The high-profile celebrity sailing crew ran from storms, had a Coastguard drop-in visit and finished the charity event in style on the Thames Friday night, raising more than £1m.
Six celebrities and a high-profile yacht skipper who set sail from Belfast, Northern Ireland, for a five-day charity challenge dubbed ‘Hell on High Seas’ arrived in London on Friday night in a blaze of glory.
Host of BBC’s The One Show, Alex Jones, along with fellow presenters Angellica Bell, Ore Oduba and Suzi Perry, as well as comedians Hal Cruttenden and Doon Mackichan sailed a Volvo Ocean 65 monohull yacht skippered by Ian Walker, the first British captain to win the Volvo Ocean Race. Other well-known professional sailors onboard included Team SCA’s Dee Caffari and Sara Hastreiter, Walkers’ Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crewmate Phil Harmer, Dongfeng Race Team’s Graham Tourell and Volvo Ocean Race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante.
Over five eventful days and 800 nautical miles, the celebrity crew faced gale-force winds, 10-foot waves that nearly capsized the yacht, seasickness and sleep deprivation on the way to raising over £1m for the Sport Relief charity. They also spent a night sheltering from the storm in Plymouth Harbour and received a surprise visit from a UK Coastguard rescue helicopter. Footage and recaps of the Sport Relief crew’s adventurous trip can be found below.
On arriving in London on Friday, 11 March, just after sunset, the crew celebrated by setting off flares.
Suzi Perry tweeted the photo at right, saying, “Just a regular Friday night under the bridge!”
The celebrating followed what BBC One Show presenter Alex Jones described as an “horrific” night of sailing.
“We came up against some terrible weather conditions as we sailed around the south coast of England – it was a new level,” she told Lorraine Kelly on her ITV morning show.
“I can only describe it as being attached to a waltzer for 24 hours. The waves were so high and we were bumping on every wave. It was a tremendous experience but absolutely terrifying.
“This morning the sun came out and it was beautiful but it was a horrific night last night,” Jones added.
Last night (10 March), during a routine training exercise, the UK Coastguard search and rescue helicopter based at Lydd dropped in for a surprise visit to the Sport Relief Hell on High Seas yacht, just off the Kent Coast.
The Yacht Master gave permission over the radio for winchman, Garry Stewart to be lowered on board, where he was welcomed with a round of applause by BBC TV Presenter Alex Jones and a crew of celebrities in the midst of their 1,000 nautical mile voyage in aid of Sport Relief.
The five man helicopter crew were completing a routine night deck training exercise which involves winching the winchman onto decks of vessels at night. During the course of the evening, the winchman’s skills were tested on two vessels – the first was a fishing boat and the second was the Sport Relief yacht – which brings additional challenges because the masts are especially high.
Winchman Garry Stewart said: ‘The crew on board the yacht were very enthusiastic. I landed onto the port side of the yacht where I was greeted by a round of applause from Alex Jones, Ore Oduba, Doon Mackichan; it was a great moment. Once boarded I came off the hook and we had a quick chat about their challenge which they seem to be really enjoying. They were incredibly receptive to my visit and it was all very professionally handled. On departure they thanked me for the service we provide and for keeping them safe at sea.’
The celebrities and skipper Ian Walker have been forced to port in Plymouth by gale force 10 winds.
Dee Caffari too updated her Twitter followers, writing:
‘One Show’ presenter and celebrity crew member Alex Jones also joined the conversation:
The fundraisers set sail on Monday from Belfast Harbour Marina on a Volvo Ocean Race 65 yacht. They are aiming to finish in London on Friday night.
Their first two days at sea involved a mixture of seasickness and hairy moments with the boat nearly capsizing but they have raised £354,810 for charity so far.
Six celebrities and a high-profile yacht skipper have set sail from Belfast, Northern Ireland, for a five-day charity challenge dubbed ‘Hell on High Seas’, and they look to be headed directly into a storm.
Host of BBC’s The One Show, Alex Jones, along with fellow presenters Angellica Bell, Ore Oduba and Suzi Perry, as well as comedians Hal Cruttenden and Doon Mackichan are sailing a Volvo Ocean 65 monohull yacht skippered by Ian Walker, the first British captain to win the Volvo Ocean Race.
The original route for the event was set to take the 65ft racing yacht from Belfast, north around Scotland and on to London, however a storm system forced the crew to change plans.
A statement from BT’s Sport Relief Challenge said: “The decision was made late Sunday night that the original plan of sailing north was not an option as the boat would encounter 10 metre high waves around the Orkney Isles. Not even challenge skipper Ian Walker, the first British skipper to win the Volvo Ocean Race, has ever faced waves of such height.”
Walker said the route change didn’t necessarily guarantee an easier time for the novice crew, saying the boat needed to round the Cornish peninsula before Tuesday night to avoid the worst of a separate Gale Force storm that’s predicted to hit the UK’s southern shores this week.
“The celebrities will really need to use all of their strength and all get stuck in to make sure we sail past Land’s End in time to find shelter for 24 hours between Tuesday night and Wednesday night whilst the storm hits us. However, they will not be getting off the boat so no getting their hopes up as we will be like sitting ducks, dropping the anchor somewhere between Falmouth and Portsmouth to sit out the storm,” Walker said.
The celebrity crew will take four-hour shifts on the yacht and will be carrying out many of the same tasks as the professional crew after having undergone a week of intensive training that included life saving exercises. Professional sailors onboard include Walkers’ Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing crewmate Phil Harmer, Team SCA’s Dee Caffari and Sara Hastreiter, Dongfeng Race Team’s Graham Tourell and Volvo Ocean Race meteorologist Gonzalo Infante.
The final stopping point for the challenge will depend on the weather, and may be London or North Shields. The challenge is expected to finish 11 March.
Walker said he expected the challenge to be, “quite possibly colder than any day I’ve spent in the Southern Ocean last race.”
Speaking to Belfast’s Daily Telegraph, BBC One reporter Alex Jones said that there was no real way to prepare for the difficulties the inexperienced crew were likely to face.
“It’s all mental, that you’ll be in a small space for a long time, sleeping at an angle, sleeping at a very uncomfortable bunk, not eating proper food. Emotionally it’s a harder challenge than physically,” Jones said.
The event is being sponsored by BT to aid the Sport Relief charity, which raises funds for vulnerable and disadvantaged people both internationally and in the UK. A live tracking map has been set up on the Sport Relief website.
Olympian sailor and MUSTO ambassador Ian Walker is set to skipper a Volvo Ocean Race 65 from Belfast on a five day voyage kicking off 7 March, alongside a crew of VOR sailors and celebrities in aid of Sport Relief.
The adventure will be aired as part of the BT Sport Relief Challenge: Hell On High Seas. Live updates of the challenge will be aired on the show each evening.
Alex Jones, Angelica Bell, Doon Mackichan, Suzi Perry, Ore Oduba, and Hal Cruttenden will be joining the 46-year-old on his expedition.
As the current Volvo Ocean Race champion, Ian will be putting the celebrities through their paces in the name of charity, with kit for the expedition provided by MUSTO.
Ian Walker said of his involvement in the BT Sport Relief Challenge: “This is going to be a tough challenge for the sailors and celebrities. In the UK in March the sea is very cold and with Northerly winds forecast, the air temp will be freezing – especially at night. We will need all of MUSTO’s clothing technology to keep us warm.
“Cash raised by Sport Relief helps to raise money for people living incredibly tough lives so I am really pleased to be helping out the celebrity crew.”.
The expedition sets off on 7th March with an estimated arrival date set for the 11th.
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