Laser Pico / Sailing News

Dave Birch, a Laser Pico, and the English Channel

Dave Birch sitting on Pico saolboat

Dave Birch is planning an epic crossing of the English Channel in a Laser Pico. His voyage, scheduled for May of 2016, will benefit the Rowcroft Hospice in Torquay, UK. Dave is very busy preparing for his challenge, so we were  appreciative that he was able to take the time to answer a few of our questions: 

Tell us a little about yourself and your sailing background.

I’m 44 years old, 45 in May. I grew up inland in the beautiful Cotwolds with only sight of sea on summer holidays. Boating didn’t really feature.

I got into sailing some 13 years ago when I bought my first sailing boat, a Sadler 34. Over the years since, I changed boats to larger ones with bigger capabilities. I quickly became very passionate about being out on the water and found myself wanting to push my limits with sailing further and further afield. I wasn’t sailing the Atlantic, but clearly recall my first solo sail across the English channel and despite only 6-15 knots of wind, I was filled with adrenaline and fear of the unknown. Since then, I have sailed from the UK to Spain and Ireland, and collected a newly purchased boat from Stockholm in Sweden.Currently I work as a marina operative in Torquay Marina in Devon, the finishing point for this challenge.


 Dave Birch sailorHow long have you had the Pico?

I bought my first Laser Pico about 3 years ago which was only 7 or 8 years old and in mint condition! I only had it for one season where I sailed it perhaps only a dozen times, but what fantastic fun it was. Most times there would be two of us adults on it trying to go as fast as we could down waves! I had to sell this little gem as I was relocating home from Guernsey to the UK. This was sad to have to sell, but had to happen.
After more than a year without a Pico, I bought my current one on ebay about 10 months ago as I missed my old one. This one must be about 20 years old and is well used! But, it does exactly what the last one did, and that’s put a big smile on my face!

 Why the Pico?

The Pico was an easy choice. The simplicity of it’s set up and ease of handling. I really liked the fact that there was no rigging to set and tension up. The physical size of the Pico meant simply manoeuvring the boat was easier too. This all meant that launching the boat was quick and satisfied my impatience for the need to get out on the water to have fun! One other aspect to the Pico is its affordability. You can pick them up on a tight budget, getting you out on the water!

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How long have you been thinking about/planning this challenge?

I joked about sailing the channel when I had my first Pico, but it remained just that, a kind of joke. Late 2015 having been blasting around on my new, old Pico, my desire to push my limits re-ignited, and late November I put my plans into action. I work in a marina and when I told my boss what I was going to do, he looked at me and told me he thought I was mad and somewhat insane! ( perhaps I am a little!) Since then, he’s been very supportive.
The planning and preparation has had many hurdles. Sail training, going hard at it with near freezing conditions in the winter months has been and is hard going. Getting sponsorship has it’s challenges too. The repeated knock backs from companies in the marine industry is frustrating. However, this has just made me want to push harder and harder.

 What do you think is going to be the hardest part?

The hardest part will easily be concentration. I plan to do the voyage in a force 4-5 beam on or slightly aft of beam to give a good turn of speed. Having to focus hard on each and every wind gust and wave for potentially 14 hours will be very testing as I intend to push hard. In my trials I have found myself going into autopilot mode on a few occasions and soon finding myself getting out of control!!! As for the physical fitness side of things, I lead an active life, but just to ensure I can go the distance, I’ve just joined a gym to get into peak condition.

What is this section of the English Channel like in late May?

The English channel this time of year should be reasonable. I will have sufficient amount of daylight hours too. I will not be over concerned with the weather as I will chose the weather system carefully. One of the biggest dangers is the very busy shipping lanes. I recall crossing the channel once where I had over 35 container ships in visible sight. Most of them doing over 20 knots.

Tell us about Rowcroft Hospice and why you chose to sail for them.

When I was looking at which charity to fundraise for, I initially considered a few of the larger cancer research charities. This was due to knowing too many people fall foul to this retched disease.

Then I was introduced to Rowcroft hospice who are at the heart of the South West UK. It became clear that the smaller charities all too often get over looked, and the more I looked into Rowcroft and the amazing extent of their services, the more I wanted to learn. They not only look after those with end of life care, but those with life limiting illness, their family and carers. The extent of their care is phenomenal. They aim to make each day, the best day possible, enriching those with activities, hobbies and therapies.

Despite government help, they still need to raise a staggering £20,000 ($28,000 approx.) per day, every day of the year just to operate! That is more than my annual salary! Part of me finds this hard to digest.

Best of luck to Dave in his preparation for this challenge!

You can follow Dave’s preparation and adventure on his Youtube Channel and his Facebook Page

To help Dave reach his goal of £5,000 please visit his – [Just Giving Page]