Tom McNally, who set a new world record in 1993 when he sailed across the Atlantic in a 5ft 4.5 inch boat, has died after a long battle with cancer
For years, Liverpudlian Tom McNally attempted to set the world record for crossing the Atlantic in a small boat.
He finally did it in 1993 when he sailed the 5ft 4.5 inch boat, Vera Hugh, from Lisbon, Portugal to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida via Puerto Rico.
Even more amazing was the fact the boat was partly built out of an old discarded wardrobe and that the hatch was made out of an old washing machine door.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, his daughter, Lorraine, paid tribute to her father, who was known as the “crazy sailor” as a result of his exploits, many of which raised money for cancer charities.
“My dad was an absolutely incredible man, some of the stories he told were unbelievable, he had such a fulfilled life. He was a very clever, kind and loving man and would do anything for anyone.
“Over the years he must have raised hundreds of thousands for cancer charities and I’m just so proud to be his daughter. Everyone talks about his sailing exploits, but to me he was just my amazing dad,” she told the newspaper.
Tom McNally was always passionate about the sea, and bought this first boat, Anisor, sailing it across the Atlantic with next to no sailing experience. Aiming for the Caribbean, he ended up in Brazil.
He did other more traditional Atlantic crossings before he decided to go after Hugo Vilhen’s 1968 world record for crossing the Atlantic in a small boat ( Vilhen’s April Fool was 5ft 11 inches).
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In 1983, he was famously rescued by a crew of a Russian trawler after he got into difficulties off the southern coast of Ireland while attempting to sail from St Johns Newfoundland to England.
His boat was 6ft 9 inches long. Bad weather earlier in the voyage had left him with blown out sails and drifting for two weeks.
Tom refused to abandon his boat, even tying himself to the mast. In winds gusting at more than 35 knots, the Russians managed to rescue both Tom and his boat.
Frustratingly for Tom, his world record in 1993, which saw him cope without fresh water and food and a cracked hull during his 5,500 miles journey, was short-lived.
His rival Vilhen retook the record later that year, sailing his 5ft 4in Father’s Day in 105 days from St Johns Newfoundland to Falmouth in Cornwall.
Undeterred, Tom McNally tried to take it back.
In 2002 he attempted, but failed, to cross the Atlantic in the tiny 3ft 10.5in Vera Hugh – Cancer Research. Having sailed 800 miles from Gibraltar to Gran Canaria, the boat and all his equipment was stolen from the harbour at Mogan.
In 2009, he planned a double Atlantic crossing in his purpose-built 3ft 10inch boat, The Big C, to raise money for Sail 4 Cancer.
His route would have seen him sail from Cadiz to the Canary Islands, and on to Puerto Rico. Tom was then planning on sailing north along the eastern seaboard of the USA before heading back to him home port of Liverpool.
Sadly, illness thwarted his plans.
After battling cancer for more than eight years, Tom McNally died on Monday (12 June) at the age of 77.