Visa problems could force Adrian Flanagan to miss opportunity to head north 30/8/06

Adrian Flanagan who set sail from Falmouth last October on his north-south global record attempt faces visa problems which could prevent his voyage north.

Flanagan who has now been at sea for over 10 months on his north-south global record attempt aboard his 11m stainless steel sloop Barrabas has spent the last three weeks in Alaska carrying out repairs to the boat’s damaged prop shaft.

He now faces problems with obtaining a visa for his entry into Russia and says that timing is now so critical that even two days could prevent his progress north.

Commenting Flanagan said: “Barrabas is back in the water complete with new cutless bearings and a cleanly scrapped hull finished with two coats of industrial antifoul. Her fair undersides will give me half a knot of boat speed which, over a 20-day period could save me two full days.

“The situation in terms of timing is now so critical that those two days could mean the difference between pushing on to attempt the first ever singlehanded transit of Russia’s Arctic coast or wintering the boat in Alaska and attempt the transit next summer.

“The ice edge is at an extreme minimum this year with the melt and recede pattern similar to 2005. It is exceptional and affords me the best opportunity I am likely to get.

“When I arrived in Nome, my passport was due to expire. Admittedly, this was an administrative oversight on my part but never likely to be a showstopper. I completed a renewal application and my passport was couriered to the British embassy in Washington DC (courtesy once again of the marvellously efficient DHL) where, within 24 hours of receipt the excellent British Consul, Marie Forsyth had issued a replacement.

“The delay has been in getting the Russian authorities to insert a visa. Because I am been considered a ‘special case’, the usual procedure for acquiring a visa does not apply. The situation is a bureaucratic maze and is taking time to unravel despite the best efforts of the British Embassy in Moscow and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

“The long and short of it is that if I do not have my passport back in my hand with a Russian visa stamped in it by Friday 1 September, then it will be too late to attempt a transit this year, despite the unusually favourable ice conditions. Ironically, for the first time ever, the Russian authorities have agreed to let me attempt the transit without the usually mandatory ice-pilot and interpreter on board.

“The natural question to ask is ‘Why didn’t I arrange for the appropriate paperwork prior to departure from the UK?’ The answer is simple. I was in touch with Russian authorities a year prior to departure and in all that time I got nowhere. The alternative would have meant delaying my start date and with the necessity of getting round Cape Horn during the southern hemisphere summer, the delay would inevitably have become a one-year postponement.

“However, once (if) the visa is issued, I am then required to sail to Provideniya so that the boat can be inspected and I can pick up a letter of permission to travel the NSR from the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) and my travel permit issued by the Russian Ministry of Transport. Journey time to Provideniya from Nome is three days and then I must account for time on the ground.

“So, I wait with increasing anxiety as with each hour a great opportunity becomes progressively shaved. I will make my decision on Friday.”