Island Race

In 1994 I sailed round Britain in my 1911 pilot cutter Hirta to make a series for BBC2 called Island Race. Accompanying me were John McCarthy, the Beirut hostage, and Sandi Toksvig, comedienne.

With John and Sandi, my crew and I juggled the 35ton gaff cutter into some interesting places. The Celebs slept aboard on the occasional nights we were at sea or obliged to anchor off. In harbour, after they’d interviewed pre-arranged local characters they understandably toddle off to some suitable hotel. All hands left on board then chilled out in the traditional way. We staggered out of our bunks the next morning trying to look crisp and ready to serve as the stars and cameras arrived from the clean sheets. Then we were all set to go again, putting in more miles on the most original Bristol Channel pilot cutter of the time.

It is still possible to obtain an old VHS video of the series. The images of the boat, shot by some great cameramen who were a pleasure to work with, are special. This one was taken during the circumnavigation. She’s somewhere in the Western Isles and has got a real bone in her teeth.