Flying across oceans with the Viking voyage team
In November 2022 the first Viking Voyage launched from The Isles of Scilly to Land’s End, Cornwall. The objective was to be the first to wing foil, unassisted across this tempestuous stretch of Atlantic ocean. The plan was to travel by boat, to the Isles and foil back with the wind and waves.
As the crow flies, the distance is 42Km, however, we expected to cover around 50-60km once we had negotiated all of the ocean’s irregularities. A team of five attempted this challenge, aided by a support crew of two; Steve Bowens, Simon Osborne and Viking foils founder Freddie Strawson were those to embark on this challenge. Notably, after completing the Viking Foils ‘Zero to Hero’ programme and 6 months practicing on Stithians lake, Simon felt confident enough to ride into open ocean.
On 17th November we had planned our first attempt a cascade of events led to the decision to abort mission before we even left dry land. Despite this anti-climax, we learned valuable lessons, and applied them to our subsequent re-planning.
Our second attempt was no later than the next day. Conditions weren’t optimal, with a light wind that didn’t arrive until noon. Despite uncertainty, we decided to launch our second attempt from Penzance harbour and made it to the Isles by 1100. At around 1230 the wind arrived and it seemed to be just enough to get going at about 10 knots south westerly.
We opted for light wind equipment and set off; large foils at around 1500 cm^2 and 5m wings. Progress was very slow to start, as you ride downwind you lose what wind is in your wing therefore losing power. A few hours in the wind began to pick up and progress improved. At what felt like about halfway we realised we had to pick up the pace as the first half had been very slow.
The biggest rolling waves were in this middle section, some as big as a small house. After a crash you could sit on your board and look around only to see ocean, the waves hid-sight of anything else. But it was in this middle section that we made the most ground. A relaxed, focused and playful attitude emerged, we were in flow. The mind was bright and empty, all that remained was a crystal clear picture of the present moment. This is where we were trying to get to, this is why we were doing it.
Once Land was in clear sight the goal started to feel achievable, this is where one might get excited. However the reality of the situation was that we were now in the most challenging part of the crossing with a very confused sea state, the wind was now far stronger making our light wind equipment difficult to handle and we were running out of light. Being about 3 hours in we were physically and mentally drained any excitement at this stage would only serve as further energy drain.
It was very interesting arriving at this particular part of the journey and observing this from the perspective of the mind. The final 30 minutes were tough and we had to keep it together but once we made it into the bay of Sennon we were home and dry. We arrived in a time of 3 hours and 39 minutes which was about an hour longer than planned due to a slow start and a testing finish.
On paper 42km is not that vast a distance to cover by wing foil but what made this difficult was bringing all the moving parts together in symphony and the endless things that could go wrong. It was a huge team effort and we thank everyone who was involved, we hope this story inspires you to give wing foiling a go and maybe a Viking Voyage too, more to come. #Bemoreviking.