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The Reckoning

Posted on December 3rd, 2013

It is done!!! Total crossing time from Gibraltar to Antigua: 26 days 15 hours 30 mins. No records broken – but neither am I, and barring a few little bits, nor is Haskapa!!!

The overriding emotion I feel is relief! Relief at having made it here safely; relief at being back with the family; relief that I’ve done it; and relief that I no longer have to sleep in a bed that I need to re-inflate every two hours!!!! Antigua is as lovely as I remember it being, and now sitting in a beautiful cottage by the shore overlooking Monserrat, I’ve had a chance to see beyond the relief and to properly appreciate what’s happened.

The last 48 hours of the crossing were hard mentally, but relatively straightforward in terms of the sailing. The weather was kind to me, and a wind shift to the south east gave me a straight forward run into Antigua. The challenge was to balance my impatience to arrive with the sensible need to arrive in daylight. This meant for the last 24 hours in particular, maintaining a steady pace was more important than speed itself. As my cousin Patrick perfectly summarised: ‘ ..the last mile is always the longest, but slowly slowly gets you there’.

The arrival itself was low key, like my departures have been, and that was perfect. Given that it was only 0800 hrs local time, things were only just waking up at the Catamaran Club in Falmouth Harbour when Haskapa & I gently found our way into our mooring, cheered on by Liz & the kids. Everyone was extraordinarily helpful, and the transition back into reality was soft, warm and gentle. There followed a couple of hours of admin and stuff (immigration, customs, etc), before we had the great privilege of meeting Agnes Meeker.

Agnes has done some amazing things in the last few years to establish the St Johns Hospice here in Antigua. The Island had no palliative care provision prior to the establishment of this 11 bed hospice. Despite the enormous wealth of some of the visitors to this beautiful Island, Antigua is not a rich country, and all the cost of running the hospice comes from donations and fund raising activities. Agnes is a bundle of positive energy, and she organised for ABS TV to come down and conduct an interview about Tropic 4 Cancer!

Part of the original concept for the Tropic 4 Cancer expedition was the establishment of a link to a cancer organisation in the countries visited, and I’m fully committed to retaining this element in the crossing I’ve just completed. So the relationship with St Johns Hospice is only just beginning, and we will visit them on Friday.

Now with slightly more perspective on the crossing itself, I feel a great sense of pride in the achievement of sailing across an ocean solo. It wasn’t quite the route I’d planned, but it still stands up as a proper crossing. I’m satisfied with what I’ve done!

What is more, I feel total satisfaction in how I sailed. Haskapa is an amazing little yacht, and was everything I hoped for and more. Her performance is extraordinary, and even though I used only part of her full potential, was hugely rewarding to sail and provided some fantastically exhilarating moments. Although she is a race boat, I sailed her as a sailor, not a racer, and this was sometimes akin to driving a sports car around in second gear! But it meant that I didn’t put her in a hedge or a ditch!!!

In deciding to undertake the crossing independently of any organised event, I put myself in the position of needing to be totally self-reliant. I had no race or event company with a duty of care or a liability to cover, and to whom I could turn in the event of trouble. This meant that sailing carefully and sensibly was more critical than sailing fast! I fully acknowledge that the extra stresses of racing to some extent counters the additional support one gets as part of an organised event – but the risk ratios are different. For me, there was no ‘I’ve had enough’ or ‘I need a bit of help’ button, and only an immediate life threatening emergency could warrant triggering any kind of request for help.

I put trust in my skills and instinct to respond to whatever situations I found myself in, and feel that I sailed in a seamanlike way at all times. It wasn’t always fast, but it was safe, and protected me and Haskapa. In the context of what I set out to do, this was critical.

It has been a hugely challenging undertaking, and I’ve loved and hated it equally!! As I mentioned in an earlier post, there was a stress from the sheer significance of what I was trying to do that sat like a millstone. No longer carrying that around feels good!

The support that I’ve received has been overwhelming – both in terms of donations and encouragement. I cannot ever properly thank all those who gave up money and time to support the Tropic4Cancer project. I am enormously grateful, and knowing that the funds are being used responsibly and legitimately by Sobell House and Sail4Cancer to benefit those affected by cancer and terminal illness is the positive legacy for Mum I was hoping for when I started out on this.

The companies who sponsored me show just how much good there is in the commercial world. The marine industry has been amazing, and continues to reach out to help and support in an amazing way. Our title sponsor Haskapa have been brilliant. Evie, Simon, Logie, Liam and the rest of the team have given freely and asked little in return. Nick Smith and the team at Salterns Marina gave us the foundation upon which to build. Charlie and Samantha at Ocean Safety were amazing and I’m so grateful for their support – but even more grateful that I didn’t need to use the kit they provided!!! Others who gave so generously without question: Ian & Timi at Greenhouse Graphics; Jon at Rupture Seal (so glad didn’t need to use these either!!); Sandra and the team in Ocean Village Gibraltar (plus Sarah in the Balearics); Carsten & Nikki from Atlantic Campaigns, without whom La Gomera would have been much harder! Good luck with the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge; Mark & Callum at Equip-me; Nick and the team at Yellow Brick – just brilliant!!; Dr Matt Ladbrook at Sentinel Consulting – the on call Doc who was thankfully never troubled!!!; Mark House for creating and managing the excellent Tropic4Cancer website; Marina Johnston at Clearline Communications, who handles the PR and Media – awesome job!; and thank you to all the team within the Expertise Consultancy Group for their patience, support and understanding whilst I’ve taken this on.

Thank you too goes to both Sobell House and Sail4Cancer. Both organisations placed trust in me to undertake the Tropic4Cancer trip without doubt or censure, and have given me much support and encouragement. Thank you to Kevin, Astrid, Neale, Diane and Lindsay at Sobell House, and to Andy, Graham, Lizette, Cathy and Julie at Sail4Cancer, for having faith!!!

Thank you also to all my family and extended family for all their support. Obviously everyone was touched by what happened to Mum, and their response has been fantastic.

And of course thank you to Liz, who has had the tough job of trying to maintain a regular routine for the kids at home, whilst also dealing with a husband crashing & banging his way around an Ocean and bit of land in it!

So, we will now enjoy a few days relaxing here in Antigua before returning to the UK to brave winter and the festive season. Haskapa will stay longer, and is now seriously up for sale. The commitment to use some proceeds from the sale to support cancer organisations is absolute, and whatever surplus I get will go to St John’s Hospice here in Antigua. If a buyer is not found before the spring here in the Caribbean, I will bring her back to Europe for sale.

There are now very few ‘must do ‘challenges left on my list, which is quite pleasing in itself. I’ve never wanted to look back and think ‘if only…’! In her last few months, Mum and I talked a bit about life and what it is all about. Life is for living, and whilst we cannot run around like turbo nutters every minute of every day, it is important to seize moments before it is too late and one is unable to do so.

Well, that’s all folks! It’s been emotional…………!

Day 30 – Arrival into Antigua

Posted on December 3rd, 2013

2006-07-18 03.47.37And so after 29 days at sea (21 days from La Gomera), Richard arrived in Antigua at 07:45 local time (11:45 GMT), to a small group of family (and some new friends!!). The day was then spent berthing, clearing customs, doing TV interviews and relaxing back on dry land.

Richard will follow up with a full report on the last day and a bit at sea, but for now he is pleased to be here, pleased to sleep in a bed that doesn’t throw him out, pleased to not have to get up every two hours to trim the sails / look out for ships, pleased to not have to sit on the bucking-bronco-bucket, and most of all pleased to have time to relax with his family!!

Thank you so much to everyone who has followed Richard’s journey. Here are some photos of his arrival!


And finally …. a big thank you today goes to; Laura & Scott Evans & Family, J Major, Damon, Chrissie & Taylor Clark, Jonathan & Alice Evans & Family, Will Bentley, Jo & Tim Ponting & family, Ashley & Leigh Aspin & Family, Dr Edward Walton, Mary & David Bebo, Kate & Russell Myers, Sharon Davies and Lorna Angier!. Thank you all so much for your very kind donations!!


Day 29 – Bubble & Pipsqueaks

Posted on December 1st, 2013

imageAs I approach civilisation, I’m already seeing more signs of life with aircraft and ships. And the fantastic sight of the Frigate bird. These are not the most beautiful of creatures, but they look great to me!! They range far out to sea for food, then return to Barbuda, the sister island of Antigua, where there is a huge colony of them. It means that I’m getting close!!

Soon this little Hakapa shaped bubble that I’ve been living in will nudge up against normal, everyday reality. I’ve been in the bubble pretty much since leaving the UK nearly 2 months ago, and it’s been quite pressurised.

This project, driven by the desire to do something positive, has been a year in the planning, and encompasses a concept dreamt up mid ocean 8 years ago, and a lifelong ambition. Those are big rocks to carry, and it will be with some relief that I’m able to put that burden aside.

And when i arrive in Antigua, the bubble will pop and in will rush all the noise and energy of my two children, who will be there to greet me. I can’t wait!! I’ve missed the family a massive amount, although a couple of squabbles down the track that will no doubt change!!

Most of what happened in the bubble will disappear, like the bubble itself. That’s not a bad thing, as it is not normal life, and I couldn’t and wouldn’t choose to live like this! Yes, memories will remain, and these updates will serve as a record of what went on. But they too are not reflective of who I am in everyday life. I am normally far more reserved with my thoughts, and whilst far from being introvert, normally choose not to share my life quite so openly!!

It maybe too early to fully assess what impact this journey has had on me. Life changing? Probably not. Life defining? Maybe. Life enhancing? Absolutely! I’ve always appreciated and understood what I have in my life, and I will value these even more. I may also be able to be less reserved with some of my emotions. This does not mean I’m going to run around with my heart on my sleeve, whoohooing and boohooing everywhere – I’m British and I’m a bloke, so that’s just not going to happen!

But I may give myself the time and space to process emotions more. This will be true of both good and bad. I know that I don’t spend much time kicking through the debris of things that haven’t worked out – I’ve never seen the point – either rebuild or move on!! But I now understand better that some things do need proper reconciliation (or ‘closure’ to use the clumsy but apt Americanism).

I think I will also have learnt to enjoy achievements better. In the past I’ve been so eager to rush onto the next challenge, that I’ve normally not celebrated what I’ve just achieved. I will definitely celebrate this journey properly, and before planning anything else!!! Although I have been thinking about a little trip to……….!!!

Hopefully the next update will be to say that I’ve arrived. Not prepared to say exactly when that might be, but Monday seems likely!!


Today’s thank you goes to; Yvonne & Terry Willcocks, Nick Collinson, Longparish Ladies (for their Tea Party), Patrick & Fiona Angier, Margaret & Mike Shaw, Darren Shaw, Sue Wall and Caroline, Matt, Emily, Archie & Jemima Baugh. Thank you all so much for your very kind donations!!