Joe Macgregor is a 26 year old Naval Architect, in his spare time he volunteers with the Ocean Youth Trust South. He has been sailing a Laser for 10 years, club racing and regional open events. He also enjoys sailing big boats, racing and cruising. Last year he crewed on a delivery from St Lucia to Western Australia on a 50ft Hanse. Continue reading to learn about his journey around the Isle of Wight to raise money for the Ocean Youth Trust South!

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us Joe! What was your mission? Where was it located?

The location was the Isle of Wight, UK South Coast. My mission was to sail a Laser Radial Dinghy around the Isle of Wight to raise funds for the Ocean Youth Trust South. Departing and returning to the Hamble River, the official start finish line was in the entrance to Southampton Water, between two navigational marks (Hook and Bald Head). The 60 mile anti clockwise circumnavigation would take me through the choppy and congested waters of the western Solent to the notorious Needles rocks. Then, along the exposed south side of the island, through the strong tidal streams and overfalls at the Catherines Point, then back into the eastern Solent across the shallow waters of Ryde Sands.

Wow! That sounds like quite a journey. Why did you choose to do that in a Laser?

I sail a Laser because I love the simplicity and performance. It is sailing from first principles, every little adjustment of the tiller or sail controls, every little movement of your body is transferred to the way the boat sails. It feels fantastic!

It is a very physical boat to sail, so to sail a Laser for 60 miles is quite a challenge.

Since that kind of journey does require a lot of physical strength, how did you train for the event?

Lots of sailing! I am lucky enough to live 10 minutes from my boat and the water, so I sailed 2 evenings a week for a couple of months, plus a few longer sessions of about 6 hours at the weekends. In addition to time on the water I also run and cycle a couple of times a week, and included sessions of wall sits, sit ups, bicep curls, etc.

I spent hours studying tidal streams and charts so I was familiar with the route and knew what to expect. I went through every possible emergency scenario so that I and my support crew would be fully prepared and ran my plans past the local coastguard and port authorities.

What was the actual journey like?

At 0800 the support boat (a RIB kindly supplied by Southampton Water Activities Centre) towed me out of the Hamble River to the start zone. I crossed the start line at 0837, it was slow going round Calshot Spit in a light northerly breeze, but it was not long before a force 4 westerly filled in which would remain for the rest of the day. It was a beautiful sailing day, brilliant blue sky and sunshine, and a decent breeze.

It was a beat down the western Solent, with positive tide causing a sharp wind over tide chop, which my Laser (Lucy) cut through rather than over! As we arrived at the Needles I radioed the support boat to check that everybody was happy to continue, a couple of tense seconds of silence followed as my support crew discussed my question, the reply came as a resounding cheer!

Round the back of the Island we were to go! After 3 and a half hours of sailing to windward I was ready for some easier downwind sailing and it was magnificent to round the Needles in a Laser and bear away, sailing beneath the fantastic rock formations and caves, surfing in the sunshine.

My support crew (David Griffith, Josie Griffith and Lou Wildblood) were great, giving me fantastic encouragement the whole way round. Every half hour they gave me updated tidal and weather information, guiding me to the fastest track. I came alongside the RIB every couple of hours for food and a refill of my water bottle.

The over falls at St. Catherines were not as bad as expected, just a little choppy.

After St. Catherines, I headed NE along the coast past Ventnor on a dead run, so it took all my concentration to avoid the dreaded Laser death roll!

At Bembridge I turned the final corner and headed for home, it was still 12 miles still to sail on a close reach. My legs had seized up on the downwind stretch round the south of the island. The fatigue caused my legs to shake uncontrollably as I tried to hike.

They were better after a sandwich and a banana, the only thing left to do was dig deep and try to shut out the pain. The faster I sailed the sooner I could get ashore for a proper rest.

At 1922 a fantastic cheer went up from the support boat as I crossed the finish line, an amazing feeling of relief and achievement. I wanted to throw my arms in the air as a celebration but realized I had no strength left to do this!

Wow, what an adventure. That’s great! What is the charity you did all of this to support?

The Ocean Youth Trust South offers personal development to young people through adventure under sail onboard their purpose built 72ft. ketch, the majority of whom are vulnerable or disadvantaged in some way. A voyage with the OYT South is not about learning to sail but about developing skills which matter in every day life.

What was the aftermath of your adventure?

Fish and chips and bed! The next couple of days EVERYTHING ached! It has sparked my imagination for what to do next: the same thing next year with two or three lasers together, somewhere else…across the English channel, or another island…