Devon girl to become Britain’s youngest round-Britain sailing success
Katie McCabe, 14, has finished sailing around Great Britain and is hoping her journey will make her officially the youngest person to have done so. The current youngest person to sail solo around Britain is Timothy Long, from Aylesbury, who sailed around Britain last year, aged 15, and will have held the record for under a year, if McCabe gets the stamp of approval.
McCabe set off from Exmouth in her 26ft (8m) wooden boat Falanda at the end of June. She has raised thousands of pounds for charity during her 1,600 nautical mile (3,000km) challenge.
She carried out her anticlockwise journey with her father, David McCabe, sailing about five miles (8km) behind her for insurance reasons, says the BBC, however, she was alone for her vessel’s piloting.
“When I left Port Ellen on August 1, there was absolutely no wind, so we had to motor for the first two hours, until the famous Mull of Kintyre, when it began to pick up,” McCabe told the Exmouth Journal.
“We had a great sail, dead down-wind, but then the wind picked up some more, and the tide turned against us. Wind against tide isn’t ever a great mix, especially on one of the UK’s biggest headlands.
“To make matters worse, due to the conditions, I hadn’t had a chance to change into my waterproofs and I ended up covering 172 miles in 32 and a half hours, before eventually landing in Conwy, soaking wet and absolutely exhausted through the physical effort and lack of sleep.”
McCabe then had to spend a week in port as the wind was against her but she says she made some new friends and was able to carry out some important maintenance.
“We met loads of people in Conwy and were, once again, blown away by the kindness of complete strangers.
“We were driven to a local Tesco on our first day there, and a couple were kind enough to come down with a bag of fresh food, including a freshly-baked cake.
“The rest of the week turned into a rainy, windy blur, plus a small attempt at schoolwork, until we were invited round to the house of a local sailing instructor. It was so nice to have a home cooked meal for once.”
The Exmouth Journal says McCabe’s original goal was to sail across the Atlantic but her parents were against the idea.
“Last year, I got to meet Timothy Long, whilst he was on his way around Britain, to become the youngest person to go round solo,” says McCabe. “Almost a year later, he was at the boat yard waving me in, as I broke his record. I think it was great of him to even be able to look at at me and Falanda, never mind be actually friendly. I’d like to think I’d be that ‘nice’ if someone younger went round next year.
“I had wanted to sail around Britain, but to become the youngest person to ever do so is a fantastic extra. Thank you so much to everyone who has supported me, to all of the marinas who have given me free berthing, to all the Sea Shepherd UK volunteers, and most of all, to my dad, who literally followed me around Britain, to satisfy the insurance company.
“At one point we were racing a big 40 foot fibreglass sailing boat, with Falanda edging in front, easily. I am always surprised at how fast Falanda can sail, when she sneaks past the modern boats, with full crew. For a 70 year old wooden boat, I am delighted that she is so fast, especially compared to the modern boats with all their fancy equipment. Anyway, this boat then put some sort of spinnaker/cruising chute up, and shot off, ahead.”
Even though she may have fallen behind in that moment, McCabe has ambition.
“Ellen MacArthur is amazing and so is Laura Dekker, and I’d like to do something like they’ve done, so maybe racing [is what] I’d like to try next,” she says.