Clipper Race Alumni sets out on solo row round Britain

15 April 2024

“Be stronger than the reason to go home”. Inspirational words from Clipper Race Alumni Craig Forsyth who is embarking on his latest challenge, to become the first person to row solo, unassisted around Britain.

The Yorkshireman started his epic 1550 mile row yesterday, 14 April, from Scrabster Bay, on the north coast of Scotland. The first milestone to get through is the infamous Pentland Firth.

The 54-year-old bricklayer, former professional rugby player and all round adrenaline addict, who hails from York, has a list of achievements many would only dream of. Craig has run, cycled, rowed and sailed taking on both land and water adventures alike. From the London Marathon and coast to coast cycles to becoming a circumnavigator in the Clipper 2013-14 Race and rowing across the Atlantic. He joked: “I’ll have to take to the skies next.”

On what continues to drive him to take on these challenges, Craig said: “I always want to grow, want to get to the next level. It has always been like that in my life. After finishing my rugby career and feeling like being in a bit of a wilderness, the Clipper Race came along. And as Sir Robin Knox-Johnston always says to the crew, ‘It will be the best thing you have done in your life, so far’ and it definitely was.”

Continuing with the ‘so far’ mantle after racing 11 months round the world, Craig realised how quick a year can pass and since then has tackled almost an adventure a year, including two further North Pacific crossings and Australian leg with the Clipper Race.

Preparations have been tough, as he has barely been able to train on the water due the weather, however Craig says: “The hardest thing about every challenge is actually getting to the start.

“I originally had planned to do this row as a pair last year but my pair dropped out. The costs involved, time for training and unknown for most people are the biggest stumbling blocks. Once that is done, the second biggest challenge is living on board, in what is basically equivalent to the front seats of your car. For me, then comes the actual rowing. The rowing bit is quite easy, train for the first five days, then that is your training for the next and so on you just keep going.”

Comparing this adventure to when he rowed solo across the Atlantic he said: “Mentally each challenge is always new, you never quite know what your exact challenges are going to be, but this one, being so close to land will be an element I haven't experienced before. Land will pretty much be always in sight and home just the other side of that land, compared to the ocean crossings where you are hundreds of miles of shore. Taking the quickest and most direct route, this may vary, but will be around 30nm so still relatively close to shore.

“When it’s nice and sunny and you are ticking along at 3 knots, you have no thoughts of going home. When you hit dark times, the weather is horrible, you're not enjoying it, things are breaking on the boat, your pain from sitting on the seat all day, yeah you sometimes miss your creature comforts and want to go home. It’s battling that, it's being stronger than the reason to go home; the excuse to quit, you just have to be stronger than that.”

The goal of this crossing is to do it solo and unassisted, so time isn’t a pressure he is putting on himself. As it hasn’t been done before he doesn’t have an estimated finish time, but has rationed for more than needed. Catching him in his shed whilst doing the final checks, he said: “This is the same boat I rowed across the Atlantic on, I am keeping it simple, no sat phone, downloaded music and podcasts to keep me going, then the kit that I need, supplies, anchor and para anchor, to save me going backwards. And to be honest, I don't know if it's because I’ve already done a row, I’m going round the boat thinking I have a lot of space in here. I have done all my checklists, everything is ticked off so once I get to Scotland and the support van heads south it doesn't matter if I haven't got it, just got to get on with it.”

Whilst you would probably ideally start this challenge in May, as it gives you a good couple of months of weather, ‘you can’t control the weather’ so he is tackling this at a time that works for him. “Key milestones will be getting past the Thames outlet, Humber estuary, anywhere where there is a decent amount of commercial shipping, where it will be crossing my path. They are the ones I will be looking out for. Then the body of water between Ireland and Scotland, it will rush through there as quickly but nothing quite like the 9-12 knots of the Pentland Firth, hence getting that out the way first.”

Whilst the motivator is very much personal, being able to raise both awareness and money for charities over the years is an added bonus. During his row around Britain he is raising funds for the RNLI and British Heart Foundation, all the information can be found here You can also follow his journey via the tracker on his website.

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