Sussex man Stick Daring made it round Britain in his small sailing boat this summer. He shares the story of his adventure and how the epic challenge has raised £20,000 for a prostate cancer charity:
Neil Peters, who goes by the name of Stick Daring when he is at sea, lives in Eastbourne and set off from the pier in his home town on July 17 to sail anti-clockwise in his laser sailing dinghy.
Neil, a 53-year-old father-of-three, said: “The lasers are the Olympic men’s single-handed sailing racing boat, so they are not really designed for long distances.
“To give you an idea of size, we are talking about the size of your bath tub.”
Neil had to travel light and took his tent, a small amount of food, one pair of trousers, a t-shirt, a spare pair of shoes, a micro towel, a radio and some mobile phones to keep in touch.
Neil’s wife drove some of the route which meant he was able to sleep in the van overnight but for much of the journey he was camping out or finding shelter in some interesting places.
He said: “One night in Wales I slept in a cave, I slept in a public toilet in Southend, Scotland and a laundry room in Cape Roth.”
It took Neil 76 days, six hours and 15 minutes to make it back home to Eastbourne after navigating the Irish Sea and the Thames Estuary, which is 23 miles wide.
He sailed for 56 of those days, due to the weather.
He said: “It was the worst summer for years. It was so wet. I think the south coast had good weather but Scotland had its wettest summer since 1983.
“It lashed with rain every day for a few weeks and it really was quite an experience and a real challenge for those three or four weeks.”
Neil also found himself stuck in a storm in the Irish Sea and feared he may have to give up.
It took him a few days to make repairs to his boat and continue his challenge.
Neil has been blown away by the support he has received from the strangers he met on his journey.
People have waived their campsite fees and put him up for the night, fed him, given him waterproof trousers and talked to him about how prostate cancer has affected their lives.
He said: “So many people have told me their stories and that has been very touching. Prostate cancer affects so many, in different ways, and I am pleased to have raised so much for the charity.
“Initially, I set a target of £1,000 but within a week we had smashed that and it was clear I would raise much more.”
The final total stands at an impressive £20,000.
Neil added: “I’m really impressed with people’s generosity. It has been incredible.”
There has been a great reaction to Neil’s challenge.
He said: “People just think I am mad.
“After I had got across the Irish Sea and arrived on the Isle of Man at Ramsey Sailing Club, I was greeted by a man who just kept saying, ‘you are mad, you are mad, you are mad!’ over and over. That was a great moment and one I will remember.”
Crossing the Irish Sea was a challenge, as Neil was caught in a huge storm.
He said: “I could see a big coastguard boat was coming out to see me but it disappeared under a wave.
“My little boat kind of bobs about on those waves and I am still alive somehow.”
Neil has sailed since he was a child. Pevensey Bay Sailing Club is his home club but he also sails at Eastbourne Sovereign Sailing Club weekly.
Neil described it as a ‘great experience’ and added: “I have travelled all over the world but this was just an amazing way to see the UK.
“I am so glad I have done it.”
He arrived back to his home town on September 30 to a welcoming crowd on Eastbourne Pier after weeks of highs and lows along the way.
He decided to take on the challenge after talking to another local man called Ron who had sailed clockwise from Eastbourne.
Ron completed the journey in the same boat and was also raising money for prostate cancer.
Neil said: “I spoke to Ron about it and I said I would take up the baton.”
Search Stick Daring on JustGiving to donate.