Support CrewPosted by Neil Radcliffe 09 Oct, 2012 12:49:10
Now this challenge is over, as a general supporter and crew member on the safety boat, I thought I’d add some of my own personal thoughts.
A couple of things I sort of expected:
The first was the inspirational factor that comes from supporting an individual like Chris. The effort that went into making this attempt happen was enormous, and I mostly just watched with awe as he solved problem after problem, and removed barrier after barrier. And doing all of that whilst still maintaining his physical training quietly in the background. Having known Chris for some while, and having followed some of his previous adventures, I expected to be inspired, and once again I was.
The second was the fully professional seamanship of Dave Rogers (Ambient Marine), who skippered the safety boat. And he duly and consistently delivered in spades, especially in terms of making correct and timely decisions. Put simply, the Irish Sea felt like a safe place to be with Dave around.
What I wasn’t quite expecting to see was the efforts that complete strangers (and/or their companies) were prepared to go to in terms of supporting such an undertaking. Top of my own list here was Dave Rogers himself. Up until the point where we finally agreed a start time, I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I wasn’t certain that the use of the RIB Energy as the support boat would actually happen. I guess these days we’re all programmed to believe that if it sounds too good to be true, then indeed it can’t be true. And yet Dave plus RIB Energy did indeed drop all other plans, at horrendously short notice, and provided the absolutely perfect and yet ultimately so essential support. I hope I’m right in saying that I think that Dave, and indeed all other supporters, simply ‘got it’, in terms of understanding both the obvious sense of adventure and the desire to do something positive for deserving causes.
To all those who supported Chris, I salute you! There has been much going on in GB this year to give us all that feel-good factor, but witnessing such generosity has been the icing on my personal cake.
My final thought is squarely aimed at pulling a few heart-strings. My own biggest fears in preparing to support this challenge were focussed on coping with the hours of darkness. Given the nature of one of the two charities Chris is supporting, that obviously made me pause for thought, and I hope it does for you too.
So it’s ‘Over and Out’ from me – and the time has come where I need to make my own visit to the ‘Just Giving’ page.
Support CrewPosted by Neil Radcliffe 26 Sep, 2012 12:47:52
One of the many issues facing Chris was finding enough suitably experienced crew to man the support boat. We were looking at a minimum crew of three: two to be on duty at any given time, with any others sleeping / resting.
A key issue for this challenge is that Chris obviously needs quite a precise set of weather conditions, which may of course mean that we’re all in for a long wait! But when those perfect conditions do finally arrive, both Chris and the support crew need to be ready to drop everything else and ‘go’ And given the relative unreliability of advance weather forecasts, we might only get 2 to 3 days advance warning. It’s also pretty much inevitable that the sort of people who tend to make competent crew also tend to be the types of people who lead busy lives anyhow.
So the strategy adopted by Chris was to build and maintain a list of contacts for potential crew, including their available dates. This list has grown throughout his months of preparation and training, at the last count there were about 20 names, including several with extensive skippering experience.
Clearly the fact that we now have a fully professional support boat skipper in the form of Dave Rogers (see the recent post in the Support Boat section) has resolved at least one key crew decision. And as the owner of the original support boat, I’m sort of hoping that Dave will be happy to have me along too!
So, if the plan above all works out, we have 2 guaranteed crew (Dave Rogers and myself), and a suitable list of candidates from which to draw the full complement. Communications will continue with all potential crew, although things may go slightly quiet when the weather is as dreadful as it is right now!
Hopefully yet another hurdle overcome …
Support Boat PlanningPosted by Neil Radcliffe 25 Sep, 2012 14:21:53
The original support boat plan involved my single ‘open’ RIB, Katy Blue, which briefly appears in the video on the main website’s homepage.
However, we recognised from the outset that use of such a vessel was far from ideal, especially outside the main summer months, and the hope was always that we could get a more capable vessel or vessels involved.
The amazing news is that we may now have found such a vessel. Shortly after his website and blog went live, Chris was contacted by Bill Peters from Liverpool, offering the use of his purpose designed search and rescue RIB, all 14m (!) of it.
Bill’s RIB, called “Energy”, is a closed-cabin Hurricane 1400, which was previously in service with the Canadian Coast Guard. It has two inboard Caterpillar diesel engines, driving two Hamilton water-jet propulsion units. The RIB is normally skippered by Dave Rogers, a professional mariner who runs Ambient Marine from Albert Dock in Liverpool.
I visited Dave onboard “Energy” a short while ago, and it’s hard to imagine a more ideal solution!
Our sincere thanks go to both Bill and Dave for their incredible offer.
We are continuing to talk to Bill and Dave about dates and crewing, but as you may have read in previous posts, the biggest potential hurdle of finding a sponsor for the necessary marine diesel seems to be resolving itself.
For more information on Ambient Marine please visit their website at:
Support Boat PlanningPosted by Neil Radcliffe 21 Aug, 2012 12:12:25
Based on the trials to date, it looks like Chris may manage speeds up to 1.5 kts through the water, maybe a little bit more if we get the hoped for tailwind.
At that speed his passage will be massively influenced by the tide-induced currents. In the Irish Sea the currents predominantly head North on the flood tide (tide coming in) and South on the ebb tide. For the peak (spring) tides, these currents can be as much as 4 kts, especially where the water is ‘squeezed’ as it flows over the shallower areas near the Irish side.
Chris will experience a full tide cycle – slack water to peak Northerly currents back to slack water then to peak Southerly flow - roughly once every 12 hours. Throughout these cycles he will attempt to maintain a constant heading (broadly West), by following a fixed compass bearing. This maximises his progress Westwards, but it does mean that his actual track over the seabed will follow a sine wave type pattern as the currents drift him alternately North and South. In the support boat we will monitor his compass following performance, and offer guidance where necessary.
One key part of the plan is to launch into a Southerly current, to help maximise our separation from the main ferry routes.
Predictions have been made for the amplitude (‘height’) of the sine wave, based on the sea-currents data contained in the relevant Admiralty Tidal Stream Atlas. For such a long crossing (both time and distance) this is a major number crunching exercise, so the data was extracted into a spreadsheet, and the process automated as far as our skills allowed. (If only tides would follow a decimal pattern!).
Our latest predictions say that Chris can expect total North to South movements of at least 8 miles for neap tides, and 12 miles for spring tides.
In terms of predicting where Chris will be at any fixed time, the main additional factors are the actual speed he achieves and the wind effects. For example, an average speed difference of only 0.2 kts could see Chris missing a target aim point on the Irish side by the full 8 to 12 miles. And given the physical efforts involved, one luxury we really don’t have is adding more distance to the challenge by making gross course changes.
So we need a means of live prediction (and minor correction) as the passage develops. In the best traditions of keeping it simple, the plan is to plot Chris’s progress on a large scale chart, and to continually extrapolate this real track data to generate the future predictions. These extrapolations will be used to help finesse the target heading for Chris to steer; we expect to start introducing small changes from the halfway-point onwards.
We do have a target harbour in mind – more on that later – but it’s definitely been chosen because there are safe landing areas (beaches) a long way on either side!
Neil R – support boat skipper.