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Olton Mere - A long way from the sea, NO islands, but a wonderful club

Spreading The Word

So how has this week gone? Bit mixed – frustrated with a lack of sailing opportunities due to storm Freya and varying work commitments, but on the plus side I’ve got a lot of route preparation done and had the uplifting experience of visiting Olton Mere Sailing club (more of that later).

So what does route planning look like? Well the picture above gives you some idea of what goes in to preparing each days sailing route. This shows one of the days coming up in April when I’m planning to sail from Plymouth round Drake’s Island (see recent blog), Great Mew Stone (ditto) and Burgh Island (look out for the blog soon!). The markers along the coastline indicate all the varying places I might be able to land at and whether they are just an emergency one (where I can just about land but will struggle to get the boat off the beach/cove) or a full landing and recovery site (the yellow pins). Google earth is a real god send when you are doing all this.  I then transfer all the routes and landing options in to my Garmin GPS, so if anything happens which means I need to make landfall quickly its easy to identify the nearest safe option and let the ground support team know which option I will be going for. For Race To Scotland we had well over 250 landing sites and 50 plus sailing day route options. Yodare will involve a lot more individual routes and landing sites, but at least I can just focus on the days coming up in the near future and then move on to the rest as I get closer to the planned dates. On top of the route planning we also need to find out how we get “Snowy” the campervan and the trailer to the launching and landing points – thank god for “Street View”. The final part to the jigsaw is working out the tides, which are critically important as some islands such as Burgh Island can only be circumnavigated around high tide. I’m finding that I’m learning lots about tides as a result of these adventures!!


On Saturday evening I took a break from all the planning  and drove all the way to Solihull in Birmingham in response to the kind invitation of Olton Mere Sailing Club commodore Paul Jennings  to be the guest speaker at their rigging out supper. I soon discovered just how far inland this sailing club is with a round trip journey of over 5 hours for me – at least the motorway is empty at 1.30am in the morning! I’ve been thinking about doing more talks to help the fund raising, especially during the winter period when island sailing is a little more restricted, and this was a great chance to find out if the story of Race To Scotland and Yodare worked. So how was it?

I think “really special” sums it up. The club was so welcoming and it was great to share a room filled with a wide range of ages from teenagers all the way up to those “slightly north of 65!”. Before the talk I was well fed by their excellent caterers – in fact almost too well fed,so I had to pass on dessert, as talking for an hour and a half on a full stomach is not a comfortable experience. In the cozy atmosphere of talking “in the round” I found all the emotions of Race To Scotland still fresh in my mind and it was great to share honest reflections of what went well and and those scary moments when things didn’t quite go to plan. It really made me realise how few people experience long isolating days of dinghy sailing and it was therapeutic to open my feelings to their questions. I think the video footage from on board Yoda really helped get across to the audience the variance in the weather and sailing conditions from full on Force 5 in big waves to paddling your dinghy – and there was plenty of that on the trip. By the end of the talk I felt that I’d transported myself and my audience back nearly two years and in doing so hopefully engaged a few more followers and inspired a few individuals to find their own challenge. That challenge can be as big or small as you make it, but it is your own challenge and living and breathing it will make you feel so alive and leave you with memories that will stay with you for ever. As I finally left the club around 11.30pm for the long drive home I felt privileged to have shared the story with such a great group of people whose kind donations at the end of the evening really blew me away. Looking forward I hope to be able to share the story of Yodare and Race To Scotland with more and more people to help raise funds for Cancer Research and Oakhaven Hospice. So please get in contact if you’d like to host a talk.

Thank you again Olton Mere Sailing club for all your warmth and generosity – you made my evening.