Swedish pensioner to cross globe in 10-foot boat

Updated 05 February 2013
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Swedish pensioner to cross globe in 10-foot boat

VAESTERVIK, Sweden: Sven Yrvind has always swum against the tide.
When the 73-year-old Swedish sailor and adventurer was asked to give a talk in front of the Swedish king and queen, he refused because he wouldn’t get paid.
“They (the organizers) told me that doing it was considered an honor,” he scoffed.
The lecture went ahead a few months later after an oil millionaire stepped in and paid Yrvind, which means “whirlwind,” his fee. But even then, he refused to don the black tailcoat organizers wanted him to wear.
“Even five minutes before I was about to enter the room, they had a tailcoat there for me to wear. ‘Wear this, otherwise everybody will look at you,’ they said,” Yrvind recalled.
He never wore it. “I have my principles,” he said.
It would be easy to dismiss this principled pensioner’s plan to circumnavigate the globe in a three-meter boat as a flight of fancy, if it weren’t for his many achievements as a sailor and a boat builder.
In 1980, he received a medal from Britain’s Royal Cruising Club after he rounded Chile’s Cape Horn, one of the world’s most hazardous sailing routes, in a 20-foot-long vessel. In 1983, a yachting museum in the US elected him into its hall of fame. The Yrvind Ten, named after its length, will be made of composite foam and fiberglass, and will weigh around 1.5 tons.
Two three-meter tall masts will be placed side by side, and a seatbelt will ensure its owner is strapped to his bed even when traveling through waters where waves tower as high as 30 or 40 meters.
Around 400 kilograms of food and 100 kilos of books will be placed in the bottom of the boat, which has been designed to right itself if it capsizes.
Cookbooks are unlikely to feature in his reading material, since his diet will only consist of muesli, vitamins and canned sardines. “People ask me if I’ll get bored with eating that, but that’s because people eat before they get hungry,” he said.
Life at sea has always been more tolerable for Yrvind than the manic pace of life on land, where he often feels misunderstood and out of place. One of the reasons has been his dyslexia, which he believes is linked to a different way of thinking.
On his first day of school, Yrvind’s teacher sent him back home saying he was a problem child. He was eventually sent to a school for students with special needs, where “at least the teachers were nice.”
It wasn’t until much later — after running away from his military service, ending up in jail and being let out only after signing a paper that said he was mentally ill — that he discovered mathematics.
“I began reading books about boat construction, and they include a lot of maths. So I ... bought my own books and became very good at it in the end,” he said.



Despite never graduating from school, his love for the subject got him a job as a maths teacher in a psychiatric institution for children in the late 1960s. His employer gave him a glowing reference, but it wasn’t enough to keep him on land.



Yrvind’s first boat journey only took him around the archipelago off western Sweden’s coast, but that was enough for him to get a taste of what it was like “to be a nomad,” he said.
Life at sea allowed him to get away from modern life’s constant flow of information, which he likened to “having a spotlight in your face.”
“After about a month (at sea) you start to notice things that you wouldn’t have thought about before. Things take on a different meaning,” he said of a 45-day sailing trip in 2011 from the Portugese island of Madeira to the Caribbean island of Martinique.
His non-stop trip around the world is estimated to take around 600 days, but he has yet to reveal the starting date.
Yrvind hopes his three-meter boat, in addition to setting a world record for being the smallest one ever to cruise the globe, will draw attention to environmental issues, since it will illustrate that bigger isn’t always better.
Asked about the dangers he will face during his trip, he preferred to talk about the perils of not attempting it.
“People don’t understand that this life we’re living is dangerous. It’s a sedentary lifestyle and people are getting fat,” he said.
But crashing his boat into one of the icebergs that could cross his path in the southern hemisphere would mean “the end,” he admitted.
Although he describes himself as a loner, Yrvind has been married four times. “I have my own ideas on how to live life,” he said of his four marriages.
“It works out well in the beginning, but then they always start to talk about children. And that wouldn’t work for someone like me. You’d have to get a bigger boat,” he said.


Saudi Arabia looks to the future — by stepping 5,000 years into the past

Updated 22 April 2018
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Saudi Arabia looks to the future — by stepping 5,000 years into the past

  • Kingdom developing tourism sector as part of economic diversification strategy
  • Vision 2030 foresees 1.2 million new tourist jobs by 2030

It is the leading global event for Middle Eastern tourism and it opens on Sunday in Dubai. The Arabian Travel Market attracts the big players of the industry and the wannabes. It showcases 2,800 products to more than 28,000 potential buyers and generates deals worth more than $2.5 billion.

No wonder the world wants to be there, from spas to safaris, from Armenia to Zanzibar and all points between in both the globe and the alphabet.

But this year, one destination is set to attract more attention than any other: Saudi Arabia.

The Kingdom’s tourism industry has hitherto centered primarily on the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah; last year’s Hajj attracted around 2.35 million pilgrims, with about 1.75 million of those coming from abroad.

When it comes to non-religious tourism however, it is in the unique position of creating that industry more or less from scratch, which is an enviable place to be.

“It means we are able to learn from the mistakes of others and we can take the best from everywhere,” said Amr Al-Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia’s archaeological treasure house and home to the Unesco-listed Madain Saleh.

“And we are determined to offer the best in every way,” he added.

Al-Madani recently returned from presenting the plans for Al-Ula at a high-profile gala at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, an occasion that coincided with the visit of Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, the driving force behind Vision2030, the ambitious program designed to revamp not only the national economy but Saudi society as a whole.

Once regarded as practically off-limits to visitors and particularly Westerners (although that was never true), Saudi Arabia is throwing open the gates, as part of plans to diversify its economy and create jobs for its citizens.

The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 economic development plan, designed to create new revenue streams to lower its reliance on oil, envisages the creation of 1.2 million new jobs in the tourism sector by 2030.

Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority in February said it planned to invest $64 billion in its entertainment sector in the coming 10 years. This investment will include the development of a countrywide network of cinemas, following the lifting of a ban last year.

As well as opening up the 5,000-year-old wonders of Al-Ula, there are plans to develop 34,000 square kilometers of Red Sea coastline and 50 outlying islands into luxury beach resorts.

The scheme has already attracted Sir Richard Branson, founder and boss of the Virgin Group, as its first international investor. He is involved in developing the islands — which he described as “breathtakingly beautiful” — as luxury destinations, and has also visited Madain Saleh.

“This is an incredibly exciting time in the country’s history and I’ve always felt that there is inothing like getting a first-hand impression,” he said after his visit.

He praised the Crown Prince for his vision, telling Arab News, “If you want to succeed you should have an idea and a plan to implement it and just do it. He is doing that and his heart is in the right place.”

Though he is overseeing the development of the Al-Ula sites, Amr Al-Madani said one plan was to offer two-center holidays: “Some days exploring the archaeology and the nature in Al-Ula and then a few days relaxing at the beach,” he said.

As well as unspoilt beaches, the Red Sea coast also enjoys the best climate in Saudi Arabia with pleasant sea breezes offsetting the heat.

The Red Sea project is expected to generate 35,000 jobs.

The Royal Commission has already recruited the first 200 future employees who will work in Al-Ula. The group — half boys, half girls — are all high school-leavers or university students from the region. They have already begun three months of training in Riyadh, learning languages and undergoing assessment by psychologists and careers advisers and will later be dispatched to several locations in Britain and the US to continue learning.

Al-Madani said Al-Ula should be ready to receive its first tourists in three to five years, eventually accommodating a million to 1.5 million a year.