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Un-tide

Max Campbell, Harry Scott, Chloë Peglau and Lily Journeaux are all in their mid-20’s. Collectively, they’ve decided to leave their families, jobs, homes and friends – dropping everything in pursuit of perfect waves and authentic, sustainable travel.

Naturally, we were intrigued and couldn't wait to share their journey. Before they set off from Falmouth in Cornwall, Bethany Allen caught up with the crew to gain a little insight on the motivation behind the project.

The crew take a tea break whilst renovating elixir

It’s been over a year since Max and his crew of friends began renovating the 37ft Classic Swan yacht, Elixir. She has undergone a complete transformation under his capable hands and unfaltering encouragement. Now, all that remains of her former self is a memory of the hours spent dismantling, sanding, painting, laughing over tea breaks and above all – investing everything in the aspiration for adventure.

Their adventure has already begun. Max, Chloe and Harry left Falmouth on a frosty morning on the 20th January 2020 and completed a crossing of the Bay of Biscay. They made landfall in Spain before heading to Peniche in Portugal where Lily joined them. Now they are enjoying a few weeks of sun and reef breaks in the Canaries before traversing the Atlantic. Then, over the next few years, they will continue along their journey and complete a circumnavigation of the world. Travelling to numerous countries and experiencing the differing cultures of the world; in the hope to promote sailing as a sustainable means of travel and to seek out the perfect waves that every surfer dreams about.

As soon as I met Max, I knew his story would be worth telling. He has already completed two single-handed crossings of the Atlantic. During which he encountered not only bliss in nature, but also trauma when his paraffin stove exploded and engulfed him in flames – days from reaching the Caribbean; leaving him with mental and physical scars. Even in the face of adversity his passion for sailing was never dulled.

Max working on sanding down Elixir

“This is the second time I’ll be leaving from Falmouth to go on an adventure,” Max says. “The first time was about 4 years ago when I was 20. I left with Harry, we sailed to France and over to Spain. Harry met a girl and fell in love, so I spent the next two years doing an Atlantic circuit by myself. Even though I was badly injured during the trip, I still fell in love with the freedom and thought it was the best way to travel. I came back to Falmouth and knew instantly that I had to go again and this time I would share it with as many of my friends as I could. So, I found a boat that was up to the job – Elixir – and asked my closest friends if they wanted to come.”

That’s something I admire Max for, after experiencing the joy and freedom of sailing alone, he now wants to share it with as many of his friends as he can. So they can witness bliss in nature and understand the beauty and simplicity of sailing across oceans, just like he did when he crossed the Atlantic.

Elixir was built in 1970, at the Nautor Swan boatyard in Finland. Her hull shape is striking. She has a fine ends, and a big bulge in the middle – the tumblehome. Her sweeping lines speak of a bygone era of yacht design. Her designers, Sparkman and Stephens, originally intended her to be used for racing. Her mast is huge, and there are a ridiculous amount of winches. Sailing her will be exhilarating.

Image by Clare James Photography

The crew work together on Elixir's hull

Before they left to sail across the Bay of Biscay, I decided to get Harry, Chloe and Max together to find out what this journey means to them. We sat in Mylor Creek Boatyard where the renovations took place; I asked what drives their ambition to complete the renovation and sail around the world.

“I’ve always been really into the ocean,” Max tells me. “I’ve been sailing since I was four and surfing since I was 12 – it makes sense as a way to travel because I can combine my passion for the sea with my sense of adventure – for me it’s a no brainer.”

I wanted to know why each of them had decided to go on this incredible journey. To untie themselves from the constraints of life on land, from the demands of society, and escape to the ocean.

“I’ve been looking for an excuse to go away since I finished university three years ago,’ Chloe says. “I’ve been on a few little trips but nothing’s sparked my passion since this trip, since meeting Max. I find him a really inspiring person; he’s one of the few people I can imagine hanging out with for hours and hours on a boat and never getting tired of it. It’s a really unique trip, it’s also an amazing opportunity and one so few people have.”

Chloe Pegula working on the finer details of the Elixir renovation

“Purely for travelling reasons,” Harry says. “I’d like to see more of the world and sailing is a great way to accomplish that. Journeying by boat is incredibly rewarding. The simplicity of your home being blown along by the wind and the wild and natural environment that you’re in. Plus the places you can visit by sea are often remote and beautiful.”

Taking in the various shapes and sizes of the sailing boats around us, you cannot help but admire their sleek shape and vast potential. As we sit discussing the benefits of travelling by sail Max looks at me contemplating the idea and says: “The aspect of sustainable travel is really important to me. We’re all conscious about our impact on the environment and a sailing boat is a great way to travel in that respect, because you’re carbon neutral and you’re mindful of all the waste you produce. You also really appreciate the journey – as opposed to stepping on a plane and stepping off at your destination.”

Chloe nods in agreement: “The sustainable aspect appeals to me too,” she says. “I’ve always had quite a lot of guilt about the flights I’ve taken; sailing eradicates that. It’s also great to have the opportunity to navigate in a way that’s so tied up with humanity's history. That’s how things were for thousands of years, before we had planes or anything like that.”

Image by Matt Mario Photography

Max, Chloe and Harry prepare to leave Falmouth on Elixir

Like all projects, there have been highs and there have been lows. “The highlight for me has got to be that every now and then you can step back and appreciate what you’ve done – I quite like that –” Max says smiling. “When you’re doing a big project like this it’s so easy to see your progress. I think the best example is that when we first started renovations on Elixir we built a shed around her for the first 4 or 5 months of work, then when we moved her to the painting shed, standing back, seeing our makeshift shed come down and a whole different boat emerge was really rewarding – that was definitely the highlight for me.”

What about the lowlight? “The lowlight is the workload! The sheer amount of hours that goes into something like this is really difficult, consecutive late nights having to finish something that needs to be ready for the next day. You might have to do a load of prepwork so that paint can go on first thing in the morning and this can keep you going until midnight or sometimes even later.”

“Elixir’s restoration has attracted the help of many hands.” Harry says, “Some of which have become very good friends. That’s the highlight for me. Lowlight – accidently having a mouthful of her bilge water whilst trying to siphon it out. Had to have three murray mints to get rid of the taste.” He says laughing.

Chloe and Lily work late into the night on the Elixir renovation

“It’s great to be working on something.” Chloe says, “I’ve never really been a physical worker or done things with my hands so it’s nice to learn new skills and be taught by Max whose very knowledgeable, to create something and be part of the whole process from the renovation to setting sail. I’ve always said from the start that it’s nice to be linked to the work. To link it to my lowlight which was probably sanding my cabin – which I call my coffin – because it was so cramped with the electric sander above my head. But to be able to lie in this bed and think I created this, I made this nice...I guess all the lows enable the highs in a way.”

The renovation is just one aspect of this story. The Elixir crew have every intention of documenting their travels as they go, through the Un-Tide website and Instagram page. Witnessing Elixir’s restoration and discovering the crew’s intention of sustainable travel has been extremely thought provoking. To think that this group of Cornish 20 somethings have made the conscious decision to actualise their ambition of pursuing environmentally responsible adventure, provides a leading example of where the travel industry could be guided in the future.

“Documenting our story is a massive part of the trip for us, especially off the back of my last trip,” says Max, “I spent so much time reading that it was natural that I fell into writing as a means to document the trip, this coupled with photography and drone footage will hopefully inspire more people to go sailing.”

Image by Matt Mario Photography

Elixir and the Un-tide crew finally leave Falmouth with all renovations complete

“We have to find a way to express it,” says Chloe. “It’s a trip that so many people have said to me, ‘I can’t ever see myself doing that,’ so to document it through film, photography and writing will allow people to see that this is a means by which anyone can choose to travel.”

The renovation has already been an incredible journey; it’s a show of the crew’s unfaltering determination, and, on Max’s behalf, leadership.

And yet, this is only the beginning...

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Follow their journey on un.tide and watch as a crew of friends complete a circumnavigation of the world.

Words by Bethany Allen
Images by Un-tide (unless otherwise credited)