AFTER more than 300 days at sea a 74-year-old pensioner could be sailing into the record books for being the oldest person to sail solo non-stop around the world.
Portsmouth-raised Anthony Curphey returned to Emsworth on Saturday after 308 days at sea alone - and having overcome 50ft waves
Known as Tony the former lorry driver and his trusted 32ft yacht Nicola Deux completed the journey as part of the Long Route circumnavigation - the sister non-competitive event of the Golden Globe Race.
Five out of 20 boats involved in the group sailing - which set off on June 24 last year and - had to bow out after they were rolled over on high seas.
Tony is in the process of applying to the Guinness Book of World Records to confirm his status as the world’s oldest person to complete the challenge.
Dreams of fresh fruit - and prawn curry - kept him going in the gruelling feat until he was greeted in Emsworth, where her lives, by friends and family.
The journey saw Tony and his boat cover a distance of more than 30,000 miles taking in the Cape of Good Hope, coast of Australia and New Zealand, Cape Horn and a trans Atlantic crossing via the Azores before returning to Emsworth.
Speaking to The News, Tony said: ‘Sailing back into Emsworth after 10 months at sea was pretty emotional.
‘I arrived at night but I could see four people on the shoreline and could hear one of them calling out to me – my son Erik.
‘He was the first person I spoke to since the lighthouse keeper at Cape Horn.’
He added: ‘I would dream of fresh fruit and vegetables and I was really looking forward to a king prawn curry from the local take-away.
‘I couldn’t believe it on Saturday night when I found out they are closed for the next two weeks.’
Tony’s boat Nikki - as he affectionately refers to his maritime companion - was the only British vessel to complete the race.
‘I have built up strong bond with Nikki as I came to depend on her as she kept me safe throughout my journey. She will definitely be my last boat,’ he said.
Tony added: ‘Five out of 20 boats were abandoned due to being rolled over in high seas. There were a number of times when Nikki ended up with her mast in the water but she was fortunately able to right herself.
‘We had the lowest budget of all the participants and, at 32 foot, Nikki was the smallest boat to complete the journey and only the second vessel of her size to successfully circumnavigate the globe non stop.’
Sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston - who in 1969 became the first person to sail non-stop solo around the world - has praised the great effort by Tony.
Sir Robin said: ‘This is a great effort by Tony.
‘The Southern Ocean is a dangerous place which is highlighted by the fact five boats were de-masted in the recent Golden Globe Race.
‘He has done very well to navigate this safely and it is a job well done.’
Tony said his biggest challenge was to ensure he had enough water to survive at sea - having to use high-tech kit to remove salt from seawater.
He said: ‘There were a number of times I was hoping for a huge downpour which didn’t materialise.
‘I was given a solar still by a friend to desalinise seawater but it would only produce a maximum of four cups a day.
‘Whenever there was rain I would try to collect as much water as possible in any container I could find.’
The epic journey saw Antony overcome 50ft waves as he spent five gruelling months sailing through the notorious Southern Ocean.
‘It is an area known for violent storms which can easily overturn a yacht,’ said Tony.
‘If you become rolled then you are dependent on being picked up by the nearest boat in the vicinity.’
With the isolated solitude of no verbal communication with the outside world the journey was as much a test of Tony’s mental strength as his physical prowess.
‘Fortunately I am pretty comfortable with my own company,’ he said.
‘I did have a tracker on board which allowed me to message friends and family.
‘Messages from home provided a real lift at times when I felt a little down.’
Voyage highlights were the daily jubilation of dolphins riding Nikki’s bow and close encounters with ocean giants such as Humpback and Minke whales.
He is set to live on the boat, making trips to Madeira or the Azores.