Bad weather meant Ken Fowler and his 14-foot RS Aero had to be driven into John o'Groats to finish the Race to Scotland. However, Fowler said raising thousands of pounds for charity was always the dream
6 June 2017
40 miles. That was the distance that Ken Fowler had left to sail to finish his Race to Scotland.
But strong winds put paid to that and instead, the air traffic controller had to be content with driving to John o’Groats with his trusty RS Aero, Yoda, trailing behind.
But the dinghy sailor was pragmatic about the end to his 911-miles journey, which started at Sennen Cove in west Cornwall on 7 May.
“Conditions today were 30 knots, tidal rushes and all you can see if white horses so I was towed into John o’Groats . I was not willing to take the risk on the last day. So the record hasn’t been broken but I am not hung up about that,” Fowler told YBW just hours after finishing.
“It was never about that. It was about raising as much money as possible for the two charities and to date £26,000 has been raised. That’s blown me away. I’ve had people following the Race to Scotland Facebook, and had donations from as far afield as Australian and Canada,” he added.
Fowler gave himself just under a month to Race to Scotland. He aimed to raise £50,000 for Cancer Research UK and the Oakhaven Hospice Trust in Lymington during his challenge, as well as beat the 64-day record set by Ron Pattenden, who sailed the route as part of his unsupported circumnavigation of Britain in a Laser in 2004.
Had he been able to sail today, Fowler would have easily beaten the record.
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He says he has been “overwhelmed” by the experience, describing it as “a month well lived”.
“I’ve scared myself. I’ve had really horrible sailing days and the whole experience has taken my raw emotions to the edge,” noted Fowler.
“The scariest moment was rounding the Aardnamurchan Peninsula (north of Mull in Scotland). I was tired, having not finished until 10.30pm the previous night. I looked at the forecast and decided to go and the waves were horrendous. It was wild beyond belief: 8-10 foot waves. It was a terrifying and exhilarating ride that was 85% terrifying,” he noted.
“Only when you are out there do you realise how small and vulnerable you are. From that day on, I was more careful about going out. For the last 11 days I have been sailing continuously for an average of 8 hours a day,” he continued.
“In total, I’ve sailed 871 miles and were only 40 miles short, but this was always a race. I have raised money for my causes so it is a good success,” noted Fowler.
Tomorrow, the team have a gruelling two day drive back to Bournemouth. Fowler has to be back to work by Friday.
5 June 2017
Ken Fowler, 51, has less than 48 hours to reach John o’Groats in Scotland…and it is still “too close to call”.
To date, the air traffic controller has sailed 844 miles solo in 22 days. Fowler has just 90 miles to go to finish his Race to Scotland in his 14-foot RS Aero, called Yoda.
He has to do it by tomorrow as this is when his leave runs out and he has to return to work.
Fowler set off from Sennen Cove in west Cornwall on 7 May and has battled becalmed conditions in the Bristol Channel and on his approach to Campbeltown in Scotland, capsize, broken equipment, fog and near misses with fishing vessels.
He has also got through the Corryvreckan Whirlpool off Argyll which is the third largest whirlpool in the world
Sarah Desjonqueres, part of the Race to Scotland support team, described this part of the journey.
“With the roar of the maelstrom ahead booming like some kind of terrifying background music to his already demanding sail, Ken hugged the coastline for reassurance wherein he found himself dodging semi submerged boulders exposed by the spring tides. Crinan called and team Race to Scotland met to touch base and radio check before the final push past the ferocious whirlpool and on to Craobh Cove,” she said.
“Calculations proved Ken needed to maintain a speed of 4 knots upwind to get through the chop and the tide to make his destination and the decision was taken to run the gauntlet. Building up a good head of speed Ken clocked 8 knots upwind before sailing into what he described as ‘eerie, weird waves with increasing wind speeds getting faster and faster until it felt like the kiss of death was on you, clinging on to the tiller until I lost circulation in my hands, until suddenly I was spat out of the other side and all was calm again’. First to witness this was a passing yacht agog as they struggled to believe that this small vessel has just emerged from that direction,” added Desjonqueres.
Fowler has also successfully conquered and even bigger challenge – Cape Wrath at the North Western corner of Scotland.
It is the last big headland to round before the home run to John o’Groats, and Fowler described it as a “roller coaster journey”.
“A stunning and barren landscape of immense proportions. I feel so fortunate to have been able to see it from the sea – it will stay with me for ever,” wrote Fowler on the Race to Scotland Facebook page.
The dinghy sailor is aiming to raise £50,000 for Cancer Research UK and the Oakhaven Hospice Trust in Lymington during his challenge. To date, more than £21,000 has been raised.
He is also hoping to beat the 64-day record set by Ron Pattenden, who sailed the route as part of his unsupported circumnavigation of Britain in a Laser in 2004.
Writing on the Race to Scotland Facebook page last night, Fowler wrote: “22 days sailed and 844 miles covered. 2 days to go and about 90 miles to go. Weather forecast not good. Going as long as we can tomorrow to give ourselves a chance. It always was a race and it’s still too close to call. No matter what, it all ends 6th June.”
23 May 2017
Today is day 11 on the water for Race to Scotland, and Ken Fowler is hoping to reach Portpatrick in Dumfries and Galloway, south-west Scotland.
The 51-year-old air traffic controller is sailing 900 miles solo from Land’s End to John o’Groats to raise £50,000 for Cancer Research UK and the Oakhaven Hospice Trust in Lymington.
He is also hoping to beat the 64-day record set by Ron Pattenden, who sailed the route as part of his unsupported circumnavigation of Britain in a Laser in 2004.
Fowler left Port St Mary in Isle of Man this morning.
Writing on the Race to Scotland Facebook page, he wrote: “I’ll be sad to leave the Isle of Man as the place and people have been wonderful. Today is day 11 on the water for Race To Scotland and another BIG OPEN WATER crossing to Scotland. Planned destination is Portpatrick but if we are struggling then we may pull in to Port Logan a few miles further south. Keep the donations coming we are doing amazingly well.”
He also thanked all the people who have supported and helped him along the way.
Since leaving Sennen Cove in Cornwall on 7 May, Fowler has had an eventful voyage.
He has had to contend with big surf, becalmed conditions in the Bristol Channel which resulted in rescue from the RNLI, capsize and broken equipment.
Sarah Desjonqueres, part of the Race to Scotland support team, said: “Day six was nothing short of fast and furious, dangerous and difficult. The route took Ken and Yoda (his RS Aero 6) past the military shooting range at Castlemartin (Wales) 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 10-foot 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,” continued Desjonqueres.
“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,” stated Desjonqueres.
“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 (Pembrokeshire, Wales) that night,” she added.
To date, Race to Scotland has raised more than £18,000.
11 May 2017
Ken Fowler predicted that crossing the Bristol Channel would “probably be the longest day of the entire (Race to Scotland) trip”.
But he didn’t foresee the becalmed conditions, which left him drifting 13 miles south of Caldey Island, off the south west coast of Wales.
Luckily, the dinghy sailor is well prepared for his Race To Scotland and managed to call the UK Coastguard for help.
The Tenby RNLI all-weather lifeboat, Haydn Miller, responded and launched at around 9.20pm yesterday (10 May).
The crew reached an uninjured Fowler 25 minutes later and brought him and his dinghy on board the lifeboat.
He was taken to his overnight destination of Freshwater East in Pembrokeshire where he was met by St Govans Cliff Rescue Team.
Fowler was then put up for the night at the High Noon B&B in Pembroke while waiting for his support team.
Commenting on the rescue, Tenby lifeboat coxswain, Phil John said: “Ken was obviously well prepared, he had a VHF radio and GPS but was just unlucky when the wind dropped. We wish him all the best on the rest of his challenge and hope the weather is kinder to him”.
Writing on the Race to Scotland Facebook page this morning, Fowler said he was grateful for all the support he had received.
“Last night and this morning I think I got an understanding of what it must be for “boat people refugees” .”
“You arrive with nothing but the clothes on your back and you know no one. Last night amazing people helped me.”
“To all the team at the RNLI in Tenby and the shore rescue team at Freshwater East a big thank you.”
“Also to the owners of the High Noon B&B in Pembroke who took me in last minute and looked after me so well – all for free as their donation to Race To Scotland.”
“That’s what has been one of the most uplifting things about this trip – the kind and generous people you meet on your adventure.”
Fowler is planning a rest day today before continuing on his 900 mile solo journey to John o’Groats.
10 May 2017
Dinghy sailor Ken Fowler is hoping to cross from English into Welsh waters later today as he continues his Race to Scotland.
The 51-year old left Sennen Cove in west Cornwall on Sunday (7 May) in sunshine and wind, making it as far as St Ives on his first day.
Since then he has been battling between strong headwind and being becalmed.
Writing on the Race to Scotland Facebook page last night, Fowler stated: “So after three days on non stop upwind sailing we have an epic day tomorrow.”
“We are leaving England for Wales crossing the Bristol Channel on what will probably be the longest day of the entire trip. Lucky to have RIB support tomorrow from Kevin Green which is reassuring when I’m 20 plus miles from the nearest land.”
“Kevin is just another one of the amazing people helping us raise funds for Cancer Research UK and Oakhaven Hospice. So time for this tired sailor to head to bed. Good night from Bude.”
Fowler is sailing the 900 miles solo to John o’Groats in Scotland to raise £50,000 for Cancer Research UK and the Oakhaven Hospice Trust in Lymington.
He previously completed a charity sail around the Isle of Wight in a Laser two years ago to commemorate the death of his father from cancer.
The air traffic controller is also hoping to beat the record set by Ron Pattenden, who sailed the route as part of his unsupported circumnavigation of Britain in a Laser in 2004.
64 days is the target to beat.
13 February 2017
Despite only learning to sail a dinghy a few years ago, Ken Fowler is planning to Race to Scotland in record time later this year.
The 51-year-old air traffic controller will be leaving Sennen Cove in west Cornwall on 7 May 2017 to sail more than 900 miles solo to John o’Groats.
Few people have ever undertaken such a challenge in a dinghy.
Indeed, Fowler says there has been only one – Ron Pattenden, who sailed the route as part of his unsupported circumnavigation of Britain in a Laser in 2004.
Fowler is hoping to sail along the coast in less than 64 days to beat Pattenden’s record.
Initially, the long distance dinghy sailor wanted to follow in Pattenden’s footsteps and sail around Britain, but realising that as he wasn’t “a full adventurer or retiree” he wouldn’t have enough time.
“So Land’s End to John o’Groats looked like an awesome challenge, but definitely achievable in the time constraints I have. Hence ‘Race To Scotland’ because it is a one man race against the record time for the journey (64 days) and his leave allowance!” notes Fowler.
He admits there are challenges.
“Looking at Ron’s adventure and mine I can see lots of similarities, but also how the modern world has changed our ability to take these epic challenges,” he said.
“The availability of small waterproof GPSs, satellite tracking systems and accurate weather data means that you can manage the risks in a more informed way, pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved safely in a small dinghy – as long as you are well prepared and well equipped,” continued the sailor, who admits that unlike Pattenden, he will be sleeping in a campervan each night and have his own land-based support team of two.
“His route and mine are fairly similar, but I’ll be taking a few longer open water crossings than Ron – because I have time constraints that Ron didn’t and my faster boat makes these crossings less weather dependent”, explained Fowler.
He says that other than the weather, the biggest challenge will be the impact on him physically.
“In a boat like that there is no option to sleep, grab a warming cuppa or even chat to your fellow sailors. It is a full on 100% effort for 100% of the time with your body constantly moving around the boat and hanging out of it!” said Fowler, who as well as logging sailing hours is also undertaking physical and aerobic training.
He also hopes his challenge will raise £50,000 for Cancer Research UK and the Oakhaven Hospice Trust in Lymington.
Fowler has already completed a charity sail around the Isle of Wight in a Laser two years ago to commemorate the death of his father from cancer.
He described the Race to Scotland as the “Vendee Globes for the normal club sailor”, and said he is most looking forward to seeing the wild North Cornwall coast, and the surf beach of Devon and South Wales, although added that he is most excited about sailing through the Scottish islands – especially Mull and Skye.
“I think the one other place I’m excited, or should that be slightly terrified about, is Cape Wrath at the North Western corner of Scotland. It’s that last big headland to round before the home run to John O Groats and even it’s name creates an element of fear,” said Fowler.
Having only started sailing relatively recently, Fowler believes that although he may lack the “instinctive natural sailing ability” that comes from sailing for decades, he does have some advantages.
“Coming relatively late to sailing it means that I have that drive and desire to achieve that we all have when we start a hobby or job. Age also brings an increased ability to self analyse and really look at how you are performing and how you can improve”, he explained.
He also believes his job has given him the ability to analyse risks – vital when sailing.
“As an air traffic controller the thing foremost in your mind at all times is safety and I think having that kind of mentality is a great advantage when planning and undertaking a challenge like this”, stressed Fowler.
“I think when you are older you really appreciate the opportunities you are given, as you realise there may not be that many more of them! As such, despite all the long hours spent in preparation and planning, I’m really enjoying the whole experience”, he added.
Fowler will begin his Race to Scotland on 7 May 2017 from Sennen Cove near Land’s End.