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Home / News / West Wittering goes to the West Indies (Part 2)
Home / News / West Wittering goes to the West Indies (Part 2)

West Wittering goes to the West Indies (Part 2)

Published 01:00 on 5 Sep 2023

I recently introduced you to fellow member Keith Oliver and his extraordinary project to build his own, quite tiny, boat and race it single-handed across the Atlantic this winter. Here's an update. Scroll down to read earlier instalments.

A few days ago, I went to see Keith in the barn by Cakeham Manor where he's building his boat, lovingly, by hand and with virtually no help from anyone else. (Though his dog Amber keeps him company in the barn and lurks by the door, tennis ball in mouth, ready to play 'Fetch' with any visitor who comes by.) The boat is coming on apace, as you can see from the picture. The hull is painted a properly nautical blue while the superstructure is painted - for safety reasons - in a rather garish hi viz reddish orange. Keith is now working on the interior, concentrating on the intricate but crucial task of plumbing in all the electrical systems for lighting, satellite navigation and so on.

Keith's aim is to get all of that work finished in early September, add on the rudder, stanchions and guard rails, then to lift the boat up with a forklift truck, screw on the keel and place it gingerly on its trailer for a journey to Chichester harbour. At the harbour, the mast is fitted and Keith sets out for his very first sail in the new boat. What an exciting moment that will be.

After the inevitable snagging the boat comes out of the water again, back on the trailer and off by road from Chichester to Lagos in southern Portugal. Keith hopes to be there by early November latest, with the race starting on 12 November. The first leg will take Keith to Lanzarote in the Canaries and should last about five or six days. Then it'll be a week to tidy up loose ends on the boat and enjoy the luxury of sleeping in a real bed that isn't jumping about in the middle of the ocean. The big leg of the race starts from Lanzarote on Saturday 25th November and is expected to take about 30 days, so Keith and his rivals should make landfall in Antigua on or around Christmas Day.

A slice of turkey, a glass of wine and a phone call home will be something magical for Keith to look forward to while he's battling his way across more than 3,000 miles of ocean entirely on his own.

I'll report more in a few week's time, when Keith's boat should be afloat in our harbour and dreams of the harbour in Antigua will seem much closer.

Roger Mavity


West Wittering goes to the West Indies (Part 1)

My idea of a tricky navigational problem is remembering which buoy is Gardner and which is Runway when a race takes my Scow to the Hayling end of the harbour. So I was somewhat over-awed, to put it mildly, when I spent an hour this morning with fellow club member, Keith Oliver.

This November, Keith is planning to race single-handed from Portugal to Antigua in the West Indies. And he is building his own boat to do it. The boat is a Globe 5.80, which is about 19 feet long. To put that in perspective, it's a couple of feet longer than a Wayfarer and a few inches less than a Shrimper. The boat has no loo (sorry, 'heads') unless you count a plastic bucket from Homebase. The diet will be freeze-dried gloop, with some fruit while it lasts.

The race is named the Globe 5.80 Transat after the boat design, which all competitors must use and must sail single-handed. At the moment there are only about seven people keen enough/crazy enough (delete as appropriate) to compete. The rules are tough: there is a satellite phone for emergencies only, but otherwise there is no communication allowed between the boats and land. The first leg is from Lagos in Portugal to Lanzarote in the Canaries and will take about a week. The second leg is from Lanzarote to Antigua and will take the best part of a month. The length of the race is roughly 3,000 miles.

Keith has made the hull himself from a kit and is now fitting the windows before painting and fitting the interior. Then the keel goes on, followed by the rudder, then mast and rigging. Even the lead bulbs which add the crucial weight to the bottom of the keel have been constructed by Keith himself: he carved wooden moulds for the bulbs then poured in molten lead. To my amazement, Keith continues to work as a Project Manager for an audio visual company while doing his boat building, mostly at weekends.

When I asked Keith how many big solo voyages he'd made, the answer was "none".

I salute the extraordinary ambition and resourcefulness of this fellow member. It's a huge adventure and I plan to send updates from time to time. And I'm sure we all look forward to buying Keith a beer when he's back.

Roger Mavity


Last updated 10:07 on 5 September 2023

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