Race to Scotland - by Ken Fowler
So what is Race To Scotland all about? Well I had this idea to take something very small – an RS Aero – on something really big – the length of Britain. That’s 4m of dinghy versus 1,264,000m of coastline! Not an easy challenge and not something you just decide to do on a whim, and so Race To Scotland was born.
When I was only 25 my father died from Cancer, he was one of six siblings – five of whom died from Cancer. To commemorate my father’s life, an old school friend and I cycled across the USA to raise money for Cancer Research. It was an amazing adventure and we raised £5,000 to help the fight against Cancer. Fast forward 25 years and I'm approaching the male mid-life crisis zone – reaching 50 and wondering what next? My mid life crisis was a lot simpler – suddenly realising I had been without my father for as many years as he had been part of my life. I really wanted to celebrate his life and so having taken up sailing some 4 years before, I decided to sail a Laser around the Isle of Wight for Cancer Research and our local hospice – the Oakhaven Hospice in Lymington. It was a long day (72 miles to and from Mudeford) and after 12 hours on a Laser my body felt like it didn’t want to see a dinghy for at least two years!
That trip was an inspirational experience and when someone asked me afterwards, “what’s next – around Great Britain?” it really set me thinking – is it possible? After looking in to long distance dinghy sailing I soon realised that the band of sailors in this category is very, very small! I soon discovered Ron Pattenden’s “Land On My Right” book and having read his story I was hooked. However, as with most great ideas, you then have to reality check it with the real world we all live in. Suddenly you realise that, although heading off for several months sounds great in theory, it isn’t that practical – especially if you want to keep your job and family! So what was achievable but still a big enough challenge?
Clearly all the way around Great Britain wasn’t going to work, but what about the iconic Lands End to John O Groats? Ron had taken around 64 days to do that part of his journey which made it sound challenging, whilst Jeremy Warren and Phil Kirk had made it all the way round Great Britain in a Wayfarer in 32 days. So the trip looked feasible – I just needed to find out how much time I could get off work. The answer was 34 days, which with travel to and from the two end points meant I had around 31 days to complete the trip. So now we had a challenge and a title, “Race To Scotland” because it was exactly that, a race against the time I could have off work!
Since then it’s been a full time job researching the route, finding the right equipment, getting sponsors on board and helping publicise the trip. There have been great days where the generosity of people blows you away and days of frustration where you feel like there is so much still to do. Lots of tough decisions have been made about the trip. In choosing the boat I was fortunate that RS Sailing kindly offered their support. The extra comfort (very important!!) and speed of the RS Aero against my laser meant, for me, it was a relatively easy decision. Garmin have kindly provided some of their awesome GPS navigation kit to help me find my way through all those Scottish Islands and Rooster are providing me with some of their great kit to keep me warm and dry(ish!!) on the long trip to John O Groats. Zest Boatworks in Warsash have been making a few modifications to the Aero to make it more long distance friendly – which means some storage options and a bit of padding just where you need it for those long 10 hour days! Also helping keep my supplies safe and dry has been Overboard Dry Bags who have kindly supplied drybags and waterproof cases for my radio and phone – it’s going to be a very wet environment out there. Helping keep me safe has been ICOM radios who’ve provided one of their super robust and reliable radios, whilst YB tracking have kindly supplied a tracker so you can follow my progress along the length of Britain every 15 minutes live on our website www.racetoscotland.co.uk. Helping publicise the trip on the boat and on the web have been Grapefruit Graphics (sailing logos and hull graphics), Polar Digital (creating my great website) and Wolfden Creative helping me unravel the world that is Facebook/Twitter/Instagram – an essential in this social media based world.
As well as equipment, I’ve had great advice from that small band of long distance dinghy sailors, learning from the experiences of Jeremy Warren and Ted Sargent (Round Ireland in a Laser!) has been invaluable – thanks guys.
So with only 40 days to go until the launch date of 7th May 2017, things are really coming together, but as ever there are still a few outstanding things to get finalised. The thing that keeps me motivated during the ups and downs of this adventure is fundraising for these two amazing causes, Cancer Research and Oakhaven Hospice. People facing Cancer have no choice – they just have to face the challenge and the impact it has upon their lives. If they can do that, then sailing the length of Britain in that small bit of plastic isn’t as hard as you think!
So that’s my story so far - you can continue to follow the adventure at www.racetoscotland.co.uk and on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram – Race To Scotland. Most importantly you can donate to these amazing causes via the website, by clicking on the DONATE button.
Please help support these amazing causes.
Ken Fowler “One small dinghy............one big mission”