Print This Page




Endurance adventurer Sean Conway completes swim along West Coast from Land's End to John O'Groats in just over four months


An adventurer has made history by completing a marathon swim from Land's End to John O'Groats and beyond to Dunnett Head, the most Northerly point of Great Britain.

Sean Conway, 32, left Cornwall on 30 June, swimming along the West Coast.

Every year thousands of people attempt to walk, cycle or run the journey between Land's End and John O'Groats, a distance of 874 miles (1,407km) by road.

Sean completed the final mile of his journey by sea in November, making him the first person to swim the length of the UK. During his swim he negotiated the purchase of a 56ft RAF Launch built in 1931 by the famous Harland & Wolff Shipyard in Belfast builders of the ill-fated Titanic. Sean bought the historic launch through international yacht agents Classic Yacht Brokerage, based in Worcester. ‘We are delighted Sean has purchased the Lady Sybil H and is preparing to convert the boat in to a London liveaboard.  The boat has been a local landmark in the yacht basin for many decades and is a worthy historic vessel for restoration.’


Born in Zimbabwe but now living in Cheltenham, Sean said he undertook the challenge because peopledoubted it could be done. He has raised thousands of pounds for the War Child charity in the process.

He swam around 10 miles a day and slept on a yacht or in accommodation onshore. The initial plan was to complete the swim in two months but weather and injuries delayed the time it took.

He told BBC Breakfast: "No one's ever done it and that sort of got me thinking, considering Land's End to John O'Groats is such an iconic route. Then, as soon as people told me I was going to die or that is wasn't possible, I just thought: 'I'm going to prove you wrong'.

"The weather's been quite tough – big winds and big waves have slowed my progress a bit.

"Getting stung by jellyfish is quite tough. I've had to grow a ridiculous beard to shield my face and had to cover up with loads of Vaseline because every now and again I'd take a stroke and get a jellyfish right in the face and I don't know who gets more of a fright, me or it.

"We've lost kayaks at sea, rigs at sea and our boat has taken a bit of a hammering; we all took a bit of a hammering. The sea can be a nasty place."

Sean began his involvement in endurance sports at the age of 10, with a mile-long swim across a lake,and competed in kayak marathons as a teenager. He has also climbed Mt Kilimanjaro dressed as a penguin, and cycled 16,000 miles through six continents in 116 days, much of it with a fractured spine.

In a blog entry in late October, Conway detailed the tough experience of swimming in the far north of Scotland.

"Cape Wrath had taken its toll on us and for the first time I wondered if I had missed the weather window. Trying to swim along the north coast of Scotland in November (or near enough) was always going to be tough. I just didn't think it was going to be this hard," he wrote. "We're now spending a few days recovering and waiting for some good weather."

Earlier in the month he described how the water temperatures plunged, turning one of his toes blue when it was submerged.

"Long-term fatigue is also a worry. I've had five days off in 40 days and I can really feel it in my body. I'm still under 10 stone and can't seem to repair quickly enough after each session. I really need a week off but that's just not possible right now," he wrote.

* * * * * *

In May 2013 Classic Yacht Brokerage celebrated their 20th Anniversary


Paul Leinthall-Cowman launched his specialist business Classic Yacht Brokerage back in May 1993 from a riverside office at Seaborne Yacht Company, in Kempsey. The boatyard at Seaborne is well known for their traditional motor-yachts, designed by John Bain after he left Silvers. Classic Yacht Brokerage quickly progressed to associate offices in Brixham and Christchurch and soon became the lead brokers at Elkins Boatyard, Convent Meadows, home of the famous Vertue Class. With the advent of internet marketing the company widened it’s coverage from the UK to Europe and beyond. Today more than 80% of sales are introduced through their professional website. The website has provided a global platform for the business and it is no longer important to have a marina or boatyard based brokerage office. Classic Yacht Brokerage receives up to one million website hits a month and can usually be found at the top of Google searches, making the business the first port of call for many buyers and sellers. The remainder of the business results from traditional advertising and the existing extensive client database. Over the past twenty years Paul has become well know in the industry and is a familiar sight at traditional boating events and regattas, in fact anywhere wooden boats tend to congregate. Paul has often worked in close association with broker friends Peter & Richard Gregson of Wooden Ships, sharing trade stands at Classic Boat festivals and events throughout the country.

Paul grew up in true Swallows & Amazon style on the River Blackwater in Maldon, Essex, where he learnt to sail aboard his father’s Illingworth designed JOG cruiser / racer ‘Blue Magic’. Paul comes from a sailing family, his father after retirement as an ICI director aged 52 designed and built in their garden workshop fourteen sailing and motor-yachts, a great way for Paul to learn, from an early age the art of traditional boat building. During the 1960’s the family owned Starshine 11, ex: Rose, a 66ft Joseph Soper designed gaff yawl, built by Tom Fay in Southampton in 1897. ‘Rose’ had been a successful Ocean Racer under the previous owners the Royal Artillery Yacht Club although old fashioned she nevertheless won cups in many of the major races including the Fastnet.

In the 1970’s the family moved to Whitby, North Yorkshire, where the town evolved from the sea and from where Captain James Cook set sail on his voyages of discovery. Progressing from a dinghy, built by his father, Paul competed in the Yorkshire School-Boy Sailing Championships (taking third prize) and went on to crew for many members of the Whitby Yacht Club, including the famous around the world yacht ‘T’Early-Bird’. Weekends and holidays were all spent afloat with many voyages aboard their lug rigged Zulu fishing boat, converted by his father.

After leaving school Paul qualified at the College of Estate Management, Reading University and joined a local firm of Auctioneers and Surveyors. Soon he progressed to country homes manager with Knight Frank and later with Hamptons International. ‘Yacht brokerage is like nautical estate agency with the added advantage, unlike a house that you can move the location of a boat’. The idea of starting his own business began in September 1992 after Hamptons take-over and the closure of many regional offices.

In the mid 1980’s Paul acquired his first cabin boat, a 28ft ships lifeboat ‘Port Campbell’ built for the famous Australian Port Line. The lifeboat, converted in the 1950’s had already won a cabinet of prizes racing in the Bristol Channel. ‘ The secret to her success was an additional skeg keel and over two tons of internal pig-iron ballast. She was surprisingly fast and pointed quite well for a shoal-draught boat. Many a production GRP built yacht would be left in our wake’. After a complete three year re-build on the Lydney mudflats Paul went on to compete in many events as a member of both the Lydney Yacht Club and Chepstow Yacht Club.

In the late 1980’s he bought the rare Dr. Thomas Harrison Butler sloop ‘Avocet’, which is one of the earliest THB designs dating from 1911.  After a year restoring her to pristine condition Paul embarked on many cruises from the River Avon. In 1992 the opportunity came through Peter Gregson to buy the 1924 designed Osborne Motor-Yacht ‘Dawn 11’.  After several years of hands-on restoration, including re-planking the starboard topsides, ‘Dawn 11’ was moved to the South Coast and moored at Elkins Boatyard, Christchurch, where she became a second brokerage office. Paul and his family enjoyed many weekends and holidays aboard visiting the Isle of Wight, The Solent, Poole Harbour and beyond.

Paul has also owned a succession of other vessels including an Uffa Fox designed Fairey Atalanta twin keel sloop, a early Falmouth Quay Punt Yawl ‘Waterwraith’, a Y M Senior sloop, a vintage Thornycroft motor-launch and numerous sailing dinghies to include several Mirrors and a Heron. Paul was also former owner of the Harrison Butler Cutter ‘Mischief 111’ recent winner of Classic Boat magazine Best Restoration.

Over the years Paul has been a great supporter of Classic Boat Magazine and has often been called upon to write for the yachting press, recently with an industry professional feature in Super Yacht World.

Paul is a regional committee member for the RNLI and one of their greatest supporters. In a sailing career spanning over thirty-five years he has only had to call on their services once. A few years ago when asked to deliver a 26ft motor-sailer from Brixham to Dartmouth for a pre-purchase survey the engine failed completely off Berry Head. In increasing seas and quite close to the headland and with an on-shore wind blowing there was no option but to call the RNLI. The Coastal Fisheries Protection Vessel also picked up the call and within fifteen minutes their huge grey bulk was abeam heaving a towing line in the tricky conditions. Back in harbour the problem was soon located as a vapour lock in the fuel system.

After buying his first Harrison Butler yacht twenty-five years ago Paul became an active member of the Harrison Butler Association and has been editor of their yachting journal for over fifteen years. Having spent a great deal of time with THB’s family Paul has gained an almost unrivalled knowledge of Harrison Butler designed yachts.


As a traditional boat specialist Paul was invited to navigate one of the Historic Fleet in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant on the River Thames. ‘Zaire, a Silverleaf Motor-yacht, which incidentally Paul has sold on two previous occasions, had been brought up from Cornwall specially for the event. ‘we passed the Royal Barge at about 4pm in the bitter cold, completely soak through, although not even the variable English weather could dampen the spirits of the hundreds of thousands of spectators. It certainly was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and not one I could have possibly missed’.

Paul now runs the brokerage from a home office, in Worcester, situated only a few hundred yards from the River Severn. ‘Worcester has proven to be a very central location giving swift access to all parts of the country. There are a good many traditional boatyards and marinas in the area and the historic Gloucester Docks is only 20 miles away’.

Worcester is also a great musical City which indulges Paul’s other passion. He is Chairman of the Worcester Philharmonic Orchestra and their co. leader. He can often be seen playing the violin in the local theatres for operas and shows and classical concerts in the region.

* * * * *