Interview with Richard Lett – Pathways to Children

Photo by Billy Black

By Jill Southwood

Solo Transatlantic Skipper – MUMBAI TO MINNESOTA

This astonishing year in Richard’s life began in Mumbai where he met his beautiful wife Margaret whose home is on the coast of Lake Superior in Minnesota, USA.  His home port was Southampton, England and after leaving and heading west for Plymouth he encountered only the odd teething problem, with the autopilot playing up.  Nothing was left to chance. His preparation was exceptionally thorough.

At the beginning of May was the Royal Western Yacht Club’s Plymouth to Falmouth to Fowey and back to Plymouth triangle race.  Almost every boat was fully crewed up (6 or more) with the exception of Pathways to Children which Richard sailed singlehanded.  There were strong winds, heavy showers and a blink or two of sunshine, but for Richard it was a good chance to check all his equipment and his boat before embarking on his first OSTAR.

On the 19th May Richard married his lovely wife in England.  On the 21st May he was presented with his Member of the Royal Victorian Order decoration at Buckingham Palace by HM Queen Elizabeth II. On the 27th May he was on the start line for OSTAR 2013.  This was going to be some honeymoon!

Just before the start Pathways snagged a line around the propeller. Weighing up his options he decided to cut it down to about 10 feet and tow it all the way to Newport, R.I.  To turn back, lift the boat out or find a diver would have cost too much time.  Every call of nature reminded Richard it was still with him as it trailed out behind him!

His fastest speed was 15 knots in 45 knots of wind. With three reefs in the main and just the staysail he was probably up to the limit of racing the boat upwind. The Number 3 jib was the real workhorse.  He suffered very little damage – just a few nicks in the sails but nothing serious. This was very surprising considering the course distance was 2,779 miles and Pathway’s final log reading was 3,733 miles,  a further 954 miles!!

Richard’s worst moments were probably near the Grand Banks – he had battled for 8 days with 30 knot winds. He was exhausted. The relentless weather and huge seas wore him down.  The forecast gave 15 knot winds for the night which would have given him a chance to rest for an hour or so but this was not to be.  As night approached the wind whipped up to 35 knots, Force 8 gusting 9.  He was very cold, wet and miserable on this dark and stormy night.


At last, the finishing line was in sight but he was to have an agonisingly slow sail to it as the wind almost completely died away.  Creeping in inch by inch on a glassy sea he covered only 3 miles in over 6 hours, eventually crossing the line at 1.3 knots!


What did this awesome race teach him?  Never to forget good seamanship, this was paramount to his success.

He may snatch the odd day off before heading up to the Great Lakes to compete in the Chicago to Mackinac Race, the longest fresh water race in the world. Then he will continue his honeymoon with Margaret sailing the length of Lake Superior and on to his future home port of Duluth, Minnesota.