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THREE DEAF YACHTSMEN

TO EXPERIENCE A TRANSATLANTIC OCEAN VOYAGE IN JULY 2006

Last year, Gerry Hughes was involved in OSTAR 2005 (Original Single-handed Transatlantic Race) from Plymouth , England to Newport , USA . As a result Gerry won an award from the Royal Western Yacht Club in Plymouth . The award, an engraved watch, was “The Spirit of Corinthian of OSTAR 2005” and honoured Gerry's determination, endurance, bravery and seamanship throughout the race.

Trouble hit after only a few days in the 2005 race when Gerry had to divert off course to Crosshaven , Ireland for essential engine and self-steering repairs. He considered turning back to Troon , Scotland at the time. Looking back, he is now grateful that his confidence enabled him to make the decision to carry on. Similarly, Gerry was also grateful that he did not encounter icebergs in the freezing fog he later experienced on the next leg of the journey off the Grand Banks, Newfoundland .

Gerry battled against fog, gales and a lack of wind and survived more than 21 days without electronic aids and with virtually no communication with either his family or race organisers. As he approached his destination he found himself surrounded by dense fog. “Only a few more hours and surely I will sight land. There must be land out there somewhere in front of me even though I cannot see it yet” he had to reassure himself. Unfortunately “I can smell the fumes of ships - are they too close to me?” also came to mind. On seeing floating buoys, logic also told Gerry that these were for catching lobsters and that he must therefore have been in inshore waters!

Gerry was aware that the inshore waters also contained rocks - a hazard for sailors at the best of times, which could have proved to be his downfall in windless, fog-bound waters. However with confidence drawn from many years of experience, he knew that he could finish the race on time at Newport . He prayed that the fog would clear and allow him to negotiate a safe tack to the finish line at Castle Hill, Newport, knowing that eight years earlier, competitors in the same race had met a disastrous end after encountering the fog only two miles off Newport.

That was 2005 and as we know, Gerry did finish the race safely and was able to recount his experiences to the pupils of St Vincent 's School for the Deaf, where he is a teacher. The Deaf Community in Glasgow were also held spellbound by his adventures while crossing the Atlantic in the OSTAR 2005 race.

So what is next for Gerry? The return voyage!

Gerry's boat, the Quest ll, has rested on a cradle on the dockside at Newport since July 2005. For the return voyage, Gerry will be joined by two excited Deaf crewmen - one from Scotland , the other from England . All three men will fly to America and meet up at Newport on the 30 th of June 2006 where they will spend several days preparing the boat for its voyage to Troon , Scotland . They hope to beat the previous crossing time of 32 days held by Captain Stuart MacDonald.

Surprisingly, McDonald also made the voyage in Quest ll – yes, exactly the same boat, although then it was named Red Alert. MacDonald sailed in the Red Alert as an OSTAR competitor in 2000. His crossing time was 32 days. Gerry's crossing time in 2005 was 34 days so the score is certainly in MacDonald's favour. Now Gerry and his crew hope to even the score!

Not surprisingly, Gerry received many offers from both deaf and hearing people interested in making the return voyage with him. He had the difficult task of whittling numbers down to just TWO people. So who are they?

•  MARK ROBERTSON from Edinburgh

•  JEFF MCWHINNEY from London

Neither has sailed across the Atlantic Ocean before although both hope to gain much hands-on experience as crewmen - hauling sails, reefing, cooking, holding watch, helming and navigating. Gerry will also drill his crewmen on safety and their roles onboard, including, maintaining the motors, navigating and forecasting the weather. By the time they leave on the 4th of July, the crew will need to be prepared for a variety of weather conditions, be they gales, fog or a lack of wind, with personal determination and stamina.

We wish the Quest ll and her crew a safe and speedy journey!

Quest ll's progress from Newport to Troon can be followed on this news website.

As the proud sponsors of Gerry's trip,AC2.com Productions and Actual Signs will be updating this website throughout the journey so watch this space for further news!