Solo sailor's Atlantic challenge

A Norfolk-raised yachtsman is set to realise his childhood dream of racing singlehandedly across the Atlantic in a boat he restored himself.Will Sayer, who learned to sail at Burnham Overy Staithe at the age of seven, has secured a place in the Original Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race (OSTAR) on May 25.

A Norfolk-raised yachtsman is set to realise his childhood dream of racing singlehandedly across the Atlantic in a boat he restored himself.

Will Sayer, who learned to sail at Burnham Overy Staithe at the age of seven, has secured a place in the Original Singlehanded Trans-Atlantic Race (OSTAR) on May 25.

The 29-year-old will join 40 other amateurs facing icebergs, driving winds and isolation during the daunting journey from Plymouth to Rhode Island which has tested yachting legends like Ellen MacArthur.

And he is confident that his Sigma 33 boat - which he bought with his student loan in 2001 and spent four years restoring at a Wells boatyard - will carry him the 3,000 nautical miles to the USA.


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The neglected vessel, named Elmarleen, was returned to its former glory after Mr Sayer spent every spare moment repairing it at the Harbour Commissioners' boat store.

He said he raced back to his family home in Burnham Market every Christmas, Easter and Summer holiday from his university studies in Bournemouth to continue his labour of love.

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The yacht was launched in Southampton last week and Mr Sayer was due to take it to sea for the first time after its OSTAR modifications on Tuesday once its new mast and sails have been fitted.

'Sailing is a passion of mine,' he said. 'I have been fascinated by long-distance ocean racing since I was a child so to compete in the OSTAR really is a dream come true.

'The race is completed by unsponsored people who haven't got support teams behind them with limitless funding. It is done by amateurs who want to replicate its long history.'

Mr Sayer works as a marine engineer and lives in Southampton. To qualify for the race he completed a singlehanded race of 600 miles over four-and-a-half days - his longest time so far alone on the ocean. The OSTAR could take 30 days.

'I must admit I am both excited and apprehensive of being out there alone,' he said.

'There's no question it's going to be tough. There could be huge storms and it is every solo sailor's worst fear to be swept overboard. If I went over that's it - there's no swimming to catch up - my boat will carry on without me.

'But the biggest issue is lack of sleep. It takes a while to adjust to the disturbances and only sleeping when you can get it.'

The race is not the first endurance challenge for Mr Sayer who, at 18, was the youngest runner in the 1997 London Marathon. 'I want to be able to look at myself and say I didn't just talk about doing the OSTAR, I did it,' he said. 'That's what keeps me going.'

The OSTAR takes place every four years and dates back to 1960.

Mr Sayer will hold a raffle to help raise race funds, with prizes including a week's cottage holiday in the Isle of Skye. �2 tickets can be bought at the Ringstead Gallery in Burnham Market or by emailing jill.e.sayer@gmail.com.

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