Join Pamela Lee and Catherine Hunt on their Incredible Adventure
In a year of bad news and forgettable headlines, this is one of those that needs to be celebrated.
On the 12 of October at 07:45, two female sailors set out to set the first ever ratified World Speed Sailing Council record circumnavigation of Ireland.
The idea began in France, when Pamela Lee (Greystones) who was assisting Kenny Rumball in his first La Solitaire du Figaro, France's premier offshore single-handed event took place in September this year. It was suggested by the boat owner Marcus Hutchinson (Kinsale) that Pamela finds herself another female crew and take the boat to Ireland to set the first double handed all female record attempt around Ireland.
A week later that boat left its home in France for Greystones Marina in Wicklow. Pamela contacted Catherine Hunt, a young experienced British sailor to team up for the attempt. The two started in earnest and began doing short sails to get familiar with the boat and its systems before they would eventually go on to finish what now is a World Record.
Before they left on Tuesday morning, they had a series of training briefs with Kenny Rumball director of the Irish National Sailing School. Safety was always the biggest priority for the duo whose main objective was to sail the course around Ireland and set the first record as no previous records had been ratified until now.
In addition, mentoring and help was provided by the Magenta Project who is an international collective committed to developing pathways and generating opportunities for women in performance sailing. Armed with navigational routing for the attempt from Miles Seddon, himself a professional offshore sailor, the girls crossed the start line on Tuesday morning, a line from Kish Lighthouse to Dun Laoghaire East pier.
When it comes to sailing these Beneteau Figaro III yachts, downwind or reaching conditions are the fast points of sail. The breeze coming from the north-east offered the best possible conditions to begin with. It was going to be a hard sail with winds in excess of 20 knots but in the right direction. They rocketed down the east coast turning at Tuskar Rock and merely gone just over 12hrs they found themselves due south of Cork Harbour. At this point an ever growing online fan base knew something special was happening, to reach this point of the course in the time they were setting it was now a real possibility that the previous double handed record of Aodhan Fitzgerald and Yannick Lemonnier in a Figaro 2 in the 2004 which was set during the bi-annual Round Ireland Yacht Race of 4 days and 6 hours was very possible to beat also.
The first night saw the team round the famous Fastnet Rock in the early hours of Wednesday morning. As they approached Ireland's most iconic coastal landmark, the wind direction changed to more easterly in direction allowing for the most favourable angle of sail up the south west coast. The girls were now almost 24hrs into the race, settling into a 2 hour on/off watch system onboard the boat approaching 240nm travelled on the first day. Records were going to be set and records were going to be broken was murmured from online speculators.
The west coast was eaten up in blistering time and on thursday morning they were already starting to cross Donegal Bay. A special surprise was in store for them, as Rescue 118 the search and rescue helicopter based out of Sligo airport came for a true Top Gun style fly by. The girls gave the crew of EI-ICA an update on how the record was going over VHF radio and then continued on with their training.
The North East coast of Ireland has always been one of the most difficult parts of the country's waters to navigate. The reason being, a combination of narrow channels, strong flowing tidal systems and a traffic separation scheme. If failure had its favour, this was going to be the tipping point. The girls managed to make a rhumbline for the Scottish coast as the wind direction was now coming from the very direction they needed to get to. It was a cold night with plenty of tacking over and back, avoiding fishing vessels and lighter winds. Despite all this, determination and grit saw them emerge out of the hardest part of the course. By mid morning Friday the boat was coming up to the entrance of Belfast Harbour. It was looking particularly good for the team. The boat was pointed in the right direction and just over 100nm to sail left of the total 700. However, the wind died off to level which was not sufficient to drag the boat out of the strong tidal surge pulling them northwards. Several hours passed and the eyes on the record breaking double handed title looked unlikely.
Around 4pm Friday evening the tide changed direction and now assisted back on course, the wind came back in strong and the girls were pointing for the finish line. It was now looking highly likely they could sail around this island double handed in under 4 days, quite the achievement for a boat this size short crewed. The Finish line was in sight and the shore crews and official time keepers at WSSRC jumped out of their warm beds to greet them.
Just after 3am local time the duo of Pamela Lee and Catherine Hunt crossed the line and pending ratification from WSSRC are now the first to hold a world record of First All Female Double Handed circumnavigation of Ireland with a provisional time of 3 day, 20 hours 29 mins sailing a total of 761 nautical miles.
The record prompted a great response globally in the sailing community, with best wishes being sent in from as far as a field as Australia and America. The yellow brick tracker was sponsored by ISORA and Hendrick Ryan who with this addition made following the record more pleasurable.
The final exact times and records that were both set and broken will be known when WSSRC receives all the relevant paperwork and tracking devices by the offices back in London.
Pamela and Catherine would like thank everyone for all for the support.