Schoolboy, 14, sailing to North Pole nearing the ice despite weather setback

Credit: Polar Ocean Challenge

Benji Edwards might only be 14, but he is aiming to become the youngest person to ever sail around the North Pole and break a world record in the process.

The mission is also personal. Benji lives with a painful long-term condition affecting his gut. He aims to raise thousands of pounds for charity.

Having set sail at the start of July, Benji writes for ITV News about about his incredible journey so far.

  • Saturday 30 July

Hello, you know a few days ago I told you we should have reached the ice by now? Yeah, well, that hasn’t happened.

Because of our proximity to the pole the auto pilot has a very hard time getting us anywhere with any accuracy.

As a result we’ve been hand steering four the past four days and through a combination of large waves and the wind being in a weird direction instead of following the great circle route through the kara sea we’ve had to go in a south-easterly direction all the way.

Recently we’ve managed to steer the boat into a gentle northerly direction for the past few tens of miles.

Two days ago we hit a rough patch, a very rough patch. The wind got up to thirty knots at times and the waves were bigger than I’ve sailed in before.

Because of this the boat got knocked about a bit, sleeping was of course a joke and when I came off watch my face was covered with a thin layer of salt from where waves had hit me. David got the worst of it though. I was down in the saloon and he was on watch steering the boat.

We were going forward, slowly, through swell bigger than we’d had before and suddenly there was a loud crash and roar of water as we went through a wave.

Allow me to outline the difference between going on top of a wave, and going through one.

To go on top of a wave in where the hull of the boat bears you over the crest and the boat keeps floating. To go through a wave is when this does not happen.

When you go through a wave the boat ignores the water in front of it and the sea swell just rides straight into and out the other side of the boat.

That is what we did. An exciting moment I’ll admit, but not one I’d like to repeat.

The wave hit David while he was on the helm and would have washed him overboard if it weren’t for his life jacket tether and the fact that he’d braced his leg against the side of the cockpit.

That was by far the worst weather we’ve had all trip, and I hope, the worst we will have.

Ben recording on the boat Credit: Twitter

Yesterday something very nice happened. On my watch I saw the sky and sun for the first time in four days. Before and since then we’ve just had endless grey clouds.

It was nice to have a change. Though we have had quite a lot of wind and enough waves to last a lifetime we have only had very light, and very occasional, rain.

Despite this it’s still hard to keep your clothes dry inside the boat and putting on wet sailing gear for your watch after having spent the night in a damp bed with a damp sleeping bag is not an experience I would recommend.

The day before yesterday, during a rough patch, I managed to catch a cold. It was my own fault, I went up without a hat and had put my hood back so that I could see better.

The sea spray came straight over the side and hit me in the face. Not really surprising then that I’ve spent the last couple of days with a blocked nose, sore throat and headache.

It’s passing now which is good but I’ve learnt an uncomfortable lesson.

We’ve been sailing without the engine for over a week now, I think, its hard to keep track of time here, and we’re made relatively good time.

We don’t want to go too fast because we still can’t get through the Laptev because of the ice.

The crew have tackled rough weather the past few days Credit: Ocean Polar Challenge

I haven’t had the opportunity to shave for over a week now and as a teenager all this means is that I look like I’ve splashed coffee all over my face.

The plan is, I think, to anchor somewhere to get out of the wind and waves while we wait for the ice to go. At that point the boat should be stable enough for me to shave without lacerating my my face. Yaay.

We hope to keep going at a steady pace for the next few days. I don’t know when we expect to get somewhere but distance wise we’re now a quarter of the way round the world.

I’ll write again when we’re a bit further on and the something interesting happens, until then, bye

  • Track Benji's journey through the Wicked Weather website here