Veteran British adventurer Sir David Hempleman-Adams has embarked on his greatest ever challenge – sailing solo across the Atlantic in support of St John Ambulance – on Sunday April 28.
And the record-breaking 62-year-old, who inspired the likes of Bear Grylls and Ben Fogle with his fearless expeditions, has followed in the footsteps of one of his heroes by setting off from Plymouth on his Voyage of Discovery (www.sja.org.uk/discovery / #DiscoverSJA).
“As a boy, I was inspired by Sir Francis Chichester’s solo circumnavigation of the globe; he was the first man to take on that adventure and I vividly remember watching TV coverage of him sailing home into Plymouth Sound after 226 days,” said Sir David.
“He was a legendary solo yachtsman who had already crossed the Atlantic on his own twice, and he celebrated his 65th birthday at sea.
“I’m a few years younger than that and my voyage should take just over a month, so time is on my side, but I have never done anything like this before.”
A relatively inexperienced sailor, he will be up against the high seas, unpredictable weather and feelings of loneliness and isolation for around 35 days.
He described the prospect of undertaking the perilous journey as harder than climbing Everest, but he has been training hard and famous sailors Dame Ellen MacArthur and Sir Ben Ainslie have been advising him.
“Sailing to New York is going to be a real challenge for me, but I will keep the memories of Sir Francis’s achievements, and the fact I’m doing this to raise awareness of a great charity – St John Ambulance – close to my heart,” Sir David added.
Born in Swindon and now living near Bath, Sir David has been an advocate for St John for more than 25 years and a trustee at the volunteer-led health charity since 2012.
The charity’s chief executive, Martin Houghton-Brown said: “We are one of the few charities where younger and older people volunteer alongside each other with equal skills.
“I believe that Sir David’s courageous expedition will inspire many across the generations to seek a new adventure for themselves.
“We are fortunate to have Sir David as an ambassador for our charity and his passion for St John is shared by our incredible volunteers, many of whom came to us on their own journeys of self-discovery.”
Often, St John’s volunteers are introduced to the charity when they learn first aid in schools, their community or in the workplace.
That experience opens the door to exciting opportunities and challenges; from becoming a first aider to keep people safe at high-profile events, as a youth leader teaching young people life saving skills – many of whom go onto become healthcare practitioners – or as a community first responder to support local emergency services.
As a volunteer for St John Ambulance, there is something for everyone regardless of age, experience or the time that they have.
Follow Sir David’s progress LIVE as he makes his way across the Atlantic by visiting www.sja.org.uk/discovery and join the conversation on social media: #DiscoverSJA
Photograph: Johnny Green