AN intrepid sailor is undergoing a second gruelling challenge to fulfil his promise of raising £50,000 for two charities close to his heart.
Two years ago, Mudeford resident Ken Fowler (pictured) attempted to pilot a four-metre long RS Aero dinghy 865 miles from Land’s End to John o’Groats in aid of Cancer Research UK and Oakhaven Hospice.
However, despite completing the award-winning sail – which had only been attempted once before by a person in a much bigger boat – he fell £13,000 short of his target.
The 53-year-old considers this “unfinished business” and is currently undertaking another adventure, sailing 1,200 miles around the 183 islands dotted around England and Wales to plug the gap.
“Cancer patients don’t get to give up and neither will I,” said Ken. “Oakhaven Hospice is so brilliant and so caring, I just want to match that dedication and give something back.”
Ken decided to raise the cash in memory of his father Eric, who died aged 50 from cancer, and his late mother-in-law Ina was also believed to have had the disease before she died.
For his 2017 challenge, he was assisted by fellow Highcliffe Sailing Club members Ian and Jane Pike, who drove their own camper van and Ken’s van along the way. The trio slept in the vehicles at camp sites.
On two occasions Ken was rescued by the RNLI in heavy seas off north Wales and Scotland.
Ken christened the dinghy Yoda and is using the same boat for his new expedition – which he has called Yodare. He will stagger the journey over the 15 months.
An air traffic controller by profession, Ken so far has 12 islands under his belt and encountered dense fog, a low bridge he had to capsize the boat to get under, and fast receding tides which nearly marooned him on mud flats.
Among the challenges that lie ahead are 49ft tidal ranges in the Bristol Channel, incredibly shallow mudflats off the east coast of Britain, and wild coastal launching and landing sites.
Ken said he has a couple of particular islands he is keen to tick off the list, most notably the Isles of Scilly at the very tip of England.
“The pictures look more like the Caribbean than the UK, and with that many stunning islands and beaches it will be a dinghy island sailor’s dream – weather permitting!” said Ken.
Ken is supported in his challenge by an array of sponsors, including Rooster, Overboard, Morgan Sails and Zest Boatworks – which has kitted him out and set the boat up – Grapefruit Graphics and Wolfden Creative.
SolRX, Halcyon Yachts and ICOM have also assisted and YB Tracking has provided him with a full live tracker so the public can follow Ken’s journey.
Ken hopes to make the last island he sails around the the Isle of Wight, the site of his first ever sailing adventure and the closest to home.
“I hope that, unlike arriving at John o’Groats after a gruelling 35 days with only my support team of two waiting for me, I can arrive back in Mudeford Harbour triumphant and fall exhausted into the embrace of my family.
“The icing on the cake, of course, will be to have reached that £13,000 target. Having lost my father to cancer, I want to help all those people out there who have a family member or friend that is fighting this devastating disease.”
To follow Ken’s journey or donate visit his website at www.yodare.co.uk and click on the link to his Virgin Money Giving page.