ELATED but also exhausted, skipper Phil Sharp, boat owner Alex Alley and the adventurer Sean Conway, sailed into Scrabster harbour in the small hours of Tuesday morning having established the first ever reference time for sailing from Land’s End to John o’Groats.
After leaving Land’s End Friday morning the trio crossed the finish line to set the mark at 3 days 11hours 52 minutes and 15 seconds, averaging 7.39kts.
The trio enjoyed strong favourable winds until they reached the NE of Ireland but as they passed Islay, home of their whisky sponsor, Bruichladdich, light easterly winds slowed them for the latter stages.
Completing the Length of Britain challenge was a training outing for Jersey based ocean racer Sharp, whose team is looking to compete in the solo Vendee Globe starting next November.
For Conway, his return to John O’Groats – where he is now recognised in the street and is a local celebrity – completed an incredible fourth LEJOG adventure, complementing feats of running, cycling and swimming.
Conway – a non-sailor – confirmed that the 83 hours spent aboard were physically and mentally every bit as difficult as his 135 days swim which he completed in November 2013.
Instantly recognisable by his trademark flaming ginger hair and long beard, Sean Conway revealed: “One hundred and thirty-five days for the swim, 83 hours for the sail. They were both equally difficult but with the sailing it was non-stop.
“When swimming, you have six hours a day of downtime and before jumping back into the freezing waters. But when I was seasick during those first 50 hours of this passage, if you had asked me to sail again in the future I would have said ‘definitely not, I am not cut out for this’.”
Said Sharp: “I think the record ranks pretty close to what we hoped for.
“You can only wait for so long for a weather window and it is difficult to judge at this time of year. You have these systems coming in from the Atlantic, hammering the coast in the winter, and so you have to be sensible about it.
“You can’t head off into a storm and take big risks. We had some windy days which we dealt with well. These conditions tested our teamwork and were demanding because we had not really been on a boat together before.”
One of Britain’s rising stars of ocean racing, Sharp contiunued: “It is amazingly satisfying to get here. We worked well as a team these last three days considering we had never sailed together before. And we did push the boat to its limit to establish this record.”
Describing the high and low points of the trip, Sharp confirmed: “The high point was reaching into the Irish sea sailing at 20kts not knowing how much wind there was really going to be. The low point was having to climb the mast to retrieve a halyard in lumpy seas. It took a while to get up there and I was being thrown around like a rag doll.”
Sean Conway continued: “It was one of the toughest, most physical three days of my life. I wish I had done more training because I had to winch Phil up that mast.”
“I told myself, ‘You will not be seasick Sean’. When I swam around Britain, I was ill for the first week so this time I vowed I would fight it. I should probably have just let myself be sick and got on with it. But really it did, initially, take the edge off. I am not a sailor, I was putting my trust in Phil and Alex to get me through. But it would have been good to have felt a bit better at the beginning.
“After about 50 hours, I started to enjoy it. I woke up and thought, ‘Actually this is quite okay’, and from then on I was fine, doing the tea duties and being the ‘deck boy’. It made me remember how much I love the ocean and the amazing people who live and work on it.”
Rebecca Linder- South UK PR Comms
firstname.lastname@example.org / +44 (0) 7797 780 451
Notes to editors:
The Length of Britain Sailing Challenge record will be administered by SailScotland, Scotland’s national marine tourism authority, contact Daniel Steel email@example.com
Photo of crew: Roddy Scott
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