Round Britain in a Zapcat?

Ever been out on the water on a Zapcat? If you have you'll know all about the absolute thrill of skimming across the water at 35 knots in a boat that bears a great resemblance to a rubber dinghy.

Ever been out on the water on a Zapcat? If you have you'll know all about the absolute thrill of skimming across the water at 35 knots in a boat that bears a great resemblance to a rubber dinghy.

Anyone who has been on a Zapcat will also understand how absolutely agonising these boats can�become after a short period of time. They are to powerboating what a downhill descent on a tin tray is to the skiing world: Irresistibly fast, unsophisticated, a lot of fun but, by god, you're going to pay for it the next day.

By the end of a day in the water, you feel like your spine is two inches shorter than before, your eyes are almost glued together with salt spray and you're discovering all kinds of intriguing new aches and pains. But you're exhilarated.

Now picture doing this day after day for three weeks as you gradually pound your way around Great Britain. That is exactly what Neil Bainbridge opted to do last month when he set out from Lyme Regis on July 4th.

Three weeks later, he returned; his chest bound in an old carry mat to protect his ribs. He�had battled�giant waves, co drivers flipping out (both literally and metaphorically), and the very worst the British summer could throw at him. The trip was made all the more remarkable by the fact that he�only has one arm.�

The Idea

So why would anyone dream of doing such a trip? We caught up with Neil following his epic trip. Still in pain following his three week battering, he was clearly�buzzing from�his trip.

"The reasons behind the trip are complicated" Neil explained: "I've�been Zapcat racing for the past three years�and�I guess on�the most basic level,�I just wanted to travel further.

"In addition to this, I lost my arm following a motorcycle accident some�years ago, so perhaps there is something within me which wants to prove a point.

"I remember�I was in hospital after my accident and there were people there with similar injuries who acted like their life was over. It's not, and�I want to show people. I guess that was the ultimate thinking behind the trip.

"In addition to this, we saw it as a good opportunity to raise some funds for the RNLI and the CLIC Sargent charity."

The plan was to take two Zapcats loaded up with camping equipment and fuel. The pair would travel in company, so if one got into�difficulty, the other one covered.

Money was tight, as was time, and�the decision was made to camp�most nights.

A bad start

Heading off from Lyme Regis, the pair endured a most unpromising start to their trip, as Neil explained: "We got in to some pretty heavy weather the first day and also had an issue with our GPS and Radio, which meant we weren't able to inform people of where we were, which was an issue.

"We eventually opted to head for land, but by now we were dealing with an 8-10ft swell and a head wind. We eventually ended up on some random beach, but at this point I got a plastic bag around the prop and lost power.

"I was near the rocks and was trying to free the prop and�paddle off with an oar in my teeth, when a lady spotted me and called the coastguard. This was unfortunate as I managed to get to the beach, just in time for the coastguard to give us a dressing down.

"Anyway our 'rescuer' turned out to be kindness personified, and took the whole team under her wing."

Trials and tribulations

Lessons were learnt from these misadventures and the team made good progress despite some pretty horrendous conditions.

"We opted not to head out if the forecast was force 5-6 or over,�and the issue with this was that we�had a pretty tight timeframe. I basically needed to get back or my�car repair business wouldn't be there on my return.

The main problem was the electrics: they're just�not designed to be inundated with water for that length of time�and you could actually see things corroding during the course of the day.

Cracking under the strain

The trip also took its toll on the two drivers, and Pat in the other Zapcat was starting to feel the strain.

Neil explained: "Taking out a 12ft boat offshore in 12ft waves is intimidating; basically it's a mind game as much as anything else and you have to have a slate loose to do it.

"The strain was immense; we were running on adrenaline, doing�twelve hour days and then camping at the end of it. By the time we reached Barrow, he'd had enough, which was fair enough.

No compromise

At this point, there was some talk of going via the Caledonian Canal and cutting out the wildest section of Scotland.

"I think if we'd done that,�I would have walked away: It was all or nothing for me and we were helped along the way by incredble good will and help from pretty much everyone we met" Neil said.

John o' Groats was rounded in thick sea fog, but from hereon the adventurers picked up speed.�

"We experienced easier conditions running down the east coast and could easily run 35 knots for hours at a time. the main problem was having the willpower to push on when you really just wanted a bit of a break from the battering.

"If you keep stopping for a drinks break, you just keep wasting time and, ultimately, distance; you have to push on."

Finish in sight- more hurdles

By the time they had reached the South Coast it�felt that they had nearly reached their journey's end�despite�flipping one of the Zapcats off Dover, but�Neil had further�problems:

"Basically the whole team were getting excited about us being able to finish this thing, but�I was developing excruciating rib pain. I think I had torn some muscle and it was making life unbelievably uncomfortable.

"I ended up going to hospital in Brighton�and asking the doctor what he thought. You can't really treat rib damage, so�I came up with the ingenius idea of strapping myself up with a roll mat.

"This did the trick, although it looked bizarre.�I can tell you, the feeling of relief when we stopped for a break was amazing!"

Home at last

Exactly 21 days after leaving Lyme Regis, the two Zapcats were back, receiving a fanfare reception and more than a little incredulity from many of the bystanders.

Back safely; note the carry mat under Neil's waterproofs

Some two weeks on from the adventure, Neil is still suffering from painful ribs, but he is rightly proud of his feat:

"Basically, I achieved something that many able bodied people couldn't do, so I proved a point to myself if no-one else and raised some money for charity in the process.

"I was totally exhausted after the trip; I reckon I'd been running on adrenaline and there was an inevitable slump afterwards, but even so, I wouldn't rule out doing it again.

"Next time though, I'll be a lot more prepared, and it might be worth giving my ribs a rest beforehand!"