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15-year-old Timothy Long becomes youngest person to sail around Britain

by Karenza Morton 1 Oct 13:35 BST 1 October 2020
Timothy Long at the helm of his 28ft boat, Alchemy, which he sailed round Britain to become the youngest person to achieve that feat © Marc Turner / PFM Pictures

A 15-year-old sailor from Aylesbury has today become the youngest person to sail solo around Britain while so far raising over £7,000 to support his heroine, Dame Ellen MacArthur's young person's cancer charity (Thursday 1 October).

Timothy Long spent his summer on a 1,600 nautical mile anti-clockwise voyage around the British coast having set out from Hamble, Southampton on 16 July. Now he has broken the record of Tom Webb, who sailed around Britain aged 17 in 2011, after returning to Hamble to a triumphant welcome.

Ellen MacArthur has been Timothy's greatest inspiration since reading her books as child. When he learned about the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust - the national charity that empowers young people aged 8-24 to embrace their future after cancer through sailing and outdoor adventure - he wanted to help. He was too young to volunteer so decided to fundraise.

After plucking up the courage to email Ellen - having told his mum "I can't write to her, she's a Dame"- a copy of her book 'Full Circle' and an Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust baseball cap, both signed by Ellen with the words "Go for it!" arrived out of the blue.

Inspired by Ellen's encouragement and that she had sailed round Britain aged 18, Timothy donned his Trust cap to follow her lead on his 28ft Hunter Impala, 'Alchemy'. And yesterday (Wednesday 30 September) he received a warm welcome from Ellen herself as he visited the Isle of Wight ahead of his final leg to Hamble.

Timothy said: "The Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust does amazing work with young people to rebuild their confidence after cancer treatment, and the experience of being together on a boat can be a real turning point for people who have been through the worst of times.

"My 20-hour passage between Eyemouth to Stonehaven in Scotland made me think of being in the shoes of the young people the Trust supports. I can't even imagine being diagnosed with cancer at this age, but people are and have to go through years of treatment, it's crazy. How can you return back to normal life after such a terrible experience without the support of the Trust?"

Timothy's first went dinghy sailing on a reservoir near Swindon aged nine. During his voyage he sailed an average 50 miles per day, with several passages of up to 100 miles. He battled giant waves, gale force winds, 17 hours in thick fog in the Bristol Channel and on occasions sailed for 24 hours straight, sleeping for just 20 minutes at a time.

There have been wonderful moments too; of perfect sailing, magical sunrises and sunsets and beautiful scenery and wildlife including dolphins, seals, birds and even a pilot whale.

When treatment ends, the Trust's work begins as for many young people, picking up where they left off before their diagnosis isn't possible.

Ellen said: "It is an incredible achievement for anyone to sail single-handed around Britain, but to do it at 15 really is something else. While Timothy will always have the personal satisfaction of that achievement, the legacy of what he's done will be even more far-reaching in terms of helping to change the lives of young people in recovery from cancer.

"Young people are going to need the Trust more than ever after COVID-19 as the pandemic has amplified the feelings of isolation, loneliness, anxiety, anger and fear experienced by young people undergoing cancer treatment and their families. I send Timothy my warmest congratulations and thank him on behalf of every young person the Trust supports."

To support Timothy go to www.justgiving.com/fundraising/roundbritain2020 and for more information about the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust visit www.ellenmacarthurcancertrust.org

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