It was such a rush to get to the start and the first time I had sailed Alchemy solo properly was the day before I left, when I took her from Hythe to the Hamble. It felt quite surreal when I finally left, then between Hasler and Brighton it got windy and choppy in a Force 5 and I thought, “here I am in at the deep end!”’.
Timothy Long had planned six weeks of training aboard his Hunter Impala 28, Alchemy, before attempting to circumnavigate Britain solo, but March’s COVID-19 lockdown in England put paid to that.
Undeterred, the 15-year-old from landlocked Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire decided to use the time to improve his navigation and completed an RYA Day Skipper theory course. Nothing was going to get in the way of his dream of beating the record, then held by Tom Webb, 17, who circumnavigated aboard his Beneteau First 211, Danera, in 2011.
Originally, Timothy had planned to complete the challenge in his Hunter 19, Isabella. But after sailing the yacht extensively during summer 2019 he realised she was too small.
‘When it got windy, sailing Isabella was a bit like being in a washing machine,’ he explained.
The hunt was on for a more suitable boat, one which wouldn’t need too much work due to Timothy’s school commitments.
Alchemy was at Fox’s Marina and Boatyard in Ipswich and fitted the bill. As soon as lockdown restrictions were eased, preparing the boat began in earnest. The Hunter Impala 28 was already set up for solo sailing, with all controls leading back to the cockpit; Timothy only had to go up on deck for headsail changes. The yacht underwent an extensive rig check. A new chart plotter, AIS, a wind turbine and solar panel with Giga turbines were installed before the circumnavigation, and a new mainsail was also commissioned.
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