Gailis has prepared for this expedition for several years. What started as a childhood dream became a possibility following the collapse of communism, he said.
The date of the start of the expedition on Gailis' 50th birthday, July 9, was set back in 1996. Last year was spent doing repairs, which added another $100,000 to the $200,000 price tag of the yacht, which was brought to Riga from Marseilles, France.
The cost of the expedition, which will follow the route set out by Ferdinand Magellan in 1520, is about $500,000 dollars. As a test run, the yacht recently sailed from Riga to Helsinki and Tallinn and back.
Gailis was prime minister from 1994 until parliamentary elections in 1995. After serving as minister of environment and regional development in the succeeding government, Gailis left politics for business.
Something of an eccentric, Gailis has always received a great deal of media attention both as a political figure and later as a not-always-successful businessman.
To return some of the sponsors' investments, Gailis is committed to constantly reporting to the media on the status of the trip, creating television broadcasts and writing to the newspaper Neatkariga Rita Avize. In addition, a contract with the book publisher Valters un Rapa requires Gailis to write a book about the expedition.
The crew, headed by Captain Rolands Millers, includes a cameraman and a doctor.
The expedition won't set any records, said Gailis, who is traveling with a diplomatic passport. The Milda is scheduled to return to the Riga seaport in May 2003, depending on the weather. This is the second ship from Latvia to set sail on an around-the-world trip. The catamaran Kaupo started on a similar expedition last year.