Olivier Pitras, curious by nature

  • Navigator, business manager
  • Director of 69Nord Sommarøy Outdoor Center
  • Sophrologist, relaxologist, specialized in athletes’ mental training
  • Functional breathing instructor OxygenAdvantage method
  • Lecturer
  • Consultant for polar sailing expeditions.
  • Author of the book “La voie des glaces” Publisher “Transboréal” 2001
  • Author of the documentary “La route du Pôle” from C. Neurisse (52′, Yenta Prod / Arsenal Prod / Image Plus)
  • Author of the documentaries serie 4×52′ “L’Odyssée climatique du Southern Star” from Thierry Robert (Injam Prod / Planête Thalassa / Cinaps TV/ 2009)
  • Author of the documentary “L’ALLEE DES GLACES” 52′ from Frédéric Jouve (Kissthesea & Theorem / 2011

translated from a text by Michel Janssens

Skipper for “Cruise and Learn” cruises since he was 19, Olivier has left France 40 years ago to sail the world. His combined passion for the sea, the mountains and virgin spaces soon led him to polar regions where he settled. He is the first French skipper to carry out the Arctic Ocean crossing under sail (North West Passage 1999). After spending some time in Patagonia, Tierra del Fuego, Alaska, Canada, Siberia and Greenland, he is now based in Tromsø in northern Norway. His never fed passion for the North keeps him open and curious of the world which surrounds him, and gives him many oportunities to learn more each day from these so called “hostile” areas which he choose as his favorite play-ground.”

Olivier knew when he was fifteen that his passion for sailing would command his life.
At 18, an intensive navigation program forced him to graduate as a ” home schooled” student.
Answering the call from wide spaces, he leaves France at the age of 23 after successfully presenting exams for phys. ed. teacher.

The Amazon will be his first “adventure land” as he will discover it kayaking and on board a trimaran. The wrongfully named Green Hell will be a favorite terrain and will give him the oportunity to rapidly buy his first boat. During two years he will then forget his Captain attire and work as a businessman to bring back afloat three companies in financial difficulties. During these two years, his free time will be devoted to studying some of the last black caymans in the Kaw ponds, or to canoe up the large streams to go and meet with the Amazon Indians.

It took him a two year journey around South America, of which one year spent in Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia, to realize that his favorite deserts were the icy ones. Curiously, it is in the Grenadines (W.I.) that at the age of 30, Olivier settled his base camp for his future expeditions. Since then, he will never cease to bring his ships bow towards polar regions and go back in the Grenadines for a couple months only. The Alaska and British Colombia have soon become his favorite playground.

At the age of 39, he sails back to Europe with his first mate Jean Michel Guillevic through the North West passage. Since then, he has settled in Tromsø, Norway, north of the Polar Circle, and created 69NORD.

For 16 years from his Norwegian base camp, Olivier sets sail every summer for sailing school polar expeditions where customers are involved in the march of “Southern Star” his polar sailboat and offshore companion. Spitsbergen, Iceland, East and West coasts of Greenland, Canada, Alaska saw the bow of the great sloop

In 2008-09, Olivier led the expedition « Around North America » through the North West passage (second transit for Olivier) onboard SV “Southern Star”. The real challenge was to meet in the Northwest Passage for crew rotations. A challenge met with flying colours in Pond Inlet, Gjoa Haven, Tuk and Point Barrow, as well as on all 21 stages of the expedition.

In 2014, in partnership with the Fram Museum in Oslo, Olivier and his crew set off in the footsteps of the Fram’s second expedition to the far north of Canada. Four and a half months of expedition to Ellesmere Island and Nares Strait. A particularly hazardous region for navigation and ice conditions. The expedition fulfilled its objective by reaching the four wintering ports of the Fram and repositioned the second wintering port near the “Canadian Museum of History”. This wintering place had previously been mistakenly located by National Geographic magazine.

In 2015, Olivier created the “69Nord Sommarøy Outdoor Center” to welcome with the same philosophy a nature clientele who is aware that space, silence and time are the authentic and true ingredients of luxury.

To find the time to work on two projects matured for years, Olivier sold in April 2024 his polar sailboat “Southern Star”, on board which he was embarked seven months a year. The first project consists of increasing the athletes’ mental training activity and health & wellness activities for all, with Sophrology, relaxation and functional breathing OxygenAdvantage by integrating these activities within 69Nord’s programs. The second is a polar expedition project that for the time being remains confidential. The usual activity of the center does not stop, on the contrary! Olivier remains at the maneuver. “69Nord Sommarøy Outdoor Center” offers you a complete range of new formula stays or outdoor activities that you can discover on the dedicated pages.

After seventeen years of travels and expeditions in the most remote corners of the planet, I returned to Europe at the end of the “Transarctic 99”. Being the first French skipper to sail across the Arctic Ocean allowed me to meet a lot of people and receive an important letter from readers. Many wanted to share my experience of these regions. It is to meet their demands that I created 69NORD. This big shift in my career based on the sharing of a passion, allowed me to measure the progress made since the age of 10 when I plunged hours into my atlas to organize imaginary expeditions.

~ Olivier Pitras