Clipper sailors get home to heroes’ welcome

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AFTER 11 months at sea racing more than 40,000 miles 12 yachts, many crewed by local skippers, made their way across the finish line on Saturday.

An epic voyage came to a spectacular end as the 12 yachts competing in the Clipper Round the World race sailed into London.

Team Qingdao heading down the Thames. Picture: Matt Dickens/OnEdition

Team Qingdao heading down the Thames. Picture: Matt Dickens/OnEdition

The race, which was set up by sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, from Gosport, finished on Saturday as the crews arrived into St Katharine Dock.

The three yachts in the top spots passed through Tower Bridge and thousands of spectators cheered the yachts in.

Sir Knox-Johnston said: ‘These people have been achieving something very special with their lives — sailing around the world.’

The race was founded in 1995 by Sir Knox-Johnston, who was the first man to sail solo non-stop around the world in 1969.

His idea was to open sailing up to amateur sailors and give them a chance to compete in a global race.

This year, 670 people from more than 40 nationalities took part.

Sir Knox-Johnston said: ‘The crews have crossed all the world’s oceans, suffered the frustrations of the calms, the apprehension of the largest waves to be seen anywhere on the planet, experienced the vagaries of the weather systems, seen ports and scenery that they never expected, met people from vary different cultures, and, perhaps most of all, shared all these adventures with a group of people who were strangers just over a year ago but who will now remain friends for life.

‘They have widened their horizons and have memories to cherish that can only be won through real hands-on participation.’

The yachts compete in 16 legs and build up points, similar to Formula One racing.

Each yacht is made up of a crew of up to 24 amateurs, who are looked after by a professional skipper.

Skipper of yacht Jamaica Get All Right, which finished eighth, was Pete Stirling, from Titchfield.

It was the second round the world race for 49-year-old Pete, whose wife Su was waiting at the dockside to welcome him home after 11 months.

Pete, of Garstons Close, said: ‘We had a great time and there was a great atmosphere on board and we all got back safely. There’s been lots of highs and lows. Sydney was incredible and so was coming into London.’

His yacht even had to battle 120 knot winds. He said: ‘That was one of those occasions where the crew really stepped forward and stepped up to the mark.’

Pete said he was looking forward to taking a holiday with his wife, but quipped ‘she has probably got 11 months worth of DIY lined up for me.’

Skipper of yacht Qingdao, which finished seventh, was Gareth Glover, from Gosport.

Gareth, of Clarence Road, said he was looking forward to getting back to Gosport to catch up with his friends after 11 months at sea.

His yacht was hit by lightning in Japan, which caused thousands of pounds of damage and knocked out their electrics, meaning they were without GPS, which was a real set back for the team.

Despite the hindrance, the team finished fifth on that leg by using manual navigation, which Gareth was particularly proud of.

‘I have to look after 20 people and guide them round the world. We got back safely and there were so many highlights,’ he said.

It was the second round the world race for the 37-year-old and he said he was considering doing another, but only after completing the Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, taking part in Cowes Week and driving a tuc tuc across India.

The crews horrendous tales of rough seas, extreme weather, sea sickness and injuries seemed like a distant memory as the sun shone down on the finish line.

Winning team Henri Lloyd was presented with the Clipper Race trophy at a prizegiving ceremony and Canadian Skipper Eric Holden was bathed in champagne by his team on stage. He said: ‘It has been a life-changing adventure for the crew and I. The team’s drive, determination and strength have inspired me.

‘Whenever I thought the team couldn’t be pushed any harder, they dug deeper through some of the worst sailing conditions I have ever seen on the planet. This is a very special moment for the team and I to be crowned champions.’

As champagne corks flew, messages of congratulations came from some big names, including Sir Ben Ainslie and The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Sir Knox-Johnston said he was incredibly proud to hear of the life-changing experiences from the crew members and that he was already looking forward to the next race, which starts in summer 2015.

‘We are already training people for 2015, with 60 per cent booked. These yachts will now go back to Gosport and be refitted, the people will be trained and off they will go again,’ he said.

Emsworth sailor Ed Collison

A BROKEN foot didn’t stop Ed Collison completing his challenge.

The 19-year-old, from Lark Way, Emsworth, said: ‘It was amazing, it’s been incredible.

‘To have this under my belt at such a young age is amazing. I’m so proud. I can’t wait to see all my friends and family.’

Ed didn’t have to wait long to see his family as they had gathered by the dockside in London to cheer him in, with little sisters Lizzy, 10, and Ellie, eight, clearly delighted 
to have their big brother 
home.

He said: ‘It is so special to have everyone greet you, it’s overwhelming.’

Ed would have been the youngest man to circumnavigate the globe, if not for him suffering his injury when he fell down stairs while wearing flip flops.

He said: ‘I broke my foot in Jamaica and had to get off for 24 days, but apart from that I felt like I’ve cricumnavigated the world. I’ve put the work in.’

His team on board Invest Africa experienced many extremes of weather too.

‘The worst part was in the South Pacific when we went through a severe hurricane and we were battling winds of up to 218 knots,’ he said.

‘It made you feel scared for your life.

‘Then you feel so alive afterwards, once you have had that rush of adrenalin.’

Ed said his highlight of the past 11 months had been seeing his sister Alice in Sydney, Australia.

He said: ‘In Sydney I saw my sister for the first time in two years since she went to live there. That was pretty special.’

The former South Downs College student now wants to take a break, before focusing his efforts back into sailing with the dream of making skipper one day.

Portchester sailor Jacob Carter

WHAT better way to celebrate your 21st birthday than sailing around the world.

And it was a heroes welcome for Jacob Carter as he sailed into London in second place in one of the toughest sailing races in the world.

Jacob, of Westbrook Road, Portchester, was cheered into St Katharine Dock by thousands of spectators on Saturday.

Jacob, who turned 21 while his yacht was crossing the Atlantic, said he over ‘overjoyed’ to be home.

His yacht, GREAT Britain, finished in second place behind Henri Lloyd in the Clipper Round the World Race.

‘I feel wonderful,’ he said.

The 12 70ft yachts have been at sea for 11 months and sailed up the River Thames, with the top three positions sailing through Tower Bridge.

The crews have battled rough seas, extremes of weather and injuries.

Luckily Jacob survived his 45,000 mile stint unscathed, much to the joy of his parents Robert and Helen, who were at the dockside to welcome him home. Jacob said: ‘We have all worked so hard. We have been to places that most people have never been to. We have seen incredible sights. When you are sailing through crashing waves on the ocean, we were pushing hard when most people would have run the other way.’

The GREAT Britain crew won the last leg of the race, from Den Helder, in the Netherlands to London, pulling them into second place.

Jacob said: ‘The worst point for us was when we hit a real low run of results outside Albany but we saw our opportunity to take a win and we took it. After that it was amazing.’

The results

1ST Henri Lloyd

2ND GREATBritain

3RD OneDLL

4TH Derry~Londerry~Doire

5TH Switzerland

6TH Old Pulteney

7TH Qingdao

8TH Jamaica Get All Right

9TH PSP Logistics

10TH Team Garmin

11TH Invest Africa

12TH Mission Performance