About The skipper
Where does your passion for sailing come from?
Itchy feet. First experience was when I was approx. 9/10 in N Ireland on a boat belonging to a Cousin – Wallace Clark of ‘Snow Goose’ fame, though not that. While none of my parents nor siblings have the fainted interest, I was hooked after that first sail and was an utter disappointment to my family in trying to chase that goal instead of getting a ‘proper job’.
And it has not just been sailing but other marine/wind activity as outlined below that includes: sea kayaking – kite surfing – small and large boat sailing voyages in demanding water in the Arctic and Antarctic.
What are the lessons you learnt from sailing?
You never defeat or conquer nature – you might be let go after a terrifying experience that also offers exhilaration – fear – terror – calmness – relief – reflection – even boredom at times, but all the senses are woken and redirected from just being a cog in Homo Economicus.
Your fellow crew can also show heights and depths of human nature and teaches all how to live in or with that cake mix of ingredients and accept the rough and smooth edges that exist in us all.
What brought you to like single-handed sailing?
An unappreciated range of benefits at the time after taking part in the 1976 OSTAR has stood me in good stead since. Self reliance – confidence – ability to work through problems slowly and carefully – even being more close to natural influences that are our 6th sense…..
Saying that, this event will be a challenge to be solo for so long but why wouldn’t you like the opportunity to sail RTW…..
What prompted you to sign up for this event?
Primarily, because I could participate in my own boat and keep the budget reasonable. I will be using my pension as source of the funds unless I can procure others, but what else was I saving for….!
How do you plan to prepare for this event?
First, to make the boat as bullet proof and easy to sail as possible on the principle of: to finish first (Or well.) – first you have to finish.
Second, time on the water to explore what will make 1. work.
I will however seek to improve my well used body that include a few spare parts but I believe I am mentally stable enough to deal with most things that will inevitably occur.
What do you think will be the biggest challenge?
Sourcing funds is always a challenge and there is little history in Ireland of finding support for these sorts of experiences – but we will get there.
Being solo will have its highs and lows for sure but the amount of digital stuff now that is part of sailing – even on a fairly ‘simple’ challenge such as this – comms/instruments/electrical/etc, can be a challenge in itself…..
My first few trans atlantics were in very simple boats – no engine/toilet – just bucket and chuck it/no VHF or other radio – just sextant and dead reckoning with paper charts….forgotten most of it now.
Tell us about your boat or the boat you would like to have?
I have owned Killary Flyer for over 20 of her 40 odd years and have full confidence in her to keep us both safe and do well in a RTW. She was built in UK by a company called ‘Joyce Marine’ of Lymington – disappeared – of alloy to a Frers design as a 2 ton IOR class boat. Being alloy – which was a conscious choice – I regard her as nearly 100% recyclable, as long as she keeps floating! – and that will be part of my campaign message. Renew – reuse – repair instead of constant use of the planets diminishing resources.
She will be a handful at times but I plan to improve systems and make her easier to sail for a pensioner on the principle of ‘Any fool can be uncomfortable’.
Are there other boats I would like – maybe – but it is not really a critical factor.
Do you intend to link this personal challenge with a social message?
Already mentioned is the issue of: renew – reuse – repair so this will be a plank of this project and after 3 trips to Greenland – twice in this boat – I have seen first hand the dramatic climatic changes and consequential social changes that are rapidly taking place in the Arctic – this will subsequently affect us all and appears to be already with the hottest year on record just been.
In addition, I hope to be able to create some further support stream for the creation and build of an Irish sailing Trust vessel – none presently – to provide both a trading and trainee experience based on the new world of ‘Sail Trading’ – where trainees help sail a wind driven trading vessel and learn not only those skills but transferable skills in commerce and digital platforms.
Quite a mouthful…
Is there anything else you would like to add?
‘You always have to go too far to get anywhere at all – in art as life’ Francis Bacon…
Sailing Milestones and Palmares
2019 – A Greenland Story
Skipper/Leader: 3 month trans Atlantic sailing project to make a film/documentary on the changing climate and subsequent social changes on the west coast. Post Production under way.
2013 – North of Disko Expedition
Skipper/Leader: Sail from Galway, Ireland to Greenland.
Climb/Sail/sea kayak – photography and TG4 documentary.
2012 – Round Rockall Race Skipper/Singlehanded: 800 mile return trip race from Galway around Rockall, Ireland.
2008 – Three Peaks Yacht Race
Skipper/Leader: 5 man team. A sail to the base of the three highest peaks in Wales, England and Scotland, team members then climbed each peak.
2007 – The Azores & Back Race
Skipper: Two person, 3,600 mile sailing race from Falmouth, UK to Ponta Delgarda in the Azores. And return.
2006 – Gaelforce Events
Founder & Director: International outdoor adventure races with the first one: 65km combination race of trail running, kayaking and cycling. 2006. 3,000 participants. And now 11 events around the country.
2002 – South Pole Ice Kite Expedition
Member: Innovative attempt to kite buggy from S Pole to edge of Antarctica.
2000 – Launch of K2.
New base for Killary Adventure Company. 110 bed full facility centre.
1996 – “South Aris”: Irish Antarctica Sailing Expedition
Team Member: ‘South Aris’ Irish Sailing & Mountaineering team, a re-enactment of Shackleton’s epic boat trip from Elephant Island to South Georgia & a subsequent traverse of South Georgia. Expedition was the subject of a documentary by TG4 and released on Christmas day ’97.
1993 – Guinea Bissau Sea Kayak Expedition
Leader: Eight week kayaking expedition around West Africa.
1990 – Development of Killary Lodge into 22 room Special Interest Base.
A major investment as a base for special interest groups: Corporate – painting – Yoga – etc.
1989 – Irish Cape Horn Sea Kayak Expedition
Planner/Leader: 3 man team to paddle from Puerto Willimas on the Beagle Channel around Cape Horn in S America.
1987 – 1st Irish Adventure Marathon
Winner: 60km. Mountain running, kayaking and orienteering competition.
1988/98 – Gay Byrne/RTE Survival Week
Organizer: 1st ‘survival’ style media reality show. Organized logistics for the Very popular annual radio/TV show event.
1980 – Little Killary Adventure Centre
Co-Founder and Director: 50 bed, full service adventure centre for adults. Activities included, sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, camping, orienteering, hill-walking and archery. Business currently in its 40th successful season and has grown substantially.
1977/79 – USA 80’ Maxi Racing Yacht ‘Ondine’. Skipper: Participated in numerous regattas throughout US, Pacific and Atlantic. Pan Am Clipper Cup Series Hawaii – Rio/BA – Big Boat Series San Francisco – LA/Mazatlan – SORC – + Racing crew of 22.
1977 – 24ft Junk Rigged ‘Jester’ Boat Delivery to US
Skipper: Delivered ‘Jester’ from UK to USA as honeymoon. Jester participated in the first single handed trans Atlantic sailingRace – OSTAR, alongside Chichester – Tabarly – Initial owner Blondie Hasler, famous for being a ‘Cockle Shell Hero’, attack by kayaks launched from a submarine.
1976 – The Observer Single-Handed Transatlantic Race. O.S.T.A.R.
Skipper: 40 day single handed trans Atlantic crossing from Plymouth, England to Newport, RI, USA. 32 day return solo to Scotland. Borrowed boat from John Ridgway as used in Golden Globe race as far as Brazil – no engine/no radio/bucket and chuck it/sexton only for navigation.
1974 – Storm Passage Expedition
Crew. Winter sailing trip via: Maderia – Canaries – Mauritania – Cape Verde – Azores and the Atlantic as recounted in book written by John Ridgway ‘Storm Passage’. Again, no engine/radio but a proper toilet. 6 crew including John/Marie Christine’s 7 year old daughter. Unforgettable for many things but getting swamped in a storm off the west coast of Ireland in late December is the most memorable.
1969/78 – John Ridgeway School of Adventure
Chief Instructor. Extensive sailing experience skippering sailing boats around the ‘Minch’ passage between the outer Hebrides, NW coast Scotland.
1972 – 45 M Sail Training Ship ‘Malcolm Miller’
Relief Bosun: Responsible for the effective management of ship maintenance. Based in London East End – Isle of Dogs for a memorable refit and then sailed the English ports: Holland – France – Channel Islands – UK – Ireland.