Passing the NW coast of Skye at 1600hrs this afternoon and the skies are already dark for Phil Sharp, Sean Conway and Alex Alley, the trio who are seeking to establish the first benchmark record for sailing from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
The scenery has been breathtaking but sadly The Minch – the stretch of water which separates Skye from the Outer Hebrides and mainland Scotland and the northern Inner Hebrides – will now mostly be passed during the long hours of darkness. But it is has been a generally better than expected day for Sharp, Conway and Alley, making good speeds since the morning on an even keel. With the boat sailing flat they have been able to tidy up the inside of the boat, dry it up and stay warmer.
But the nagging concern is still the prospect of a slow, upwind slog in light winds and big seas across the top of Scotland tomorrow. When Sharp planned the challenge he did so with a vision of fast running and reaching in these most inhospitable waters. And even when they left it was still looking good but now it is looking like contrary wind directions will make for an uncomfortable final 20 hours or so. They are expecting to get across the finish line between nine and midnight tomorrow (Monday) night. This evening they are making eight to nine knots with 165Nms to the finish.
“The scenery is just amazing. Snow capped mountains and a flat sea. We are just ten miles from the corner of Skye but it is just getting dark.” Transatlantic race winner Sharp reported this evening. ” It is a bit tricky now because we don’t want to get too close into the coast as when the breeze does die as forecast, then we could end up stuck for hours, so we are sailing a bit offshore to stay with the best of the breeze.”
“We have had a good day generally and got everything dried out. We are broad reaching now in 10-15kts of wind and making good speed 8-9kts as we have had most of the day. But the bad bit is knowing the wind will head us progressively. When we get to Cape Wrath it will head as we go round and we will be upwind to the finish. But it is what it is. I’d rather be a pessimist in this situation and get a pleasant surprise. That’s my outlook.”
Sean Conway, who has already swum from Land’s End to John O’Groats – as well as previously running and cycling, has had some valuable input with the tidal currents in places. After a spell of seasickness he has been on better form today, contemplating the end of his remarkable four Land’s End to John O’Groats adventures.