Crazy? Brave? Adventurous? Courageous? Mad? – pick your own adjective to describe Ken Fowler’s daredevil dash up the West Coast of the UK. Only 8 days into the challenge and our intrepid sailor already has back catalogue of tales to last him a lifetime.
To kick off the mighty challenge to ‘Race to Scotland’ in aid of Oakhaven Hospice and Cancer Research, Ken left Land’s End in his a 14ft RS Aero,Yoda and its lovely orange foils, 8 days ago and spent 3 days ambling up the Cornish coastline under clear blue skies, taking in the views, enjoying the warmth, chatting to passing yachts and checking out the local wildlife; seals and jellyfish that is, not sunbathing beachgoers. Pitching up to the surf haven that is Constantine Bay in Cornwall, from out sea certainly surprised the hell out of the local surfers but his RS Aero is shaped like a massive surfboard and so to end day 3 Ken rode the waves back to shore in great style (with a little frantic daggerboard lifting).
But with glorious, calm weather comes long, long sailing days and choosing to cross the entire width of the Bristol Channel with only a gentle zephyr to carry you was always going to be a little hit or miss. Day 4, a.k.a Big Wednesday, started well with the most idyllic sailing conditions, a wonderful surprise visit by a dolphin pod and a most welcome RIB support all the way to Lundy. All was well. And so, lifted by a steady breeze right at the mid way point of no return, our hardy sailor decided that is was game on and sailed off into the sunset toward the Welsh Coast – and into a millpond.
Stuck 10 miles from shore, utterly becalmed, in the dark with no navigation lights, the time came for a little assistance. One radio hail later and the wonderful RNLI Tenby had launched and guided by Yoda’s trusty tracking system, were by his side in minutes, making use of their funky hydraulic winch to raise the dinghy out of the water and whizz him back to shore. So after 12 hours at sea and a trip in a lifeboat what better way to end your day then snuggling up in your mobile bed for well earned sleep?
But it was not to be. Ken arrived at Freshwater East to find that his land support crew were stuck 3 hours away with the boat trailer, his change of clothes, his money and most of all, his bed. Worry not, however – enter the wonderful Freshwater East Coastguard Team who magicked up a B&B and some clothes and all was well. The Rescue Teams in the UK are really second to none.
However, even the gung-ho need to recuperate and so, finally joined by his support Team, our Ken nabbed himself a very well earned rest over the next couple of days while both the weather and our sailor found themselves some energy.
Day 6 was nothing short of fast and furious, dangerous and difficult. The route took Ken and Yoda past the military shooting range at Castlemartin so placed as to be a remote as possible on a cliff edge overlooking some mighty overfalls. The tumultuous waters were barely survivable and Ken needed to find some kind of nutty adrenaline fuelled drive to point the boat at 10foot washine machine tumble of confused water and sail straight through it. After several hours of running the white water gauntlet many times, Milford Haven came into view.
But sailing in such conditions against a headwind for a sustained period of time is always going to take its toll and for our exhausted sailor, the pin suddenly popping out the mainsheet block was not ideal sending the boat into a very unhappy roll. Unbelievable managing to regain control and now sailing using the mainsheet straight off the boom the now slightly unstable RS Aero just tipped one degree too far and the inevitable unfortunately happened. Recovering from the unwelcome swim, our sailor looked ahead to find himself face to face with a massive oil tanker bearing down on him, dwarfing his tiny vessel. Cue some very fast thinking and speedy evasive action to save the day, our Yoda squeezed clear and lived to see another day. And so, with a pending repair, the capsize duck broken and visions of terrifying overfalls whizzing through his head, it was one relived sailor who made land at Dale that night.
At the time of writing, our venturesome chap and his support team are holed up in the campervan, Snowy, waiting for a suitable weather window to relaunch the race and swallow up some more coastline. Fishguard and New Quay are on the cards, just need the houlie to blow through.
So far his challenge has raised over £15k both off and online. The people the Team have met along the way have been nothing short of wonderful and generous, replacing valuable food provisions discourteously thieved by badgers in a 3am raid and offering pitches and facilities at campsites free of charge and filling their charity buckets. For all this they are eternally grateful.
You can follow Ken live on his ‘Trusty Tracker’ as he puts himself out there for Oakhaven Hospice and Cancer Research via http://racetoscotland.co.uk/where-is-ken/ or check out his Facebook page for photos and blogs. Thanks for the support more adventures to come……