Sailor embarks on 'perfect pandemic project' in Wicklow
An amateur sailor is building his own boat at home in Co Wicklow to fulfil a lifelong dream of sailing solo across the Atlantic.
Jim Schofield, 57, is assembling the 5.8m yacht in his garage in Blessington.
He is one of a number of sailors around the world who have taken on the "build at home" challenge.
If all goes to plan, they will compete against each other in a 3,600 mile race later this year.
Jim said: "Since my early 20s, a single-handed transatlantic race has been on my bucket list. So when I saw this opportunity pop up, I knew I had run out of excuses. The time had come."
Having paid €300 for building plans, Jim started assembling his plywood and epoxy boat last year.
"In many ways, it's the perfect pandemic project. I'm locked in the shed, building a boat by myself. And when the time comes, I will get on the boat and sail away by myself.
"It should be very seaworthy. The wood did come pre-cut but you have to decide how to put it together.
"You have to dry-fit it, pencil-line it and check it several times before you go for the epoxy. Then you've got one go at it, because the epoxy sets like glass. IKEA it's not!"
The concept for a home-build, one-design mini racing boat came from Australian adventurer Don McIntyre.
Launching the ClassGlobe 5.80 project last year, he said: "This is a boat for all sailors, young and old, who have a dream to sail oceans in small, fun, affordable and proven safe yachts. This is a little yacht with a big heart. Anyone can build it with simple tools and the human element is more important than the technology."
Jim has extended his garage to accommodate his build.
He explained: "I hope to have it in the water by May. I want to spend the summer playing around with it.
"Then I have to get it down to Portugal by October, to take part in a 600-mile practise race and prove that I can do it.
"We get to the Canaries by early November. Then we race from there, southwest past the Cape Verde islands, then turning right and straight across to the West Indies."
Before he sets sail, Jim is charting every step of the project on social media. He has a blog, a YouTube channel and is even posting regular updates on TikTok as @liffeysailor.
"I am an unlikely TikTokker. About a month before Christmas I thought I would do a TikTok, just for fun.
"I sat on top of the boat, talking about the oak planking. I posted it and then forgot about it. But when I checked the next day, the video had 25,000 views.
"So I have started doing TikToks every time I work on the boat and it's just growing and growing. I now have 6,000 followers. An old, grey-haired, bearded guy building a boat in his shed. I just don't understand it."
If Jim can navigate the Atlantic as well as he does TikToks, getting to the West Indies should be plain sailing.