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Single-handed Sailor Reaches North of Scotland

FROM the utterly sublime to the terrifyingly ridiculous, Ken Fowler has now had first-hand experience of a truly wild Scotland.

Nearing the end of his enormous challenge – to race to Scotland from Land’s End to John O’Groats in a tiny sailing dinghy and with the clock ticking – Mallaig and Skye were calling.

With 700 sailing miles already under his belt, confidence was high and, opting for the smallest sail, Ken launched in some fairly windy conditions.

Not 50 minutes into the day’s sail and it was clear that this was a bad decision.

Not far off Portuairk, the sight of a 45ft yacht struggling in the conditions struck a shard of fear through our sailor.

With five hours, at least, of hard sailing ahead and worsening conditions it soon became clear that a capsize could spell not only the end of the challenge but perhaps even the end of the sailor himself.

In survival mode, Ken sailed the tightest course possible, unable to compete with the eight-to-ten foot waves playing with him like a toy.

Depowered to the extreme, battling torrential rain and  flying downwind at nine knots on the smallest sail, arriving in Mallaig was an indescribable relief and ended a day that Ken describes as a “big learner for what Scotland can throw at you”.

The contrast, therefore, with the glorious Mediterranean cruise from Mallaig to Kyle of Lochalsh enjoyed by Ken the following day, seems almost impossible.

Flanked by seals and dolphins for much of the route, showered in sunshine and followed by the SS Waverley and its deck full of waving crowds, the sail along the Skye coastline seemed like a stunning ‘walk in the park’ in comparison with the lethal dice with death the day before.

Even the whirlpools seemed to skim beneath the hull of the boat unnoticed, Scotland it seems had been tamed once more.