Tacking up the Northern Irish coast this afternoon, at 1600hrs just six miles NE of Larne, Phil Sharp and crew have just passed the half way point of their 620NMs challenge to establish a benchmark time for sailing from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
Aspiring Vendée Globe skipper Sharp, Alex Alley the owner of the Class 40 racing yacht they are sailing, and adventurer Sean Conway set off from Land’s End at 0855hrs yesterday morning. A fast spell this morning in great reaching conditions, 30-35kts of wind and big seas, saw the trio reduce sail to two reefs in the mainsail and staysail, averaging very close to twenty knots, racing on the edge of control.
Earlier this afternoon Sharp reported:
“We had the centre of a depression pass right south of our position and the wind came up very fast. We have had to do several quick sail changes to keep control. This morning we had wind gusting up to 35 kts and some peak surfing speeds of 20 kts, which felt very fast. Alex and I are currently alternating shifts on the helm, changing almost every hour otherwise it’s very difficult to warm up afterwards with everything being wet. Sean has just come off watch and he has shown the impressive ability to fall asleep within about 90 seconds of sitting down inside. He is pretty sleepy with seasickness at the moment. We are all pretty exhausted and I for one didn’t manage any sleep last night at all as every time I lay down the wind increased and wet oilies had to be put on again for another eventful trip to the foredeck.”
As they head into their second full night at sea, during which they will pass the location of the Islay distillery of the Length of Britain record supporters Bruichladdich, there is the promise of some gentler conditions and with that probably the option to get a little more good sleep.
“We will more or less be parallel to the shore here on the coast of Northern Ireland. At the moment we have more than 20kts and are going upwind in a N’ly but as we get north the wind will lift more to the east and go very light. But that should be OK as we will be close to the Scottish shore in flat water and able to carry full sail. It is much colder right now, I suppose as we are getting north, but also we are going into the wind. But tonight we will put the engine on for a couple of hours (to generate power, it will of course be in neutral and not driving the boat) and that will warm up the inside a bit and allow us to get some things dried out.” Alex Alley told Length of Britain record HQ this afternoon. “But it is great right now, hard work, we are quite tired but the skies are clear, just some cumulus around and we have great visibility right across to the Mull of Kintyre right now. It is great to be at the half way point. Really the first 24 hours have been quite quick but sadly I don’t think the next 24 will be anything like as fast.”
For adventurer Sean Conway, who is bidding to add sailing to his records of running, cycling and swimming from Land’s End to John O’Groats, this upwind spell has been especially tough. He feels constantly nauseous and exhausted through sea-sickness but is pleased to have also just past a point during which his three month swim from Land’s End to John O’Groats nearly came to a premature end.
“I was stuck here for two and a half weeks waiting to find a skipper for my support boat. At the time I thought that was it, the swim was over. So it is good to get past here. I feel pretty rubbish, a bit like having a terrible hangover, but just tired really. I wish I could do more and be more use.” Explained Conway.
Sharp and crew are expecting to pass John O’Groats finish line on Monday morning.