15. Sail Raisers and Trail Blazers

Yacht Name:           Ptarigan

Length:                   9.37m

Yacht Type:            Moody 31 Mk2

IRC Rating:             TBC

Hull Colour:            White

Draught:                1.52m

Sail No:                  GBR 5239L

Port of Origin:        Porthmadog

Tilman Trophy:       N/A 

The team is from Hereford & Worcester Fire & Rescue, and are all members of White Watch in Droitwich. They are raising funds for the Firefighters Charity, which works to support firefighters and their families suffering bereavement, physical or psychological injury.

Phil Ball – Skipper

Occupation: Firefighter - Crew Commander

Age: 51

Gender: Male

Nationality: British

I have worked for over 30 years with Hereford & Worcester Fire & Rescue Service and am also part of the Urban Search & Rescue Team (USAR), tasked with responding to large scale and technically challenging incidents anywhere within the UK. My love of sailing has come from my dad “Matt”, he is an RYA Yachtmaster instructor who has even built his own yacht. I have been sailing with dad for as long as I can remember but usually as crew so am looking forward to and am somewhat apprehensive about stepping up to skipper for this challenge.


I was an RYA level 2 powerboat instructor within the Fire Service as well as a search and rescue powerboat operator (SRBO) and am also Day Skipper qualified. My other interests include mountaineering and rock climbing so Porthmadog is the ideal location to have our boat “Ptarmigan” moored.


It’s probably fair to say that we are rookie crew, but we are in it for the experience rather than the race, our advantage being team spirit and the strong bond we have developed through years of living and working together as firefighters on the same watch. 

Sarah Mimnagh: Runner

Occupation: Fire Fighter - Crew Commander

Age: 30

Gender: Female

Nationality: Irish

After spending the past 6 years working for both London Fire Brigade and Hereford and Worcester Fire and rescue Service. Sarah has spent the past 18 months working with her race crew within Urban Search and Rescue.  Sarah is one of the crew’s runners, and after retiring from international rugby, she has embraced ultra-racing. Since hanging up her rugby boots she has run her first sub 3:30 marathon in 2019 and her first ultra in 2020.


Completely new to sailing, Sarah is looking forward to getting stuck in on the boat and running some of the UK’s most beautiful trails. Outside of the three peaks challenge training, Sarah is either surfing, watching rugby or out on the bike! Back on station she’d probably be found sorting admin in the office, finding motivation for the crew or in the gym!

John Buley: Crew / Reserve Runner

Occupation: Fire Fighter - Crew Commander

Age: 31

Gender: Male

Nationality: British

Another member of the crew based out of Droitwich fire station, Hereford and Worcester.

John’s life started with a passion for rugby, playing through various levels, he has also ran a successful health and fitness business for numerous years.

With no previous experience sailing and very limited willingness for long distance running, this will be an interesting event, especially as his role as crew member and reserve runner.


John is a Yorkshireman with a taste for the finer things in life, predominantly good ale’s and Yorkshire tea!  A huge rugby fan who will often be found on a lake side enjoying a day’s fishing. John is awaiting the birth of his first child this year which is due a matter of weeks after the challenge.

Although his specific skill-set for this event might be limited, he is a team player willing to put in the hours. As a loud and proud Yorkshireman we also know if we get lost at sea somebody would hear him in a search!!

Ben Cooling - Runner

Occupation: Firefighter

Age: 35

Gender: Male

Nationality: British

Ben is an ex Royal Marine, Mountain Leader and Personal Trainer but has been a Firefighter for the last 3 years. His passion is rock climbing and ice climbing, a seasoned mountaineer in the mountains of the UK and Alps for the last 20 years he will be no stranger to long days in the hills! Having led teams up the UK’s highest 3 peaks on numerous occasions he has a strong connection and knowledge of these mountains. He admits that ailing however, despite his naval links will be a less comfortable endeavour so will be drawing upon his limited experiences of dinghy sailing from primary school!

Whilst this is a great challenge, he is significantly more nervous about giving his groomsman speech 6 days after this event when he marries Stephanie (a previous member of the watch)!

Robin Baer: Navigator

Occupation: Firefighter USAR Dog Handler

Age: 60

Gender: Male

Nationality: British

Robin spent 12 years working on various sailing yachts in his younger years before changing ‘tack’ and spending three years furniture maker, after which he joined the Fire Service where he has been for the past 24 years. He is also our USAR team dog handler where he works with, looks after and chauffeurs our search and rescue dog called Radar.

He is looking forward to getting back on the water again after such a long "shore leave" and hopes he can remember what goes where!! He is also looking forward to waving the runners off before going below for a brew and a kip!!

Kevin Harris: Support Crew

Occupation: USAR Station Technician

Age: 67

Gender: Male

Nationality: British

Kevin is one of only two other members of the team to have sailed on Ptarmigan before but as he will be leading our shore based support crew probably won’t get a chance to set foot on her! He is a retired firefight with over 42 years of service under his belt and currently employed as a USAR station technician, ensuring our equipment is maintained and ready for operational deployment. Kevin also has extensive experience with the Sailing Training Association as crew on board tall ships, but they were all like that in his day!


Kevin is a keen footballer and is actively involved with the UK Fire Services national football team as well as being a member of Hereford & Worcester’s Sports and Welfare Committee. He also recently coordinated the mutual assurance response for Station Commander Stuart Crebbin’s family following his untimely passing in March earlier this year, he is greatly missed.

David Rawlings: Support Crew

Occupation: Firefighter

Age: 51

Gender: Male

Nationality: British


David is a serving firefighter at Worcester fire station, he too has also previously sailed on Ptarmigan! He has a background in mechanical engineering, which has come in handy more than a few occasions, every crew needs a Dave! He is also working on his own sailing cruiser which will no doubt see action when he retires in the not too distant future.

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