There’s no denying that, thanks to its strategic geography, Gibraltar is treated to an array of interesting nautical passers-by from superyacht moguls to arctic explorers. Latest guest, Richard Mayon-White, is in Marina Bay on final countdown to a rather unusual solo transatlantic crossing.
Tomorrow, weather permitting, 46-year-old Richard will be unfurling the sails on Haskapa, a 6.5 metre mini transatlantic class yacht, and embarking on his ocean crossing with a difference. He’ll navigate through the Gibraltar Strait, sail south to follow the western coastline of Morocco and the Sahara, and then meet the Tropic of Cancer at 23 degrees north. This famous line of latitude will then dictate his course for 4,000 miles, before reaching Fort Lauderdale around a month later.
Richard explains, “This is a challenge for charity, Tropic4Cancer, and challenges by definition are not supposed to be easy. By adding the self-imposed requirement of sailing only at 23 degrees north, I have removed the opportunity to navigate around adverse weather conditions. Likewise I’ll be unable to switch course to benefit from changes in wind direction and strength. At least I have prevailing winds on my side, this time of year they blow east to west, although tropical storms aren’t unheard of either. But truthfully my biggest fear is large marine life. Previously I have nearly been on the wrong end of an amorous Sei Whale and I really don't like sharks either.”
Richard continues “I’ve never been to Gibraltar before, and I love trying out new places. It’s a crazy location with the hustle and bustle of a major city and tourist hotspot whilst retaining the feeling of a proper community. This is somehow reflected in the buildings with new high rises sitting comfortably alongside older buildings. People are really friendly and welcoming, especially the staff at Marina Bay. I’m even doing a daily run to the summit of the 426 metre Rock. I’ll miss the bird’s eye view of the Atlantic I’m about to sail across, and the monkeys.”
Dwarfed by superyachts in Marina Bay, Haskapa is rigged and ready and to go. She has been checked, and double-checked, to ensure everything is working and survival essentials from food to flares have been loaded onboard for the 28 day plus journey. Now all that remains is for the weather to ‘play ball’ for tomorrows departure. The forecast is for light but favourable winds but Gibraltar has notoriously tricky weather systems – Richard must pick his weather window carefully.
Tropic4Cancer aims to raise £40,000 to be split equally between two great causes - Sobell House Hospice in Oxford and Sail 4 Cancer. Fundraising has already achieved more than a third of Richard’s target.
Sail 4 Cancer gives respite to cancer sufferers, their families and young carers through days out on the water and sailing holidays. From the moment you are diagnosed with cancer your life is taken over by hospital visits, treatments, tests, uncertainty, and often, financial worries. For a day or a few weeks, Sail 4 Cancer takes these cares away. The charity was set up in 2001 by a group of keen sailors who had all lost a close friend or relative to cancer. Richard has been involved in fundraising for Sail 4 Cancer since 2003.