Digby Fox and Tim Swinburn, sailing 16ft Shadow catamarans, have pulled out of their round Ireland challenge at the half way stage

The two British sailors sailing around Ireland on beach cats are the first to make halfway on these type of craft – but the whimsical Irish weather has made sure that’s as far as they’re going this August.

Digby Fox and Tim Swinburn have sailed from Dublin, on the eastern Irish seaboard, to Galway, on the opposite Atlantic side, heading south and clockwise, completing 530 nautical miles.

“We’re happy to get this far,” says Digby, “in one piece and in good spirits. The physical and navigation challenges have been hard, but the Irish weather this August has humbled our record setting dream.”

The sailors lost six days sitting out two gales and zero visibility, which, compounded with light winds in the Irish Sea, has forced them to pull out at Galway Bay Sailing Club.

“The 21 days available to us was always tight and relied on favourable winds, says Tim. “But I’m delighted to make it unscathed to Galway. It was amazing to meet so many wonderful people and to sail past such spectacular scenery.”

The aim of the challenge was to make the first complete rounding in beach cats, and to raise cash to build a hydrotherapy pool in memory of Digby’s son, Harry.

“Sailingwise,” says Digby, “we’ve achieved half our dream. In terms of fundraising though, we’ve had a great success with the online donation scheme on our website http://www.harrys-hydro.org. Thank you to the many who’ve chipped in, and, ahem, there’s plenty of time to whip out your credit card if you haven’t already done so!”

Hydrotherapy is physio in a heated pool, and Digby’s pool, which will help disabled kids in the UK, is a brilliant way of passing on the joy of water to others.

Digby, a Yachtmaster and Series Producer of the TV show Watersports World, sums up his Irish experience: “I’ll confess that this trip was much harder than I imagined. These adventures always are! But even beating upwind, for yet another day, I’ll remember passing the Fastnet Rock, for the fifth time, but not racing, and bashing our way past Mizzen Head through the lumping swells against a decent Force 4. The sun sparkled like silver across the wave crests, the gulls looked serene as they watched us pass, and I felt warmed and emboldened to be having a crack at this challenge, and at life in general.”

Tim says: “I was delighted to team up again with Digby for this latest adventure; his cheerful optimism certainly helped me through some of the darker moments, as we waited for the gales or mist to lift.”

Talking of the two new 16ft singlehanded designs, Tim adds: “Our Shadows coped extremely well with the varied conditions – congratulations to Yves Loday for designing such a great boat to sail, and to Reg White and all the team at Brightlingsea for building it so beautifully and strong enough to endure all that Ireland could throw at us.”

Viewers will be able to see the adventure on Digby’s and other sailing shows in a couple of months, but the question is, will they come back and finish the job?

Tim: “If I say that I’ll be back to finish this, I’m only half joking! I’d love to complete the circumnavigation…”

Digby: “Oooh, it does kind of feel like unfinished business. I’ve got a horrible feeling that we’ll down a couple of pints of that black Irish elixir, and decide that Galway to Dublin would be just grand.”