OSTAR Opens Doors for Oscar

In June, 18-year-old Oscar Mead became the youngest competitor to complete the world's oldest solo ocean challenge.

July 9, 2009

Need a clean shave? Oscar Mead shows off the ‘before and after’ result of sponsor King of Shaves’ effective products at the Newport Yacht Club.

Need a clean shave? Oscar Mead shows off the ‘before and after’ result of sponsor King of Shaves’ effective products at the Newport Yacht Club. Jeff Johnstone

For 21 days, Oscar Mead was beyond civilization, sailing across the Atlantic on his J/105 King Of Shaves:

“A couple of hours after the start, the sheer scale of it all hit me. Earlier that morning, I was so keen to get going and as I reviewed the other skippers in their boats, I thought to myself, ‘This is going to be big.'”

This enthusiastic 18-year-old from Cowes, England, was the youngest sailor to finish the Original Single-handed Transatlantic Race from Plymouth, England to Newport, Rhode Island. Over the course of the 3,000-mile race, Mead held his own against an experienced crowd, placing second in the Gypsy Moth class and a sixth overall.


After a rough first night in 46-knot winds, Mead had to suppress all of his reservations. “It’s all mind over matter,” says Mead. “Even if you are thinking, ‘It is going to be a long race,’ you just got to say to yourself, ‘I am doing this because I want to do this’ and then you just go.”

Days later, however, Mead was enjoying high-speed surfs down blue-water mounds. “I thought the whole way across it would be a battle and a race, yet I’d be standing there, even though it was cold, wet and raining, and I’d see some amazing things. Once I was going down a big wave and a whale jumped out of the wave next to me. You just can’t account for that kind of stuff!”

He also had his share of nightmarish experiences. While carrying his A5 spinnaker in 30 knots, the tack-line jammer unexpectedly opened. The kite filled 25 feet to leeward and King Of Shaves was knocked straight sideways, the hatch inches away from being completely submerged.
His quick response of swimming to the leeward winch to release the sheet and then the halyard remedied the potential disaster. “Afterwards, I sat in the cockpit, having dealt with the issue, and thought, ‘Oh my God, that was really scary.'”


To cope with his isolation he turned to his iPod, which worked for the first five days.
After that, Mead had to amuse himself: “I grew to dislike the characters of Harry Potter,” he says, “You’d be there, drenched and exhausted, and they’d be like, ‘Harry threw himself backwards into his soft feather cushion.'”

Singing Disney songs in howling winds to entertain himself? Easy. Eating grey, mushy Irish stew? Not so.

“You think, ‘I know this is going to be nice.’ Then you pour it into the pan and it is still grey water. You really have to muster up the energy to eat it because it doesn’t look and smell like it’s going to be delicious.”
Mead made up for the sub-par meals with his snack of choice: Oreo cookies.
“When I ran out of Oreos three-quarters of the way across, I didn’t know how I was going to cope,” he says. There was, however, a box of them waiting at the finish line in Newport.


As for many a solo sailor before him, the OSTAR was a steppingstone for loftier plans for Mead, including the Vendee Globe 2016. “I am quite a big dreamer, so at the age of 12, I thought I could get an Open 60 and sail across the ocean,” he says with a laugh. Inspired by Ellen MacArthur, Mead pursued sailing with fervor. Last year’s Solo Channel Week was his first taste of solo sailing, a taste he found irresistible: “With single-handed sailing, you run the boat your way and you are going to go as fast as you can.” Next for Mead is the Fastnet in the J/105 and possibly the 2010 Velux Five Oceans.

To read Oscar’s OSTAR blog, click


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