Being Average, But Doing Amazing!
Being Average, But Doing Amazing!
I guess I regularly pinch myself and wonder, how did I get here? As a late in life sailor (I didn’t start sailing until I was 44), how did I just get nominated in the British Yachting Awards for “Sailor of the Year”?
The strange journey to this moment in time started back in 2015 when I sailed my Laser dinghy around the Isle of Wight for 12 hours to raise money for Cancer Research and Oakhaven Hospice in Lymington. Having lost my father, mother-in-law and multiple other family members to the disease I wanted to help others facing cancer. Incredibly we raised £4000, and people immediately started asking me “What’s your next adventure?” – with sailing around the UK being the most touted suggestion. A full time job and family meant there was no way I could make that happen, but after some detailed research I came up with “Race To Scotland” – the challenge to sail my RS Aero from Lands End to John O Groats in 31 days – because that’s all the leave I could get from work! Being a far bigger challenge than the Isle of Wight sail, we set ourselves a massive fundraising target of £50,000.
A challenge like this is not to be lightly undertaken and it took 17 months of physical, mental and logistical preparation before we were able to set sail from Lands End in 2017. This epic adventure along the British coastline involved long open sea crossings, being becalmed in a fog bank for hours, unwittingly sailing into a nuclear submarine exercise areas plus some occasional assistance from the fabulous RNLI! That intense month of sailing took everything from me physically and mentally, but delivered the most wonderful memories packed with stunning places and fantastic people.
Thanks to the most humbling generosity we raised £37,000. An amazing total, but still short of our target; we needed a new challenge to raise the missing £13,000. Inspired by all the islands I’d sailed past in Scotland and never seen the other side of, I wondered if I could sail around every island in England and Wales. This was something that no-one had done before and I soon realised why! After months of research I’d identified well over 200 islands and the Yodare (named after my RS Aero “Yoda”) adventure was born. The adventure took me from the wild Farne islands in the far North to the Caribbean azure waters of the Isles of Scilly in the South. From the largest island of Anglesey (103 nm) to the smallest 1nm sail around Ynys Y Castell. In total we rounded 262 islands, carried Yoda over roads, capsized it under bridges and had a few hectic surf beach landings! We sailed more than 20 nm off shore, navigated overfalls and sailed past a walrus, all in a 4m long dinghy!
The most scary moments?
Definitely disappearing in to a fog bank for 5 hours with ship fog horns sounding eerily all around you and capsizing in 8ft standing waves off Ramsey Island! Both events made me feel very small and vulnerable.
The most wonderful moments?
The unbelievable privilege of being able to sailing amongst the stunning wildlife that call our coastline home and stepping off my RS Aero after 13 hours and 113km of bottom numbing sailing, having finally rounded my 262nd and LAST island – The Isle of Wight.
I’ve been very fortunate to have the support of Rooster throughout my adventures and I can safely say I’ve tested a lot of their kit to destruction in some very challenging locations! Their clothing layering system has been key to dealing with the varying conditions of long days on the water. Of all the great kit I most love my Pro Aquafleece. It’s comfort and warmth on long 13 hour days is irreplaceable and pulling that neck draw string tight feels like you are snuggling down in to a cosy sleeping bag ready to face the challenges of the day ahead.
So what have I learnt from all these adventures? Preparation is probably the biggest thing for me. Research the sailing conditions, get local’s advice, always have a safety plan and learn to bend with the conditions – sometimes the only right decision is not to sail! If people know where you are and what you are doing you are more likely to be rescued if things happen go wrong, so I always carry a means of communication such as a VHF radio, phone, emergency locator beacon and use the RYA SafeTrx or another form of tracker.
Having completed these adventures I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that we’ve sailed a colossal 1336 nm around the islands of England and Wales. Add that to the 865nm of Race To Scotland and this 4m dinghy has now sailed the equivalent of a transatlantic crossing!
The aim of all these adventures has always been to make a difference by using sailing to raise funds for two incredible charities. None of the challenges were long held personal desires, they just materialised and now have somehow resulted in me being nominated for “Sailor of the Year” in the British Yachting Awards. I doubt that I’ll win, but just being nominated feels a wonderful accolade for someone who is distinctly “average” – but being average doesn’t mean you can’t achieve incredible things!
So never pigeon hole yourself as “average”, whatever sport or activity you are undertaking. Within us all there is the potential to achieve amazing things, be they small or large. They are out there, you just need to go and look for them and enjoy where they will lead you to!
You can donate to the charities at www.yodare.co.uk
And you can vote for “an average sailor” here https://www.britishyachtingawards.com/vote-now/