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13th July 2004: Tim Sets Sail

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Yesterday, Tim (and the boat) passed a sea trial, and a break in the weather meant that, after months of preparation, the channel crossing was on!

In a slight change of plan, Tim reversed the direction of the crossing so he'd be going from England to France. This alteration was made for two reasons:

  1. He could have a tail wind.

  2. He wouldn't have to look at France for so long.

Events as they happened

9.45 AM - Tim sets sail - Tim boards Lilibet II in Folkestone harbour, wearing James Cracknell's socks. After a few last minute checks he pulls the oars back for the first stroke, and his momentous journey is underway!

9.47 AM - Crash! - Tim discovers that the bridge is slightly lower than the mast. Fortunately no serious damage is done; just a broken light. After a few repairs, he sets off once again...

Tim at Sea
Tim makes progress, a few miles off the coast of England

11.45 AM - Tanker dodging - A tanker takes evasive action while Tim crosses the shipping lanes. All powered vessels must give way to unpowered ones, no matter how relatively large or small they are!

Tanker and Tim
The Tanker dodges Tim

Midday - Going well - Tim has covered around 8 miles and consumed enough bananas to feed 2 medium sized monkeys.

Weather worsens - As the afternoon progresses, the weather gets worse and worse. Things start to look bad. Tim pushes on anyway, hopeful of reaching France before it gets really bad. The bath is only safe up to a force 3 wind, and that's already been exceeded!

2.45 PM - Stormy! - The wind is gusting at force 6, and Tim is rowing through waves 2.5 metres tall. He's pushing as hard as he can but making very little progress, and the weather shows no sign of getting better.

3.00 PM - Abandoned - Despite getting to within about 5 miles of France, the sea currents and swells are too strong to row against. Tim is forced to abandon the effort after over 5 hours of rowing.

3.30 PM - Lilibet II Capsizes - Things go from bad to worse. Once Tim is out of the boat, the wind manages to blow it upside down. It's being towed back (slowly) to Folkestone where it'll need to undergo repairs before another attempt can be made.

11.00 PM - Trailer problems - Tim is help up again while they try to fix the boat trailer!

4.00 AM - Tim finally gets home ...and has a bath.

"That is the finest and most determined rowing effort I have ever seen in all my years in the Channel, and he should be proud of that."

Support boat Skipper

Tim would like to pass on his thanks to the support crew, who, he said, were fantastic. If it wasn't for their great work he wouldn't have made it as far as he did, and Lilibet II (and Tim!) would now be in a much worse state!

It was a gritty effort in terrible weather and the fact he made it so close in those conditions is truely remarkable.

Storm in Dover
The calm waters on the English coast this morning