Sailors make a last sprint for a podium finish in yacht race

COMING HOME The Clipper yacht, Geraldton Western Australia, and inset, Juan Coetzer
COMING HOME The Clipper yacht, Geraldton Western Australia, and inset, Juan Coetzer
From left, Jacob Kennard, Gavin Moon, Ian Doyle and Sarah Talboys-Smith with Shanon Rees and Rodney Watson at the front
 at the Southsea Village in Palmerston Road Picture: Habibur Rahman

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AFTER a year sailing around foreign shores, two sailors are all set for a heroes’ welcome when they return home this weekend.

Juan Coetzer and Ian Geraghty, both from Southsea, have spent the last 12 months taking part in a round-the-world yacht race on board the Geraldton Western Australia.

Juan Coetzer

Juan Coetzer

Now the pair are getting ready to reunite with their families when they sail into Southampton at the end of their journey tomorrow.

Skipper Juan, 36, is hoping to snatch sixth place, one up from the crew’s current position in seventh.

He said: ‘I feel really happy and excited we’re going back to where it all began 12 months ago, and as normal we are going to push really hard to try and get a podium position.

‘We have New York three points ahead of us so there is all to play for to get sixth place.

‘We feel pride that we have taken Geraldton Western Australia all round the world.’

But it has not been plain sailing for the crew, who suffered a few setbacks as the race went on.

During a harsh storm in the Pacific Ocean in April, a 100ft wave struck the yacht which injured several crew members.

One of the sailors, Jane Hitchins, 50, from Kent, was left with broken ribs, broken vertebra and a ruptured spleen.

She had to be rescued by the US Coastguard and taken to hospital in California.

But Jane is now ready to join her team again for the final leg as they race back to Southampton.

Juan added: ‘We’ve had a few hiccups but we’ve brought everyone back.

‘It’s really nice that Jane is joining us on this next race back into Southampton to complete her epic journey.

‘We are looking forward to seeing her back on the boat again.’

The Clipper Round-the-World Yacht Race started on July 31 last year, with the competitors being led out of Southampton by warship HMS Illustrious.

The race was established by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who is based at Royal Clarence Yard, Gosport.

People are being encouraged to go along and welcome the sailors home tomorrow with a huge celebration.

The free event takes place between 11am and 6pm at Ocean Village with live music and entertainment.

For more details visit clipperroundtheworld.com