Teen Heather, 15, to take on solo sailing challenge

IN A bid to raise thousands of pounds for a community project in Africa, a schoolgirl will sail solo around the Isle of Wight.

Heather Aitken prepares for her journey around the Isle of Wight
Heather Aitken prepares for her journey around the Isle of Wight

Heather Aitken from Warsash is part of a group from Brookfield Community School taking part in World Challenge and she and her friends need to raise £2,850 to help with travel expenses and to be donated to charities within the project. 

The 15-year-old said: '˜In Africa we will be helping with various community projects and people far less fortunate than ourselves.

'˜I hope to make life just slightly easier for them by helping build and paint a new school, assist with teaching and other tasks necessary to maintain village life like collecting water, cooking and even running some sports fixtures.'

Heather will sail a single-handed laser dinghy, 4.2 metres in length, the 55 miles around the coast of the Isle of Wight.

Her father Mark and twin brother Stuart will follow in a support boat during the challenge  which is due to take place on September 1 and 2.

Mark said: '˜Anyone who knows the island will be aware the sea state varies considerably and Heather will need to negotiate the Needles at the right time to ensure the tides are favourable. The big waves along the cliffs around the back of the island will be a real challenge in her 15ft laser dingy. She will need to draw on every ounce of strength and determination during her anticipated 15 hours of sailing.

Heather said: '˜I'm in no doubt my sail around the island is going to be tough.

'˜I'm a member of Warsash Sailing Club and with the support of my fellow sailors, I've been training all summer.

'˜I've studied the tides and conditions meticulously and this is why I've chosen the first weekend in September for my challenge.'

She has been backed by double Olympic medallist Ian Walker who is also from Warsash Sailing Club.

Ian said: '˜Sailing around the Isle of Wight in a small dinghy will be physically and mentally demanding.

'˜Heather is a very competent young sailor but she will need to look after herself by eating and drinking correctly and she will need to be careful of the very strong currents and commercial traffic.'