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21 August 2002, 09:10 am
Nearly halfway, dreadful weather
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The Irish Challenge

The two Brits sailing around Ireland on singlehanded 16ft catamarans are almost halfway. Digby Fox and Tim Swinburn set out from Dublin on August 2nd and are now two days from Galway, with over 400 nautical miles under their belts.

"This is a tough haul," says Digby. "The Irish coastline demands respect, but we've managed to pick some dreadful weather for this trip."

The aim of the challenge is to raise money to build a hydrotherapy pool in memory of Digby's first son, Harry. Hydrotherapy is physio in a heated pool, and Digby's pool will buoy up the physical and mental well-being of disabled kids in his UK community.

"Seeing the online sponsorships add up each day has been great for us," says Digby. "If you want to cheer us on as we slog our way up the Atlantic coast on these extremely wet boats, do please chip in at http://www.harrys-hydro.org"

The sailors have lost four days due to gales, and two due to zero visibility, which is eating into their limited time off work. "It's tempting to go out into bad conditions," says Digby, a Yachtmaster, "but in our experience that's poor seamanship. We have good chats each day with the great Irish Coastguard team, and that's as close as we'd like our relations to be."

Digby, who produces the Watersports World TV show, is making a film of the trip, which will be aired on sailing shows around the world this winter.

Tim is the small cat expert who specialises in long distance voyages. When Digby bumped into Tim at the UK Dinghy Show in March, Tim signed up and recommended the new 16ft Shadow catamaran designed by gold medallists Reg White and Yves Loday.

The singlehanders are unusual, being made of durable Kevlar, and they use a single line spinnaker system for fast hoists and drops.

"These boats are superb," says Tim. "When we get the chance with the weather we're knocking off miles. But with the weather against us we can't. We've had some exciting sails, particularly on the spectacular west coast. I have vivid memories of sailing on the front of the incoming gale towards the Cliffs of Moher, making our precarious way into Kilkee harbour through jagged rocks guarding the entrance."

The pair are looking forward to reaching Galway, the halfway stage of their Irish Challenge.


Digby Fox/News Editor
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