Here on board the Kilcullen Voyager I am attempting to be the first Irishman, and indeed Galwayman to circumnavigate our planet solo non-stop. Now I am the middle of the Atlantic between South America and South Africia, this is our second week at sea and we hope to be at the Equator by the weekend.
And to think that my first “ Logs” or Letters’ home to the Galway Advertiser were almost 40 years ago. Somehow I cannot imagine being such an old seadog. The same publisher, (to me he seemed senior at the time ) enjoyed publishing them and sharing my adventures, during the depressing 1970s in Galway.
And, I am still at it. Then it was also Kilcullen named after my grand-aunt “Buddy’ Kilcullen. Four times shorter than the current 60 footer. that I had then sailed to the Caribbean from Galway and lived onboard, fell in love and became The Lord Kilcullen on a remote Island Kingdom most noted for its total insignificance.
My poor mother would never know what I was up to, but could read bits in the Advertiser. God rest her soul but somehow she did make the wedding at a remote town on the US Canadian border. That following year, her first news that I was coming home on a 16 foot inflatable dinghy (an experimental liferaft ) was when a photograph appreared on the back page of the Irish Independent.
It was caught by chance by the local paper of me departing Boston and went worldwide. It was not so much that the US Coast Guard care about you getting lost, rather it costs a small fortune to mount rescue operations, so they tended to stop people from leaving.
By then it was too late. My simple plan and ambitition at the time, was to make a safe landfall in the Aran Islands, and proceed to the American Bar unannounced, order a pint and call my mum.
That was inspired by my memories of John Ridgeway and Chay Blyth who left an impression on me as a child when they landed in Aran and were celebrated in Galway. Like life, it didn’t exactly end up that way but I somehow survived that trip. Now I have really jumped in at the ‘ deep end’.
I am the first, the youngest, and the oldest, Irish competitor in the Vendee Globe Race which started Sunday November 6 from Les Sables on the West coast of France. Even to get to the startline and qualify was “Darwinian’ and tough. They say it is the hardest sporting event in the world. It finishes where we started and my ambition is to simply complete the lap of our planet.
With enough food for 120 days, the target is 100 days. When you think Robin Knox Johnson did it in about 310 days back in 1968, the sport has moved on. It is the challenge of a lifetime which I am lucky and privileged to take on. Following the voyage we have a primary schools programme and a dedicated global map to follow me and all the other participitants.
I do this with desire to put something back in for what adventure the maritime life has given me. Hopefully it will inspire, or at least generate an interest and passion. The week before departing, I went home to Galway for what became an emotional visit at my old Schoil Fhursa. Here I outlined the adventure to fascinated pupils.
And then I went on to meet a rowdy older group at the Jes to whom I presented (kindly organized by Steve, rugby coach ). While listening, I guess they were sceptical of this old seadog. Winding the clock back, I related that I was just like them (I guess even worse ).
From this visit, if just one can be inspired to know it can be done, it was worthwhile. This schools programme is available on-line through the ATLANTIC Youth Trust Charity which I promote.
See www.temireland.ie and atlanticyouthtrust.org Also in particular I thank the Galway-based companies who are supporting this. I include Pat McDonagh of SUPMACS. Daithi O’Connor of REVIVE ACTIVE, Grainne O’Gara of P&O Maritime and Peter Heffernan of the Marie Institute who is already planning Seafest in Galway next Summer.