After a day's delay due to bad weather, two intrepid dinghy sailors working for the Royal Navy have begun crossing the Channel on the first leg of their fundraising sailing record bid.

Leading Seaman Phil Slade and Ministry of Defence employee Mark Belamarich began their two-night bid to sail about 300 miles from Plymouth to Portsmouth – to finish on Whale Island in Portsmouth on Thursday (June 16).

The friends were waved off by a flotilla of small sailing and powered craft at the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Sail Training Centre Camber on Plymouth Sound and saluted by the warship HMS Echo on their way past the Plymouth Sound Breakwater.

"Perfect sailing conditions" ahead

Mark said: “We are looking at perfect sailing conditions with a good south westerly wind enabling us to maintain a comfortable speed across the Channel to France which we should reach tonight. Then we turn back and cross to the English Coast again. We’re looking forward to this – it’s been about a year in the planning and now is the time to act.’’

The challenge is in aid of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Charity (RNRMC) and the intrepid pair’s target is to complete it in about 60 hours (three nights), depending on wind levels and timing tides right.

Phil’s wife Bobbie and their two sons Thomas (3) and James (1) waved him off. Bobbie said: “I’m fully confident they’ll make it safely. But Thomas will miss him the most. I’m used to him being away with the Navy.

“Mark and him are taking it very seriously and have been practising sailing in the dark along the coast – probably the hardest part. Phil has always been mad on sailing. But I hate the sea. They’ve been planning this for so long now. It’s partly my fault they are crossing to France – I joked they should – and they took it literally. I’m very pleased for them that it’s finally happening.’’

World Record attempt

Details of the record attempt are; the attempt is for the ‘Longest Distance Sailed in a Double Handed Dinghy’. The current record is 555.6 km, which is 300 nm (about 345 mi). To beat it they are planning a route for 320 nm (368 mi) which would take 64 hrs at 5 knots and involving crossing the Channel twice in a basic, unmodified basic 14-foot Bosun Class dinghy.

The expedition is unusual for choosing to sail a small dinghy in the dark over Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Small boats run the danger of being hit by much larger ships in the busy lanes of the Channel. Navigating without daytime visual aids or radar and charts will also be a challenge. Righting a dinghy and recovering both crew in the dark is also tricky. The pair will be doing without sleep and snacking on high calorific rations to survive the highly physical nature of sailing for long periods.

To make a donation for the June event please go to:

The sailors can also be tracked on via a satellite tracking device. They start from Plymouth’s Stonehouse Camber on Monday at 8pm and aim to reach Portsmouth on Thursday 16th June at about midday.