AFTER a year of flat-out graft, volunteers who lovingly restored Lively Lady were able to unite on board her and say – ‘we’ve done it'.
Emotions ran high when they shared their jubilation with hundreds of spectators, sailing the famed yacht to its new home at Port Solent on Saturday afternoon.
Not only did the feat conclude a poignant recreation of Southsea greengrocer Sir Alec’s city homecoming of 1968 – after he used the boat to circumnavigate the globe alone – but it drew a line under more than 450 days worth of labour spent reviving the boat from the depths of dilapidation.
Volunteer Carol Jenkinson has been a key part of the project, having spent as many as six days a week stripping and painting Lively Lady at the Hayling Yacht Company since January.
Met by cheers, champagne toasts and celebratory horns as she and a crew returned the boat to the marina it opened 30 years ago, she said ‘there were tears shed’.
‘To be able to give this boat back to the people of Portsmouth looking like she should is absolutely brilliant,’ she said.
‘I don’t think people believed she could bounce back the way she has today, but after months of graft Lively Lady has taken our hearts, she has taken our souls and we can say we’ve done it.’
Just over a year ago, the 36ft yacht did not boast the gleaming deck and paint job revellers marvelled over on Saturday, as she was left in a sorry state after an attempted restoration at Portsmouth International Boatbuilding Training College.
Infuriated, it was ocean racer Alan Priddy who pioneered her resurgence – sailing her to Port Solent on Saturday alongside chairman of his charity Around and Around, Mark Smith – following a hair-raising four-hour journey through a choppy Solent.
Mr Priddy said: ‘It was a very tough passage, but what the crowds today show is that people just believe in Lively Lady and Sir Alec Rose.
‘It's been heartwarming to be a part of and it makes all the aggro worthwhile.
‘The guys who’ve fixed her up and brought her here deserve their moment now.’
The triumph rolled back the years for many spectators, especially Richard Spalding, who was fortunate enough to step on to the deck of Lively Lady after Sir Alec had guided her home along Southsea Seafront on July 4,1968.
Relishing the nostalgia, the former navy man got the chance to recreate a dearly-held photograph taken on the yacht that day, when he was just nine years old.
Now 60, he said: ‘Her paintwork is pristine, her deck is phenomenal and this a really emotional moment for me.
‘It rolls back the clock and to have these two photos now means an awful lot.’