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Mudeford fundraiser Ken Fowler finishes British Isles island challenge after lap of Isle of Wight

A Mudeford fundraiser who has spent the past four years sailing around every island in England and Wales was given a rapturous welcome on his return from the last leg.

Ken Fowler came ashore to cheers after finishing his 13-hour lap of the Isle of Wight yesterday (Wednesday) evening, finally finishing his epic endurance challenge.

It was his 262nd island, and he has raised more than £65,000 for Oakhaven Hospice and Cancer Research in his dinghy Yoda, which is the size of two bathtubs.

He said: “The day was really, really long. We launched as soon as the sun came up at about 5 o’clock and travelled about 130km. The wind was really tricky on some bits, the safety rib broke down which was not the best start to the day, but the best thing was coming home to all of these absolutely amazing people.

“I can’t believe I’ve done 262 islands which is just fantastic and it’s been amazing. I never realised how big this whole challenge would be and how long it would take but I’ve met so many amazing people and raised so much money and that’s what it’s all about.

The crowds on the shore at Mudeford (picture: Stuart Martin/Cancer Research UK)
The crowds on the shore at Mudeford (picture: Stuart Martin/Cancer Research UK)

“I never want to sail around all these islands around England and Wales ever again but it’s been a great way to raise funds and every donation really, really helps. But now I’m really glad it’s finished and I can relax now.”

Ken lost his dad to cancer when he was 24. He was one of six siblings, five of whom have died from the disease.

“After realising that I’d spent half of my life without my dad and that 50% of us will get cancer in our lifetime, I set a target of raising £50,000 for the two charities.

“It all began eight years ago when I started going round in circles in my dinghy. I sailed around the Isle of Wight and raised £5,000. Then I raised £37,000 battling whirlpools, surf beach landings, storms and RNLI rescues as I sailed from Lands End to John O’Groats.

“I was still short of my target and as nobody facing cancer gets to stop half-way through their treatment and illness, I decided I couldn’t stop either, so that’s when I came up with the challenge to sail around all the islands.

“In total, the distance covered is the same as sailing from Lands End all the way to the Canary Islands. It’s been all consuming and really tough at times. Sailing on Yoda is like sitting in your bath-tub – it’s as wet as sitting in it too!”

Ken has been supported both on and off the water by a loyal team including his wife and family, and has kept a reminder on board Yoda as to why he took on such a gruelling challenge.

Ken is congratulated by his wife Fiona. (picture: Stuart Martin/Cancer Research UK)
Ken is congratulated by his wife Fiona. (picture: Stuart Martin/Cancer Research UK)

He said: “I have a picture of my dad and my mother-in-law on the boat with me and the whole event has been an emotional roller coaster. But it’s all about getting the donations in and I’m so grateful to everyone who has supported me. Next though, I’m definitely looking forward to a rest.”

Elisa Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s spokesperson for Dorset said: “What Ken has achieved over the past eight years is extraordinary. A challenge on this scale takes courage, commitment and real grit and determination to face such tough conditions time and time again for the sake of others. We are incredibly grateful to him for his continuous effort in supporting our life-saving research and to those facing cancer.

“We’ve seen survival rates in the UK double in the last forty years thanks to the tireless efforts of researchers, but this can only happen with the continued support of people like Ken. We hope he enjoys a well-deserved rest back on dry land.”

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