After a week in Den Helder I was ready to get going and to start the final race back to London. It wasn't going to be easy as we had the tides, strong currents and gas platforms to navigate around as we headed southwest towards Southend where the finish line was.
The start line relied on spotting a caravan on the shoreline and a tug's mast at the other end - not easy at times, but after a good start all the boats hoisted spinnakers and we headed due west along the Dutch coast before turning to port at the first mark. It was a fast race and we were always within sight of other yachts as we tacked our way towards the English coast. Tidal currents played a vital part in our tactics as did the narrow channels we had to navigate as we sailed into the Thames estuary. I spent my last two watches, a total of eight hours, down in the nav. station keeping an eye on the channel and helping Cloughy to decide on tack points. Unfortunately it did mean that I didn't get to be up on deck during the last few hours of sailing but an important role as we didn't want to run aground. When I did eventually pop my head up through the companionway I was met by the lights of the Essex coast and Southend; England at last.
Down below it was an uncomfortable ride as we tacked around 50 times in the last few hours of the race. Doesn't seem much when you think of dinghy sailing but 50 tacks is probably not far off the total number of tacks in the entire circumnavigation. It was difficult to sleep as the angle of my bunk changed every few minutes, the cacophonous noise of the winches grinding just above my head, the loud bang when the yankee sheet suddenly broke and the noise of shouting as the starboard watch tried to recover the situation. They did a great job in getting us back into the race as we jostled with GB all the way to the finish line. I stayed up for the extra hour it took for us to get to the finish and we eventually crossed the line a mere two seconds ahead of GB at around 0200 BST. The end!
The on-watch crew then had the unenviable task of getting the sails down and setting the anchor as we waited for the final boats to finish and for the start of the motor up the Thames at 0430. I slept through all of this and woke up as we were motoring up the Thames towards St Katharine Docks, family and friends.
It was fantastic being met by the spectator boats and all those who had made the effort to get up to London really early to meet the fleet. We arrived at Tower Bridge just as it opened and after hanging around we motored back downstream and into St Kats. The welcome was magnificent and there were so many people who had come to meet me - too many to mention by name but an enormous thank you to every single one of you who came to wave me in.
We came an overall 10th out of 12 in the overall race around the world. Yes, maybe we could have done better if we had had Cloughy as our skipper for the entire race, but for me the most important result was that I sailed around the world, a total of 46,681 nM, and got back safe and sound. An incredible result in itself.
I have now been back for a couple of weeks and I am still struggling to sleep through the night, and am finding the complexity of modern day life quite a challenge, and seem to have forgotten how to live off the boat. I am off to California tomorrow, Sunday, to take Becca to drama school in Los Angeles so have given myself another two weeks of unsettled life before having to settle down. I am still undecided as to what to do but will not make any major decisions until the end of the year, but will probably keep the blog going for a little while so that I can share thoughts and happenings as I get back into the swing of living in the UK.
|Parade of sail in Den Helder|
|The fleet on the way to London with spinnakers hoisted|
|On of the last sunsets over the North Sea|
|Nobletec display showing all our tacks (red)|
and those of other boats (orange)
|A happy sailor as we head up the Thames|
towards St Kats
|Motoring up the Thames in 10th place|
|The QE2 bridge|
|The spectator boat 'Mercuria' with many|
of my family and friends
|The Millenium Dome from the river|
|Tower Bridge, opened to let the fleet through|
|The welcome that greeted us as we motored|
through the lock into St Kats Dock
|'Unicef' moored up with the other boats|