here.

One month on the ocean

A blazing sun, sweltering heat and nowhere to hide - this is the situation I'm in right now. It's too stuffy in the cabin and it's too hot on deck, although there is a slight breeze. There is no such thing as comfortable weather for an ocean rower.

Saturday. January 18, 2014. Day 27

The wind has died down: 3-5 knots, sometimes as low as 0 knots. The ocean is even, slightly rippling due to the light wind. The current is still present.

Day 26

Good day to all! I am doing well, the weather is exceptional and the ocean is calm. The wind is no more than 5 knots and there are practically no waves. It’s the first time the ocean has been smooth without wind waves. It was a good day to inspect the boat and start doing some maintenance. For the first time, I put on a mask and submerged my head under the water to get a picture of how the rudder and skeg are holding up.

Day 24

It’s been a good day for rowing. I’m in the north of 17° South latitude. Tourgoyak is staying on course. The wind rose to 20 knots, the waves increased as well. The boat is going fast - dizzyingly fast- I must say. I am constantly controlling the angle of the hull in relation to waves. The wind is from the east but the waves are continually from the south-east.

Day 23

Last night by far was the best night that I have had since the start. The waves are smooth and long. The ocean is kind to me, raising the boat up and bringing it down, while at the same time nudging it along the course. The wind is stable, 15 knots with the occasional gusts of 20 knots.

Crossing the Ilo latitude

As a small port city in Southern Peru, Ilo has a special meaning to all of us who were involved in organizing Fedor’s transpacific rowing expedition. This city was our plan B in the event that maritime authorities of Chile (Armada de Chile) would not give Fedor permission to take off from Chilean port Concon.

Three weeks on the ocean

Today the weather has been favorable. The east wind of 12-15 knots, the waves are pushing me along the course. The conditions are pretty much ideal. The sun is weak but there is enough sunlight hitting solar panels to charge accumulators on board.

Day 20

Today I crossed 20° Southern Latitude and continue to head north. Despite my desire to turn west I cannot do it just yet. Right now conditions are ideal: downwind of 15 knots with gusts up to 18 knots; the Humboldt Current greatly aides my rowing. However, I’m already thinking about what lies ahead. In about 3 000 nautical miles I will be facing a serious tactical decision – how to approach and pass the French Polynesia.

The Day 19th

The Moscow HQ of the transpacific crossing had a stressful day today. The Yellow Brick buoys on board had failed to deliver the coordinates for both 12:00 and 16:00 UTC. On top of that, Fedor was unable to make his regular phone call at 21:00 (Moscow time).

The First Fish

According to my GPS I covered 60 nautical miles during the last 24 hours (12:00 UTC – 12:00 UTC). This is a great speed. It’s my goal to do at least 60 miles given that the weather cooperates. However, I can already testify that by tomorrow morning I won’t be able to meet this goal. But I have a good reason for it – tuna fish.

The first 1000 miles

Today marked a very important event - my first thousand miles in the Pacific Ocean. Psychologically, it's very uplifting. How many more thousands of miles I'l have to cover is hard to say; it all depends on the weather and how it's going to affect my route.

In the dark

Wishing a peaceful and joyous Christmas to all who celebrate the Orthodox Christmas. It’s a gift from God that we live to see this special day. All is well on board. My Christmas Eve on the ocean was peaceful, with nothing exciting.

Riding the Ocean Currents

The expedition headquarters of Fedor Konyukhov received numerous questions related to why the boat Tourgoyak is heading the northwest instead of directly west, which would be a shorter route. We bring you the comments from the experts of the Ocean Rowing Society International (London, UK).

Two weeks on the ocean

It’s been two weeks since I left Concon for Australia. Tourgoyak and I have ventured 800 miles, but the Australian continent has not moved any closer. It’s hard to predict how many weeks just like the last two I’m going to have here.

The Tourgoyak has crossed the South Tropics

Today was a significant day. Tourgoyak crossed the South Tropic and entered the tropical latitudes. If everything goes according to plan Fedor and Tourgoyak will spend the majority of the journey, 5-6 months, in these latitudes.

Day 13

The night was very intense. The wind was 20-25 knots. With the squalls the wind would reach up to 30 knots. There were a few times when the waves hit the boat so hard that I thought: that’s it, we are going to capsize.

Comments on the current boat progress from project consultant - Simon Chalk

Fedor is approaching his first waypoint. Before the start Fedor together with project consultant Simon Chalk set up 7 waypoints across Pacific Ocean as a target marks during the crossing. Here are some comments from Simon Chalk regarding Fedor’s progress so far and the route he is taking now.

The first day of the New year

The first day of the New Year brought some good news. The wind has finally changed and I am able to keep my course west-north-west. I can breathe a bit easier now! The current and the winds are just what I need.

The Tourgoyak is returning to land

Fedor Konyukhov is returning to Chile. After 4 days of launching Tourgoyak on a trans-pacific rowing expedition, Fedor has been forced to turn the boat back.

Day three

The weather is still cloudy. The headwind, although only 5-10 knots, makes it very difficult to proceed. Such weather is not typical for these latitudes. Usually, the winds alongside of the Chilean coast are persistently south-westerly and moderate. One positive thing is that due to such headwind there are hardly any waves, only a constant swell.

Day Two

Last night was pretty good and uneventful except for a sudden switch off on the autopilot. It didn’t get enough energy throughout the night and by morning it turned off. Since the start low hanging clouds and thick fog has prevented me from using the solar panel to power the batteries.

The first 24 hours

Sunday, December 15th 2013 marks the firtst 24 hour in the ocean. Fedor has called already twice to report his progress. Here are the summary of the phone calls.

The start of the Trans Pacific Ocean rowing

And so it begins. On Saturday morning at 6:45 am, December 14th Fedor Konyukhov left the yacht club Higuerillas on his 9 meters row boat “Tourgoyak”. Once out of the yacht-club and in the ocean he headed in the north-west direction.

24 hours until the start

The last minute preparations are happening non–stop while at the same time Fedor is meeting with the visitors of the Russian population in Chile. One of the guest is the Russian consul to Chile Michail Orlovetz who brought written greetings to Fedor from the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin. Mr. Putin also is a chairman for the Geographical Society of Russia.

One week before the start

On Friday, we said our good-byes to friend and manager Simon Chalk. His involvement in the “Tourgoyak” project has been instrumental. As an experienced ocean rower, Simon took great care of our boat from the moment when she was just an idea. He was the one to put us in contact with the right shipyard and the people who designed and build the boat.

Fedor Konyukhov was finally able to test the boat in the waters of the Pacific Ocean

It’s been two weeks since “Tourgoyak” arrived in Chile. After going through custom services, moving the boat from Valparaiso to Concon, and covering the hull with six layers of anti-fouling paint, Fedor Konyukhov was finally able to test the boat in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

Two important meetings in one day

The Chilean Maritime Authority (DIRECTEMAR) and Fedor Konyukhov’s team arranged a meeting in Valparaiso, Chile, on November 29, 2013. The purpose of the meeting was to highlight scope and challenges of Search and Rescue in covering 3,100 miles of the Pacific Ocean that spreads from the Chilean coast all the way to 131° Western longitude. Konyukhov’s team was presented with the information and photos of the rescue ships and motor boats.