Murdoch McGregor, 82, and Katie McCabe 14, have become the oldest and youngest sailors to have circumnavigated around Britain

Katie McCabe, 14, and Murdoch McGregor, 82, have finished their circumnavigations around Britain, and sailed into the history books.

Katie now takes the mantle of the youngest person to have sailed solo round Britain via the Caledonian Canal from Timothy Long, who achieved the feat last year, aged 15. He has been supportive of her challenge.

It is an unofficial record as Guinness World Records doesn’t acknowledge records set by those under 16.

McGregor is now the oldest person to circumnavigate Britain, and the family is still waiting for ratification from Guinness World Records.

Murdoch McGregor, the oldest person to have circumnavigated Britain, on the River Thames

Murdoch McGregor has done plenty of solo trips, including from Scotland to London and then inland to Oxford. Credit: Murdoch McGregor

He will set the benchmark for the feat as the organisation currently doesn’t have a record for the oldest person to circumnavigate Great Britain by sailing. He sailed via Cape Wrath.

Katie’s voyage aboard her 26ft 1950s Morgan Giles-built West Channel One Design sloop, Falanda started from the River Exe on 30 June and took seven weeks and four days.

Due to insurance purposes, her father, David also had to sail the anticlockwise route, keeping two miles behind her in his 33ft yawl. 

It was not her first long singlehanded trip. The teenager sailed Falanda, which she restored herself, from the River Exe to the Isles of Scilly and back in 2020, again shadowed by her father.

Katie McCabe, who at 14 has circumnavigated Britain via the Caledonian Canal

Katie McCabe refit her 26ft West Channel One Design sloop, Falanda herself with the help of her dad. Credit: Tom Hurley

Katie said the only challenging bit of her circumnavigation was going through the Menai Strait, having arrived later than planned. 

‘You really should arrive there at slack water but because we were late we got whizzed through. It is best not to have any tide at the Swellies but we ended up going through at 12 knots which was a bit terrifying,’ said Katie, who has spent most of her life living and sailing aboard the family’s 50ft converted fishing trawler, Ros Ailither.

She said the voyage went smoothly, with several overnight passages; the only gear failure was a broken water pump and impeller which was fixed at Fishguard.

Asked why she loved solo sailing, she said: ‘It’s just really nice and calming. I can be on my own for a bit and think.’ 

Katie McCabe returning to the River Exe after sailing solo around Britain via the Caledonian Canal

Katie returning to the River Exe after sailing solo around Britain via the Caledonian Canal. Credit: Tom Hurley

Memorable moments included sailing with dolphins on passage from Milford Haven, Wales to Newlyn, Cornwall.

We had phosphorescence in the water. It was like glowing green dust, and then the dolphins arrived. All you could see were the outlines of the dolphins in green; they were like torpedoes shooting through the black water,’ she said.

Katie is a passionate environmentalist and has managed to raise over £15,600 for the Sea Shepherd UK charity.

Katie McCabe sailing Falanda

At 14, Katie McCabe has taken the unofficial record for the youngest sailor to circumnavigate Britain from Timothy Long, who was supportive of her challenge. Credit: Tom Hurley

Donate to Katie’s fundraising appeal for Sea Shepherd UK here.

She now plans to ‘try a bit of racing’ and sail further solo trips including Biscay

Katie met Murdoch McGregor at Oban, while both of them were circumnavigating.

The octogenarian described their meeting as the highlight of his voyage, praising her seamanship skills and declaring that ‘she is the most exciting young person I have ever met.’

A seasoned boater, Murdoch only started sailing at aged 72, and decided to circumnavigate clockwise around Britain via Cape Wrath after his solo trip to Norway was postponed due to COVID-19.

Murdoch McGregor only started sailing at the age of 72.

Murdoch McGregor only started sailing at the age of 72. Credit: Murdoch McGregor

He left his home port of Alloa on the River Forth in Scotland aboard his Hunter Horizon 232, Artemis on 5 June, finishing on 22 August, the same day as Katie.

The Forth Cruising Club member has previously solo sailed to St Kilda, Shetland, the Baltic Sea as far as Poland, after meeting German sailor Rudiger Engel and his son Alex in Shetland, and from the Forth to London and then inland to Oxford.

He has also circumnavigated Scotland via the Caledonian Canal, his first major solo adventure. Initially he had intended to sail 70-miles up the coast to Stonehaven, but with the encouragement of his friend, Nigel Holl, who initially persuaded Murdoch to start sailing, he ‘kept going and going’.

‘I was reporting in every day, and they were likening me to Forest Gump. Instead of shouting ‘Run Forest Run’, they were shouting ‘Sail Murdoch Sail!’

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Despite a ‘back problem’ which left him wondering if he would have to abandon his circumnavigation and mistiming a passage past The Lizard, Murdoch said the voyage went smoothly. 

I didn’t have a rigid fixed passage plan and I did a lot of homework on every section of the voyage so I knew what I was letting myself in for. I had nothing set in stone. I just let things unfold a little, which actually works a treat,’ he said.

‘The real star of the show is my boat, Artemis. She is a wee boat but a great big performer. I just point her and she takes me,’ he said.

Artemis, a Hunter Horizon 232 is the second sailing yacht he has owned

Artemis, a Hunter Horizon 232 is the second sailing yacht he has owned. Credit: Murdoch McGregor

He hopes his circumnavigation will inspire others to follow in his wake.

‘Nigel singlehandedly started all of this, no one else had won me over to sailing. I pass his advice on to others; keep is simple and get yourself an uncomplicated boat.’

Murdoch has also raised money for charity – over £8,000 for Mental Health UK in memory of his younger brother, Jim

Donate to Murdoch’s fundraising appeal for Mental Health UK here

And his next big adventure? ‘I’ve always fancied a ride in the Grand National,’ he joked.


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