Teenager aged 14 has just become the youngest person ever to sail solo around ...

Teenager aged 14 has just become the youngest person ever to sail solo around ...
Teenager aged 14 has just become the youngest person ever to sail solo around ...

Most keen sailors develop sea legs. Katie McCabe seems to have come into the world with hers fully formed. 

When her parents returned home to Britain in 2008 after an epic three-year honeymoon on the high seas, they did so with a toddler who had learned to walk on a boat.

Hazel and David McCabe, both keen sailors, had started married life with a ‘crazy idea to cross the Atlantic’.

They’d upped sticks, sold their boat trip business in Devon, and took off in a converted trawler. They kept going, eventually completing a 14,000-mile odyssey.

Now Katie, who is still only 14, is at it too, at the tiller of her very own boat.

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Atlantic swell: ‘After leaving Milford Marina, we were greeted by 3-metre seas. But we were sailing nicely'

Atlantic swell: ‘After leaving Milford Marina, we were greeted by 3-metre seas. But we were sailing nicely'

When we speak, she is fresh from her own record-breaking adventure. A fortnight ago she became the youngest person to sail around Britain single-handedly, in her 26ft vessel, breaking the record previously held by Timothy Long from Aylesbury who made the voyage when he was 15.

Her 54-year-old father had to be close behind, in his bigger boat, for insurance purposes — ‘in case I crashed into a million-pound yacht’, she explains, breezily — but close in nautical terms still means a couple of miles away.

‘At night, in the pitch black, it did feel like I was VERY alone,’ she admits.

It’s an extraordinary achievement, even for seasoned sailors. The trip, which started in her home town on June 30, took almost two months (although two weeks of that were spent dockside, waiting for weather).

Along the way she encountered everything from schools of dolphins, ‘hypnotic to watch’, to puffins and seals — ‘who can scare the life out of you when they pop up’ — to massive tankers, ‘that make you feel very small indeed’.

Solo sailing is not for the faint-hearted. Katie knew she would need to spend between eight and 15 hours at sea a day.

A fortnight ago she became the youngest person to sail around Britain single-handedly, in her 26ft vessel

A fortnight ago she became the youngest person to sail around Britain single-handedly, in her 26ft vessel

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She charted her journey herself, although her father checked over her calculations at each leg. Mostly they moored up at harbours along the route in the evenings, but at several points had to sail through the night, an eerie and unnerving experience.

And though it was summer, it was a British summer so there were very difficult sea conditions to negotiate, particularly in Scotland where she faced three-metre waves, and had to cover a 170-mile stretch in one go.

‘The longest period at sea was 32 hours,’ she says, ‘by the end of that I was exhausted and there hadn’t been time to put my protective gear on. I got pretty wet.’

What an ordeal. And all during the summer holidays, when most teenagers cannot be dragged out of bed, or prised off their mobile phones.

Most people her age (any age, really) would be terrified, but Katie has taken it all in her stride. ‘She knows what she is doing,’ says Hazel, 49, ‘and she’s very determined. She’s seen it all through and we are very proud.’

Today, Katie has the air of someone who has found her place of contentment. And it’s not on land. ‘There’s nothing else like it,’ she says,

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