The #KayakRTI — Non-Stop Around The Isle of Wight

It began at 04:30. The low morning light rising on the calm waters of Bembridge Harbour. Sat eating a bowl of porridge the size of Jupiter, I have a thousand thoughts running through my mind: did I check that? did I charge that? what if…?

The arrival of my support boat crew — two lifelong friends that will accompany my parents aboard the escort yacht, snaps me back to reality. I finish my pint sized mug of coffee, and crack on.

06:00 and the boat is in the water. I position myself into the tiny seat that I have modified to try and make comfortable for what will be a minimum of twelve hours seated in this little capsule — that in itself is a challenge, for someone that is normally jumping in and out of a saddle, or climbing up mountains.

Sealed in. Watch started. I paddle quietly out of the harbour.

My route from Bembridge cuts close inshore, around the lifeboat station and over the ledge. Despite being high water, there is no way the support boat can follow me here; they need to go out round the fort and stick outside the buoyed low water zone. So it is that I am quite alone as I paddle eastwards; beginning the clockwise circumnavigation of this island I know and love, but have seen little of from this fresh new angle.

I have reached Shanklin before the support team eventually catch me up — it is an indication that I am making good speed over the ground, with a moderate crosswind and the start of the ebb tide taking me south west.

By 08:00 we are off Ventnor. The wind and sea are building; but they are blowing away the sea mist that has shrouded the Island for the last few hours. It took me four and a half hours to reach this point on a practice paddle last weekend, but thankfully today the wind and tide are in my favour — that is partly the benefit of hours of planning, but also a little luck with the weather gods.

At around nine in the morning, with three hours clocked, I paddle around St Catherine's Point — one hour ahead of schedule. Conditions have become significantly more challenging now though; on rounding the headland I am confronted with fighting against the full force of the Force 4 north westerly wind, as well as the significant sea that the wind is kicking up against the west flowing tide.

There is little opportunity to down paddle and capture the moment of rounding the lighthouse; every paddle stroke is in itself a brace to keep the boat tracking, and upright, against the oncoming waves. The support boat stands close by though, and they are able to seize the photographic opportunity.

The challenging swell lasts for a good 45 minutes — until I am well clear of the tide race, and off the holiday park at Brighstone. By that time, I am longing for a second coffee. I put down the paddle and sit there slurping on my thermos mug for a while. It is while I am resting that a lone dolphin darts in front of the boat; a beautiful moment that reminds me how lucky I am to be out on the water, playing with nature.

As The Needles lighthouse becomes distinguishable on the horizon, the conditions begin to improve; the sun breaks through the cloud, and the white water dissipates. Despite the challenging water around St Cat's, I am still ahead of schedule, and as I paddle onwards past Compton Bay and Freshwater, I have a 90 minute lead on my anticipated ETAs.

At noon, I round the lighthouse. The jagged rocks towering high above, and the waves crashing at the base.

A sense of relief washes over me — this was always the crunch point in my pre-planning estimates; I had to make it here before 13:00 or I would be fighting a strong flood tide to get west around the rock. Now, with time in hand, I can pick up the east flowing tidal conveyor belt, and enjoy a tailwind, as I turn the corner and point the bow towards Yarmouth.

In the relative calm of Alum Bay I jump on a quick live interview with Isle of Wight Radio; providing an update on the challenge, and some background into the incredible work of the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust — the real motivation behind this self-induced endurance test.

Then, after getting through the tide race at Hurst Narrows, I stop for a much needed refuel in Colwell Bay. Holding onto the back of the support yacht, I take a breather and replenish energy stores with a bowl of pasta and a mug of tea. Proper food.

With the east going tide building underneath me, it is fast progress past Yarmouth and the becalmed yachts racing in the Taittinger Cup. I average well over 10 kilometres per hour, and continue to creep further and further ahead of my scheduled times. It almost looks possible that I might complete the challenge in under twelve hours — that was unthought of in my prior planning.

There is a mini-flotilla of support boats as I make my way up the Western Solent: two RIBs, a motor boat, and the yacht from Daniells Harrison Chartered Surveyors; my uncle in his boat; and then a friend who came out in his kayak from Gurnard to give me a cheer. The encouragement is incredible, and something I am not often treated to on my long distance cycle challenges — those are often ridden alone, on foreign territory; this home-team rally, accompanied by the hundreds of comments and likes on social media, give me a massive motivational lift.

Past Cowes. Bluetooth speaker blazing with some banging tunes. I turn around the corner at Norris Castle, and see Ryde Pier come into sight. This is the final leg.

I would be lying to say that I was not feeling it by this point. With over 10 hours sat in the same position, arms rotating like windmills, I feel the energy waning and the fatigue setting in. A few snacks and a mental recap of how far I have come puts me roughly back on course — keep the paddle strokes up, tracking towards the final horizon.

At Ryde Pier, the support boat is forced to depart into the distance again; needing to avoid the shallow waters over Ryde Sands. I continue on past the funfair and football games on the beach; watching my speed gradually slow as the start of the westward flowing tide begins to set in against me.

Around the corner at Seaview; past the beach BBQs and SUP'ers. Then St Helen's Fort comes into view, and the entrance to Bembridge Harbour — the finish line.

A fresh spurt of energy flows through me, and I pick up the pace for the final few kilometres. I cross the harbour mouth to complete the circumnavigation in a time of 11:53:25.

What an incredible journey, beautiful experience, and special challenge.

I wave to the team from Susan Payne Property who have come out to cheer me on. Then, I turn the final corner into the harbour and paddle down to the marina. The support team are waiting for me with open arms and a bottle of bubbly; as well as some much needed assistance to crane me out of the kayak seat onto the pontoon.

As we sit in the early evening sunshine, sipping on celebratory drinks and reflecting on the day's many moments, I have an overwhelming sense of joy; happiness at what this event has done — bringing together local businesses, friends old and new, and family; all united to work together to help promote the amazing work of the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust.

This challenge was by no means an easy day out for me. But it is nothing compared to the challenge of cancer. In the back of my mind I felt that every paddle stroke was fuelled and motivated by the great power the water has to bring people together and make them stronger; the EMC Trust does that for children that really need it every day; and if this day has helped to promote that outstanding work in some small way, then that, is a real achievement. #KayakRTI

>> Read more about the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust and how you can support its fantastic work — There is still time to donate using the JustGiving Link on this page <<

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!

The above clip was captured by the Daniells Harrison drone — a rare moment when I had put down the paddle to do a live interview with Isle of Wight Radio. The Needles look stunning in the background.

A special thanks to all the local businesses that supported the #KayakRTI
  • Spinlock — the Cowes (Isle of Wight) based firm supported the challenge with safety equipment.
  • Daniells Harrison Chartered Surveyors — the Isle of Wight firm supported both financially and with several support boats on the day.
  • OxWash — the Oxford based eco-friendly laundry company supported both financially and with support crew on the day.
  • Susan Payne Property — the Isle of Wight estate agency supported with a generous EMC Trust donation.
  • Rapanui — the Isle of Wight eco-friendly clothing company supported the challenge with clothing. 
  • Rash'R — the Irish eco-friendly clothing company supported the challenge with an awesome rash vest.
  • Aquapac — the waterproof bag company supported the challenge with storage equipment.
  • SatMap — the GPS navigation company supported the challenge with a personal GPS chart plotter
  • Nookie River Sea Surf — the Cornish company supported the challenge with kayaking clothing.


Popular posts from this blog

Kit Focus – Rab Expedition 50L Kit Bag

Kit Focus – Merrell MQM 3 Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots

Kit Focus – Craghoppers Kiwi Trek Hiking Boots Review