Portchester grandmother-of-16 sails through 'hurricane winds' on Lord Nelson fundraising voyage

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CREW on a charity fundraising voyage aboard a tall ship returned to the city.

The Jubilee Sailing Trust's STS Lord Nelson arrived in style at Gunwharf Quays yesterday afternoon.

Cheryl Spencer in front of the Lord Nelson tall ship. Picture: Habibur Rahman

Cheryl Spencer in front of the Lord Nelson tall ship. Picture: Habibur Rahman

On board was Cheryl Spencer, who conquered her fear of heights to climb to the crow’s nest on its stormy penultimate voyage.

The 57-year-old, of Lansdowne Avenue, in Portchester, took on the challenge as part of the ship’s seven-day voyage from London to France, before docking in Portsmouth yesterday.

She was one of 21 crew members on the ship raising money for armed forces charity SSAFA. Between them they raised £40,000.

The 57-year-old reached the crow’s nest 90ft above the water as the ship left London last Friday – and she said she was ‘in no rush to do it again’.

Cheryl Spencer celebrates returning back to dry land after a seven day voyage on-board the Lord Nelson.

Cheryl Spencer celebrates returning back to dry land after a seven day voyage on-board the Lord Nelson.

Speaking to The News, Cheryl said: ‘I didn’t think I would be able to do it. I would recommend it if anyone has any fears because it gives you confidence.’

But the rest of the journey was far from plain sailing, with the ship battling through gale force 11 winds reaching 70mph as it crossed the Channel over the weekend.

She said: ‘There were a few times where I thought we are not going to make it. I fell out of bed on one night.

‘Even the captain said a lot of the crew had not gone through anything this.’

Cheryl Spencer climbing the rigging of the Lord Nelson.

Cheryl Spencer climbing the rigging of the Lord Nelson.

Last Saturday the three-masted tall ship was due to dock in Caen, France, to commemorate 75 years since the D-Day landings, but the ship was unable to disembark in the city due to the dangerous weather.

Captain Chris Philips, who was onboard with 10 professional sailors, said winds ‘nearly reached hurricane strength’.

He said: ‘I have not experienced weather like that since going to Antarctica more than four years ago.

‘What’s important is that this group all gelled as a crew – that’s what we are all about.’

Lord Nelson will be decommissioned next Friday. The charity raised £1m funding this summer to keep going but said it needed to axe the ship to keep going.

Chief executive Duncan Souster said the trust ‘would be interested in exploring Portsmouth’ as a potential home for the ship.

He said: ‘We’re looking for a city so she has a home much like HMS Belfast has in London.’