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 Safehaven Marines new World Record 'Long way round' circumnavigation of Ireland via Rockall


Earlier this week Thunder Child returned home safely having set a new world record “Long Way Round” Circumnavigation of Ireland via Rockall (awaiting ratification by the UIM).


ON July 4th Thunder Child, the radical high speed vessel designed & built by Safehaven Marine set off on her world record attempt circumnavigating Ireland via Rockall.

The vessel left the Old Head of Kinsale at 10 AM on Tuesday morning May 28th with her crew of 5 aboard including skipper & MD of Safehaven Marine, Frank Kowalski at the helm and crew members Mary Power, Ciaran Monks, Carl Randalls & Ian Brownlee.

The route took Thunder Child and her crew in an anti-clockwise direction due to the prevailing conditions eastwards along the South coast, and then up the east coast of Ireland refuelling at Portrush in The North where a large crowed came out to support  and cheer them on, before heading out into the North Atlantic at dusk to travel to Rockall, a desolate granite rock 500 KM from the coast of Ireland.

Managing Director of Safehaven Marine & Skipper of Thunder Child, Frank Kowalski said that overall the weather wasn’t great but not too bad, the South and East coast were the toughest legs, off the coast of Belfast they encountered 2m swells in wind over tide forcing them to slow down to 30kts. “Heading out to Rockall it was lumpy during the night which was probably the most dangerous leg of the voyage due to maintaining high speeds in the dark, but once we arrived it was fine” and for the most part were able to maintain a speed of over 40kts during daylight. Arriving at Rockall at dawn, the crew took some time out to launch their small inflatable dingy and row over to leave a small plaque on the rock, and captured some amazing images at sunrise before departing, this lost them time but according to the crew “it was well worth it to be able to touch the rock”

They then departed Rockall and heading towards the west coast of Ireland for their second refuelling point at Ballyglass Pier in Belmullet where again they had a great reception. Mr. Kowalski said “we had for the most part fair conditions for the run down the West coast, although visibility was poor at times in fog”.

Thunder Child then departed from Belmullet for the run home. On the way they stopped at Blackrock Lighthouse in Blacksod Bay where they laid a wreath for the victims of Rescue 116 with their social media post stating ‘We took time out on our record attempt to honor the crew of the Irish Coastguard Rescue 116, at Black Rock light house off Black Sod Bay. We at this time are more than aware of the great work that these brave people give to the public. We are laying this wreath today in memory of those who perished at this lighthouse.’

The South coast leg past Fastnet presented flat calm seas and sunshine allowing her to maintain 46kts on the final leg with Thunder Child roaring past the finish line in Kinsale at 52kts in a total time of 34 hours, 1 minute and 47 seconds to cover just over 2,000km, which includes over 4hrs when she was stoped refuelling or documenting video.  Throughout the run she performed faultlessly, handling the conditions effortlessly and keeping her crew safe and comfortable.  Her Caterpillar C12.9 1,000hp main engine also never missed a beat and proved totally reliable.

The crew expressed their thanks to a number of people including the Harbourmaster in Portrush, the RNLI in Ballyglass, the Courtmacsherry lifeboat who meet them at the old Head of Kinsale and the Crosshaven lifeboat who came out as they entered Cobh, the Port of Cork for sending out their tug and the Cork Pilot Boat, The Quays Bar in Cobh, their sponsors and everyone who came out to show their support.

The voyage involved circumnavigating the entire island of Ireland taking in another island on the way – Rockall – which lies almost 500km northwest of Ireland. This has never been attempted before, therefore no such record exists.  The route was fully sanctioned by the Union Internationale Motonautique (UIM).


Safehaven Marine do not build ‘race boats’ but we do build high speed commercial and naval craft with a renowned global reputation for their exceptional sea keeping capabilities and strength, having built over 120 vessels from our factory in Cork, Ireland, supplied to some 26 countries worldwide, since being established in 1998.

The circumnavigation of Ireland via ‘Rockall’, a desolate Islet located 500 kilometres off the coast of Ireland is an extreme route, it involved a 2,067 kilometre journey and a 1,000 kilometre open ocean crossing across the North Atlantic, one of the roughest and most notorious seas on the planet, an area where even during summer months there is likely to be an ocean swell running, and due to its high northern latitude, sea states that prove challenging when attempting to maintain high speeds for over 18 hours non stop.

This route will effectively rule out very high speed race boats, due to the long range fuel requirement. However any boat attempting this route will need to be capable of respectably high speeds of 50kts+, speeds that can be utilised in the calmer sections, but also possess very high levels of seakeeping enabling it to maintain high speeds when the inevitable rough seas are encountered . Any such boat will also have to be exceptionally strongly built and mechanically engineered for total reliability, as at times the route will take the craft over 500km from land, beyond the range of most rescue services.

Team Safehaven Marine made this record attempt in their newest vessel Thunder Child - an XSV 17 Barracuda, a 60ft high speed wave piercing design for S.A.R., naval patrol and interception roles, capable of 55kts+.

This journey proved especially demanding on several fronts:

  • Several hours of navigation in the dark, necessitating HD radar and high spec thermal night vision cameras to mitigate the risk and allow maximum speed to be maintained.

  • Mitigation against catastrophe arising from impacting debris, the vessel needed to incorporate a high degree of survivability for crew safety.

  • Rough conditions will impose high levels of stress on both the vessel and especially the crew, the vessels design has to maximise their endurance and minimise risk of injury.

  • Range will had to be over 1000 km allowing for only two fuel stops.

  • The crew needed to be experienced in night time transits at speed.

  • The trip is over 2,000km overall and will include a 1,000 km open ocean crossing across the North Atlantic


In winter after launch Safehaven carried out self-righting tests on the vessel, one unmanned and the second manned with three crew members on board. The purpose of this was to test her ability to recover if hit by a large breaking wave. She performed perfectly, this was followed by extensive rough weather trials in extreme conditions of Force 9 and 6m seas off Cork Harbour.

A first high speed long run trip was carried out in March, a week after the self-righting test – from Cork to Dublin. The journey of 150 nautical miles was successfully completed in a time of 3 hours and 45 minutes at an average speed of 43 kts with the full 6 person crew on board. 

A second 210nm trial run along the exposed West coast from Cork to Galway was undertaken successfully in late May in 5 hrs.

The World Record Attempt - Long Way Round Circumnavigation of Ireland via Rockall was tracked live by sponsors 8 West. Their dedicated website monitored the entire journey, and every high speed twist and turn along the way!

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