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Charlene Howard and Neal Brewer after completing the RORC's Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race

Never give up – AJ Wanderlust completes the race

Charlene Howard’s mantra – ‘never give up’ paid off as she and her two handed co-skipper Neal Brewer completed the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race to conclude the 2018 edition of this tough 1,805 nm race.

After crossing the RYS finish line at 15:13:03 on Wednesday 29th August, Neal’s wife and members of the RORC Race Team and Club welcomed them back to Cowes.

Having been enticed to take part in the race after listening to Liam Coyne’s stories from Lula Belle in the 2014 race, Charlene Howard from Michigan, USA said dockside: “It’s been on my radar for the last two or three years. The ‘never give up’ mantra came about after a catastrophic chainplate failure as I was delivering the boat down from the Isle of Man for the St. Malo race. We limped very carefully into port at Mylor and I wondered if we would get it ready in time for the start of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race.”

AJ Wanderlust at the start of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race © Rick TomlinsonAJ Wanderlust at the start of the Sevenstar Round Britain and Ireland Race © Rick Tomlinson

However, Charlene never gave up on her dream, which was made possible by the long hours and hard work put in by the team at Mylor Rigging, who ensured that AJ Wanderlust was there at the start on Sunday 12th August. Getting her own boat to the startline is a highlight for Charlene: “To do this in my own boat is very, very special,” But, this good luck wasn’t to last unfortunately, and two problems meant that the team had to call back into port shortly after the start of the race for a mechanical repairs, and then diverted back to Cork after losing all their onboard electronics.

Racing together two handed for the first time, morale by this stage was: “Low by then,” said Charlene. “But I asked Neal to stick with it, which he absolutely did. We still had 1,500 miles to go and I didn’t want to give up. I wanted it so bad and was so committed. I wasn’t going to let the Mylor boatyard guys down who had worked tirelessly to get me to the start. This race is only every four years, so there was no way I was stopping now!”

“Absolutely do it, would be my advice to anyone thinking of competing in this race. Everyone comes back with stories of how difficult it is, but I think the best advice I got was just do it in stages and break it down into manageable chunks. I really enjoyed it; we really enjoyed it - it was a big, long sail!”

Neal Brewer from Arundel, West Sussex, crewing with Charlene on AJ Wanderlust said: “It took a long time and we had a few setbacks along the way, but we got here in one piece mostly, bar the odd sail, and thanks to the great help in Mylor and Cork. We enjoyed it, including some of the calm bits and the rough parts of the race. The highlight was of course arriving back to the finish. I’ve done the Royal Western YC stopping race three times and also the RORC fully crewed Round Britain and Ireland in 2007 on Mostly Harmless.”

Charlene Howard and Neal Brewer finish the race two handed in just over 17 days Charlene Howard and Neal Brewer finish the race two handed in just over 17 days

“We saw a fair amount of shipping, fishing boats, plus lots of oil rigs, some not on the chart,” continued Neal. “Up the top of Scotland is a little bit lonely apart from lots of dolphins and whales. I was brushing my teeth the other morning and a whale came up next to me; plus we saw Muckle Flugga in daylight without the fog this time - all great memories.”

The team also had plenty of support during the race, including some of her Seaboard work colleagues around the globe in offices in the Isle of Man, USA, Colombia and South Africa following her progress and adventure.

Congratulations to Charlene and Neal on Sun Odyssey 45.2 AJ Wanderlust, completing the race in 17 days 3 Hours 13 minutes and 3 seconds.


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