At 1700hrs UTC this Monday evening the Phil Sharp Racing crew were 23 miles from completing the Length of Britain Sailing Challenge, heading towards the finish line of their 620 miles passage from Land’s End to John O’Groats which they started on Friday morning.
The trio comprise skipper Sharp – who is working up to competing in the Vendée Globe solo race around the world next November – Sean Conway who will complete his fourth Lands End to John O’Groats adventure tonight – adding a sailing passage to previous end to end running and cycling successes and an incredible 134 day swim two years ago. Alex Alley, the boat owner is a circumnavigator who is looking to set a new round the world non-stop record for 40 foot Class 40 yachts.
After passing Cape Wrath, the very north westernmost corner of Britain at eight this morning, ironically what should be the toughest and most dangerous stage – the 90 miles across the very top of Scotland and into the notorious Pentland Firth – instead of being marked by December’s usual huge waves and gale force winds has proven slow and relatively benign, almost tedious at times because they have been sailing against a light to moderate easterly breeze which has slowed progress.
Speaking at 1700hrs Sharp – who won the Route du Rhum Transatlantic Race in 2006 – confirmed he expects them to cross the finish line between Duncansby Head Lighthouse and the island of Muckle Skerry at around 2030hrs this evening.
“We set ourselves the target of being finished between nine and ten tonight and so we are on target to do that which makes us feel pretty happy. We are excited to be nearly finished and should get a real push from the tide in the next few hours which will be great because it has been a bit slow at times today and it is frustrating to be finishing upwind, against the wind. But we have a feeling of achievement together, which is heightened by the feeling of remoteness by being so far north of Scotland. It is beautiful and almost desolate out here on the water. We have seen only a couple of fishing boats since we left Land’s End, no recreational craft at all, and a few ships.”
“We are all looking forwards to getting in this evening to enjoy a pint and some nice local food and to enjoy a little hospitality.” said Sharp.
It has been a baptism of fire into the sport of offshore sailing for non-sailor Conway who suffered from sea sickness for the first 50 hours of the passage, but who found his sea legs almost as soon as they crossed into Scottish waters.
Sharp set up the challenge as training for the 24,500 miles Vendée Globe race which he has entered, due to start on 5th November next year from Les Sables d’Olonne France.
Phil, who sadly lost his mother to a brain tumour as a child is raising funds for Brain Tumour Research. Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/PhilSharpRacing to fund research.