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Jarle Flatebø. Foto: Dina Strvik

Meet the new captain of Statsraad Lehmkuhl

about 2 months ago
Written by Ronald Toppe, Dina Storvik
Life on board > Meet the new captain of Statsraad Lehmkuhl

Meet the new captain of Statsraad Lehmkuhl

about 2 months agoLife on board
Written by Ronald Toppe, Dina Storvik
Jarle Flatebø. Foto: Dina Strvik

Finally Odd Jarle Flatebø was going on board a proper sailing ship again. - I was very happy when I got the phone call, he laughs .

It has been six years since Odd Jarle Flatebø, or simply Jarle as he likes to be called, was on board Statsraad Lehmkuhl. He had been captain of Statsraad Lehmkuhll in the summer since 2004, and on a cruise ship in the winter. In 2016, he resigned.

- It was simply too much sailing, and I had to make a choice, he says.
The German cruise line Phoenix Reisen gave him a very good offer, so he put away the work clothes used at the Statsraad Lehmkuhl, from now on he only needed the flashy white captain's uniform.

Statsraad Lehmkuhl is leaving Mauritius, with Jarle Flatebø as captain. Photo: Dina Storvik
Statsraad Lehmkuhl is leaving Mauritius, with Jarle Flatebø as captain. Photo: Dina Storvik

A substitute

In Mauritius, Jarle Flatebø walked up the gangway again. It was actually Jens Joachim Hiorth who was supposed to be captain of the Statsraad Lehmkuhl on the leg to Maputo, but since he was going on parent leave, Haakon Vatle in the Statsraad Lehmkuhl Foundation had to find a substitute.
Flatebø was an obvious man to call. He is known to be very pleasant, and few have more experience of the open ocean than him.

- I was very happy when Haakon called, laughs Flatebø.

- Of course, it meant a lot of work for the cruise line, but everyone was enthusiastic to help, so a pensioner stepped in for me on the cruise ship, he smiles. It says a lot about how well my bosses and colleagues understand what we are doing.

Flatebø is looking at the sails, should they be adjusted? Photo: Dina Storvik
Flatebø is looking at the sails, should they be adjusted? Photo: Dina Storvik

The Boston Teapot

Flatebø knows Statsraad Lehmkuhl well, and he knows how to handle the ship. He was captain when Statsraad Lehmkuhl took home The Boston Teapot Trophy for 2015.

The trophy goes to the sailing vessel that covers the longest distance in 124 hours, and the Statsraad ended up with 1,263 nautical miles. This is 2,341 kilometers - five times the distance between Oslo and Bergen in five days, by sailing ship.

- I am very proud of that. Statsraad Lehmkuhl has proven itself very well during the Boston Teapot many times, Marc Seidl has won several times. In 2015 I thought we had set a record that would stand for a while, but sure enough Marc broke it, a year or two later. It was still the ship that held the record, but with Marc as captain, says Flatebø.

- Yes, I was disappointed for two minutes then, now I think it's really fun, he chuckles.

Jarle Flatebø, Haakon Vatle, and the Boston Teapot Trophy. Photo: Valery Vasilevsky
Jarle Flatebø, Haakon Vatle, and the Boston Teapot Trophy. Photo: Valery Vasilevsky

The record Marc Seidl and Statsraad Lehmkuhl set in 2016 still stands, 1,548 nautical miles. The ship has won the trophy eight times, most recently in 2018. No other tall ship has more stakes in the Boston Teapot.

Do you think you will get revenge on Seidl on the way to Maputo?

Flatebø laughs.

- No, there won't be any sailings of that kind here, we won't get the wind we need. That's what's special about crossing the Atlantic Ocean, you almost always get extreme weather. And if you then have a ship as strong and good and safe as Statsraad Lehmkuhl, and a crew as good as we have, then you can step on it and use the weather to your advantage, and sail really fast.

Sail training ship

Flatebø started his seafaring life on board another tall ship, Christian Radich.

- We moved from Stord to Oslo when I was eleven years old. I didn't like it much in Oslo, so I joined the sail training ship Christian Radich in 1972, it made me feel a bit on home soil in a way. I grew a lot as a person, and it became an important and positive experience for me. Afterwards I went on to the gymnasium, before returning as a crew member on board Christian Radich.

Since then, Flatebø has sailed on the sail training ship Danmark where he was bosun, he has been captain of both the polar sailing ship Havnøy and the full rigged ship Sørlandet, and then as captain of Statsraad Lehmkuhl from 2004-2016.

When Flatebø left in 2016, he received the award "Lifetime achievement in Sail Training", which is one of the highest honors a tall ship captain can receive.

And then you decided to go on a cruise?

- If I were to make the choice today, it might have been different. I think the One Ocean Expedition and the research projects going on here are very meaningful. I also like that we are at sea for a long time. Square riggers like the Statsraad Lehmkuhl are made for overseas voyages, they do better in the open ocean than when cruising along the coast, he replies.

It is obvious that Flatebø enjoys being on board, and enjoys sailing. The last few days, the ship has made several tack turns; pulling the huge sails over and changing the course upwind at the same time. Easy on a normal sailboat, a big project where the whole crew has to work in coordination on a tall ship.

Tacking with a tall ship. Image: Stiftelsen Statsraad Lehmkuhl
Tacking with a tall ship. Image: Stiftelsen Statsraad Lehmkuhl

- There is a big difference between cruise ships and tall ships. On cruise ships, all imaginable and unimaginable measures are taken to protect against the environment: stabilizers to avoid movement, we have windscreens, swimming pools to avoid swimming in the sea, air conditioning and sunshades. We shut out the sea, weather and wind to make the journey as comfortable as possible. While on a tall ship, it is the opposite. We are exposed to the environment we are actually in, and not only are we exposed, we have to handle the weather in order to get forward at all, to sail. Sailing is a much more environmentally friendly and sustainable way of moving, which I think makes sense, and therefore it's really fun to keep doing it, says Flatebø.

Halvveis gjennom stagvendingen. Seilene på stormasten er snudd, seilene på formasten er neste. Foto: Christopher Dvergsdal
Half way trough the tack. The sails on the main mast has been turned, the sails on the fore mast is next. Photo: Christopher Dvergsdal

The environment

The environment is getting more important for Flatebø, and he makes no secret of the fact that the cruise industry needs restructuring.

- The cruise industry is a big consumer of, everything really, and there are many in the industry who question that today. But a lot is being done, and we work very intensively to find good solutions. If this is going to end well, we must do something actively. And it is being done. But One Ocean Expedition is something completely different, much further ahead, he says.

Flatebø disembarks in Maputo, and will celebrate Christmas at home. On the seventh of February, he boards the cruise ship Amadea in Sydney, Australia, to take the ship across the Pacific Ocean.

- We sail along the Norwegian coast and the Baltic Sea in the summer, and then in the Mediterranean in the autumn. In winter, there are always long voyages, often around the world, he says.

Flatebø has turned 64, and could have been one of the retirees on holiday on board his cruise ship, and not captain. But he has no intention of stopping working just yet.

- I continue to work as long as it's fun, but now I plan for half a year at a time, he smiles.

The helm at night. A nice place to be in the Indian Ocean.
The helm at night. A nice place to be in the Indian Ocean.
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The One Ocean Expedition is a circumnavigation by the Norwegian tall ship Statsraad Lehmkuhl. We aim to to share knowledge about the crucial role of the ocean for a sustainable development in a global perspective.

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