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1 August 2002, 10:51 am
For Charity
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A Sailing First Around Ireland

Two British sailors will mount a sailing first this week when they embark on a charity fund-raising sail around Ireland.

Digby Fox and Tim Swinburn will be trapezing off two tiny 16ft singlehanded catamarans, which are normally raced over short courses.

Digby, a yachtmaster and series producer of the TV show Watersports World, says: "No one's done it on beach cats before - can't think why! These boats do capsize and cartwheel, so we need to concentrate for hours on end and navigate around some tricky coastline, particularly on the Atlantic side. For such little boats, it's a whopping challenge."

The pair are raising money for a hydrotherapy pool in memory of Digby's son. Hydrotherapy is physio in water, an effective treatment for muscle, bone and nerve damage, and the pool will be based in the UK at a special needs school for children.

To date, more than £100,000 of a £175,000 target has been reached, and sailing star Ellen MacArthur is the charity's patron. You can sponsor the sailors or make a donation through the website www.harrys-hydro.org

The boats are new 16ft Shadow catamarans designed by Gold medallists Reg White and Yves Loday. They're made of Kevlar, which comes from Dupont's Maydown site in Londonderry, and they're the first beach cats in production made of this incredibly strong material. Even the sails, from Hyde, have Kevlar strands.

"In some ways this new hull construction makes our trip possible," says Digby. "We can bounce off rocks and hit beaches at speed and probably get away with it. That's not our game plan mind!"

The pair will launch from Howth Yacht Club outside Dublin on the morning of Friday August 2nd. They then turn right, sailing clockwise around Ireland.

They estimate sailing 850 nautical miles in total, with tacking upwind and sailing into bays. The boats are capable of 18 knots (33 kilometres an hour) at full tilt with the spinnaker flying.

"They're quick boats," says Digby, "so we can knock off 70 nautical miles in a day. We'll be stopping each night, no doubt refuelling in some of Ireland's world famous pubs, but our stop-overs are entirely dependent on wind, so it's a bit of lottery where we end up each evening."

As Series Producer of the TV programme Watersports World, Digby has secured extensive broadcast commitments for the adventure.

"Our onboard cameras and land crew will document the sailing challenge, but it's the beautiful Irish coastline and the people we meet along the way that'll appeal to the international TV audience. We are exploring what seems to be an Emerald Age for Ireland."

At least 100 minutes will be aired to a potential audience of over 900 million homes through Gillette World Sport's 400 million viewers and through networks including CNN, Foxsports, ESPN, Sky, Star, MNET, Outdoor Life Network (USA) and the Discovery Channel.
Digby Fox/News Editor
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