Exmouth RNLI volunteer enters tough Round Britain and Ireland Race

15:00 12 March 2014

Neil Matson, a volunteer deputy launching authority at Exmouth RNLI, is competing in this year's Round Britain and Ireland Race.

Neil Matson, a volunteer deputy launching authority at Exmouth RNLI, is competing in this year's Round Britain and Ireland Race.

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TWO East Devon sailors – one from Exmouth’s RNLI – are ‘all systems go’ for the tough Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race, which begins on Sunday, June 1.

Nei Matson's  yacht Vela Fresca on a wave. Photo: Mike RiceNei Matson's yacht Vela Fresca on a wave. Photo: Mike Rice

It’s the pair’s first appearance in the legendary and gruelling two-handed 2,000-mile race – run every four years – and they’re relishing the challenge, even though the skipper suffers from sea-sickness.

Neil Matson, 59, from Exmouth, will be sailing his Dufour 34 Performance, Vela Fresca, which he keeps on the River Exe.

A volunteer deputy launching authority at Exmouth RNLI, Neil has had experience of short-handed offshore racing and long-distance sailing before, including a trip to the Azores and back.

Crewing for him will be Adrian Troop, 51, from Ottery St Mary.

“Last year Adrian and I sailed the boat back from Madeira via the Azores,” said Neil. “It was 1,400 miles on a boat in force five to eight winds. It took 10 days and we were bedraggled at the end.

“Despite this, when I texted Adrian, asking if he’d like to do the Round Britain and Ireland Race, he still said yes. Fortunately that trip acts as our qualifier, so we are all systems go.

“We were first in our class for the Azores race, but in this event I just want to finish successfully, having sailed the boat well. The bit I don’t look forward to is the sea sickness, which I usually suffer from in the first few days.”

The race, which began in 1966, is organized by the Royal Western Yacht Club of England. Starting and finishing in Plymouth, there are stopovers in four ports. It’s open to yachts and multihulls between 30 and 50ft in length, crewed by two people only.

This year the event’s chosen charity is the RNLI.

“I think that’s entirely appropriate, especially with our focus on coastal safety,” said Neil. “Actually, I’m surprised that this partnership hasn’t been thought of before.”

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