by Guest Columnist Stuart Hill
Because it's there
I've been asked why I should want to attempt to circumnavigate Great Britain non-stop
in a 14ft. open boat.
For many years I have wanted to do long distance voyaging by yacht, but have never been
able to afford it. I'm now 57 (58 in January) and, although I intend to live to 117, one
starts to feel a degree of urgency to accomplish things before it's too late.
I bought the boat as a bare hull and it was only after fitting it out for sailing that
I began to appreciate how seaworthy it was. With a flat aft section and no rocker, she was
designed as an outboard motor workboat - not the most promising hull shape for sailing, so
I had no great expectations. All I wanted to do was spend more time on the water. Imagine
my surprise when I clocked 11.2 knots on a broad reach!
I've been sailing small boats, mainly racing dinghies, since the age of 12 and am used
to being totally drenched as soon as the wind gets up. With this boat, even going to
windward in a short chop in the open sea brings only small amounts of spray aboard - this
was a revelation to me. I can set the mainsheet and tiller and she'll sail herself for
hours - something else I was not used to. Whereas all the other dinghies I've sailed are
pretty tender, I can stand on the gunwale without capsizing this one.
Having fitted a centreboard, rudder and sail, I started to think about using it for
camping. I have used a 9m. windsurfer rig for the sail. Taking this down at anchor, I tie
the top of the mast to the bow and support the foot about 2m above the transom - half a
tent. The other side I had made up in waterproof material and together they give me a very
civilised shelter with full standing headroom. Boards fill the space between the centre
and aft thwarts to give space for a double bed (although so far nobody has been brave
enough to come with me). A gas burner set into the aft thwart is all I need for cooking.
So, here I am snuggled down in a quiet anchorage, looking forward to the smell of bacon
and eggs in the morning. The moon is shining through the open end of the tent, water is
lapping round the boat and the odd waterfowl cries out. I begin to think how I can do more
of this - how far could I go? Maybe across the channel to France or Holland - even Germany
or Denmark. How about down the Atlantic into the Mediterranean? Across the Atlantic? I
knew all these had been done in small boats, some of them in even smaller than mine, so I
was not daunted by the thought.
Back at work the following day I mentioned my musings to my partner and said I'd really
fancy a long trip, say round Great Britain. Quick as a flash, he grabbed it saying 'You
could do it for charity.' (The company supports a number of charities). 'They'd love it!'
After that there was no turning back - not that I wanted to. Making it into an event means
that I can set the boat up exactly as I want it - all the modifications, testing, safety
equipment etc. Running it with such a high profile is a bit risky for me personally, but
necessary to get the maximum benefit for the charities. It was not without embarrassment
that I reported my unintentional capsize and subsequent rescue recently! The website is
updated almost daily with progress reports and ideas for overcoming the various problems
and hopefully others can learn from my mistakes. The next big hurdle is capsize and self
righting tests, then the medium distance sea trials.
So, why am I doing it?
I have what I think is a fine combination of hull and rig for the job. I want to prove
the viability and safety of the windsurfer rig for long distance work. I want to prove
that communication by email and satellite phone are possible in a small open boat, and I
want to be the first around alone in a small boat. I only discovered recently that Round
Britain alone, non-stop, has only been done twice before - by Peter Kieg and Robin
Knox-Johnston. That was in early 2000 and both were using 38ft boats. How can I resist the
The Boat is called Maximum Exposure, The website is: www.mxexposure.com Go there with an open
wallet and the intention to Sponsor Stuart.