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Graeme Kendall MNZM

"To the Ice & Beyond" / World record solo Yachtsman - Northwest Passage

Travels From:

Sporting Icon, Speaker

Inspiring, Insightful, Engaging, Impactful, Passionate, Uplifting, Entertaining, Down to earth

Inspiration, Leadership, Resilience, Strategy, Real life, Sport, After dinner, Against all odds, Overcoming adversity, Business, Climate change

Graeme Kendall is the author of To the Ice & Beyond - he conquered a world record in solo sailing navigating the Arctic Northwest Passage - one of the last major world sailing records to be tackled and considered to be the "Everest" of sailing! 

He has one of the world’s best adventure stories that started with a boyhood dream!  It’s an inspiring true tale of the first person to sail this route solo non-stop, navigating some of the earth’s most terrifying seas - even more remarkable is that he achieved this in his sixties!  It took 18,000 nautical miles of sailing just to begin one of the greatest sea exploration challenges, filled with probably more stories of loss and failure than triumph. 

The Northwest Passage is defined as the route from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Arctic Archipelago of northern Canada and along the northern coast of Alaska - a route that has claimed the lives of hundreds who sailed before. It’s only open for a short time every year because of pack ice, and is known for its treacherous waters.  His first attempt of the crossing was in 2005 but significant ice flows blocked the passage and he could not continue. He vowed then to complete his journey and conquer his world record attempt in solo sailing and in 2010 he began the journey for a second time to break the world record attempt.

He entered Lancaster Sound on 27 August 2010 and exited Barrow Point on 9 September non-stop in a record 12 days. It’s estimated that Graeme’s time is the fastest recorded, against crewed vessels that have also sailed through the passage.

Satellite technology now makes The Northwest Passage a navigable reality giving sailors the ability to monitor ice flows and a safe passage during the months of August and September. Warmer Arctic conditions have also contributed to making this milestone achievable.   These advances in technology helped to make Graeme’s dream a possibility, but as he came to discover, the data was not 100% accurate. The danger was ever present and real, needing constant vigilance and lack of sleep.  He felt the force of huge packs of ice against the hull of his boat;  there was always the threat of getting iced in for a winter and attracting polar bears with the smell of his cooking.

Graeme arrived in Auckland on the purpose-built 12.5 metre yacht, Astral Express on 27 October 2010 - this journey is the second stage of a major circumnavigation covering 32 of the world’s seaways and oceans, taking over 4 months of non-stop unassisted sailing.

During his trip, Graeme raised funds for New Zealand charities.  He also received the Yachting New Zealand Cruising Award from the New Zealand Royal Yacht Squadron in 2010 and the National Geographic award for being one of the top 10 global adventurers of 2010. In the 2012 New Year Honours Graeme was awarded MNZM for his outstanding services to sailing and philanthropy. 

Graeme is a highly experienced sailor in many different parts of the world, including ocean racing. He was born in Christchurch and has sailed since he was a teenager.  As an adult he has owned several cruising, racing and classic heritage yachts including Galatea and Pastime.  In 1986 he sailed in the Whitbread Round the World Race with Digby Taylor aboard NZI Enterprise. The following year, Graeme and his friend Stan Pearson sailed his yacht Astral Rose in the inaugural two-handed Melbourne-to-Osaka race. He has been self-employed since the age of 25, with a business career focused on farming and residential property and he currently lives in Auckland where he is a charter yacht skipper.

Graeme has a powerful story to tell – one of courage, commitment and achieving your dream!  His successful voyage was a result of meticulous preparation both for himself and the vessel, encompassing mental, physical and motivational conditioning. 

His story  is one of determination and rugged courage facing some of the Earth’s most terrifying seas.  His presentations will inspire you to live your dreams and never give up and can be tailored to specific needs.


Pacific ocean, Tasman sea, Coral Sea, Great Barrier Reef, Torres Strait, Gulf of Carpentaria, Arafura sea, Timor Sea, Indian ocean, Southern ocean, South Atlantic, North Atlantic, Labrador Sea, Davis Strait, Baffin Bay.
(18,000 nautical miles non-stop 4 months 2 days - 2005)

Davis Strait, Baffin Bay, Lancaster Sound, Barrow Strait, Peel Sound, Franklin Strait, Victoria Strait [shortcut], Queen Maude Gulf, Dease Strait, Coronation Gulf, Dolphin & Union Strait, Amundsen Gulf, Beaufort Sea, Arctic Ocean, Chukchi Sea, Bering Strait, Bering Sea, Pacific Ocean.