Bill Waite

The Fastnet Race

Fundraising for HF Mencap
raised of £2,000 target
by 14 supporters
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HF Mencap

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RCN 1150840


One of my ambitions for when I had more time, (note, not retire), was to learn to sail and then to compete in the iconic Fastnet Race. The Fastnet starts in Cowes on the Isle of White, goes West to a rock with a lighthouse on it, the Fastnet rock, which is off the Southern tip of Ireland, and returns to Plymouth on the South West Coast of England, a distance of 608 nautical miles.

It is held every two years and approximately 350 yachts take part. Think running a dozen marathons over four or five days with people throwing buckets of ice-cold water over you, and you might get a sense of what it’s supposed to be like.
So, this year I signed up for a sailing course, a sea survival course and the Fastnet Race.
My journey nearly came to a premature end when I was told I had to have a spinal fusion operation in February. I managed to overcome the surgeon’s knife and by June I was fit enough to sail.

  • My adventure started here (Photo 1) – not very glamorous but necessary to learn Day Skipper Theory.

  • I then moved to here (Photo 2)  – for my day skipper practical – again not glam.

  • Then I spent time in a swimming pool and classroom here (Photo 3) – Andark training company Southampton

  • Even less glam - learning how to get into and out of a life raft and how to scare sharks away if my navigation skills went astray and I ended up in the Pacific rather than the Celtic sea.

  • Finally, I landed here (Main image), on Incisor, a 45ft Corby racing yacht owned by Cowes racing school and skippered by the sailing legend that is Chippy.

On the 8 June, I competed in my first qualifying race, the Guingand Bowl, which was 115 nautical miles around buoys in the English Channel. The race was, how does one put this, entertaining. We left a completely tranquil marina into a Force 8 which we enjoyed for much of the race. Happily, we finished and came 3rd in class.
On the weekend of 21 June, we sailed all the way to Dieppe, crossed the finish line 150 nautical miles later, which was a couple of hundred metres from the end of Dieppe pier, and rather than go ashore and enjoy some food and a beer or two we turned around and came all the way back again. We did though come first in class.
There are two more qualifiers before the Fastnet, a race to St Malo on 12 July and the Channel race on 27 July, which I am sure will be equally entertaining.
The Fastnet starts on 3 August and, hopefully, finishes four days later, depending, as always on the weather.

Why am I bothering you with all this detail?

Well, I thought it would be a good idea to use my challenge to raise some money for the Hammersmith and Fulham branch of Mencap. 

Why Mencap? My elder daughter Sasha, a truly beautiful 23-year-old, has a chromosomal deletion which has significantly impacted her ability to learn. For the last seven years she has also suffered with significant mental health issues. Throughout that period HF Mencap have helped a lot. Sasha, you will be pleased to know is now much better.

So please donate what you can to help others who must deal with challenges which are a million times greater than those which most of us must contemplate. The fundraising page is 

If you would like to you can track Incisor's progress during the yacht races at

At the end of the campaign, I will update you on how we got on.

Thank you once again.


About the charity

HF Mencap

Verified by JustGiving

RCN 1150840
HF Mencap works with people with Learning Disabilities in Hammersmith and Fulham and supports them to have a voice, make choices and have control over their lives. Over the years we have grown into a multi-project service provider to support people with learning disabilities and their families.

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