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Monday, 21 April 2014

It's not in jest! - Newlyn man to sail to America in transatlantic challenge - all in a good cause

A PHYSICIST from Newlyn is about to take on a charity challenge of sailing solo across the Atlantic and back in a 21ft boat – despite only having taken up the sport a year ago. 

Dr Steve Hickey, 63, who will be raising funds for the Fishermen's Mission, only decided to take up sailing when he read about the Jester Challenge, a transatlantic race from Plymouth to Newport, Rhode Island in America, which takes place every four years. He said: "I've always been keen on boats but never had the opportunity to do anything about it. "But when I read about the Jester Challenge, it seemed so anarchic and silly that I thought I just had to take part." 

About a year after discovering the race, Steve went about the task of buying a boat. A 21-foot Newbridge Coromandel became available in Falmouth and, renamed Newlyn Maid, Steve took his first sailing lessons up and down the Fal Estuary. Since then, in between the task of making his 30-year-old vessel as safe as possible for the trip, he has brought the Newlyn Maid round the Lizard to Newlyn and also sailed round Land's End to Hayle. 

Before the race starts on May 11, he plans several more trips. "When I set out to take part in the Jester I looked at all the risks and thought that it was not that dangerous," he said. "I have done all I can to make the boat ready for the challenge and have fitted her with multiple GPS emergency locators and I will be in contact with the shore throughout the trip." Steve also insists that his experience of sailing in Cornish waters will stand him in good stead. He said: "Some of the most dangerous waters you can sail in are just off the coast. I think the main problem will be dealing with the psychological problem of being out in a huge ocean by yourself. "My wife is a bit nervous but fairly confident about the venture – it is the people who don't know what is involved who think it is dangerous." 

Around 20 to 30 vessels are likely to line up at the start on May 11 and Steve hopes to not only sail out to Newport, a voyage which he expects will take around six weeks, but turn round and come back again in time for the Newlyn Fish Festival at the end of August. 

To find out more about how Steve has gone about preparing for the Jester Challenge, read his blog at www.newlyn 

If you would like to sponsor Steve, visit www.fishermens