Oceans of adventure for Clipper race teams

THEY went looking for adventure and got more than they could ever have dreamed of.

Sometimes battered but never bowed, the crews of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race arrived safely in their final port after one of the most eventful voyages in the 15-year history of the biennial event.

For some it meant the end of 10 long months at sea, for others a taste of final-leg glory, but each played a part and had their own stories to tell when they finally berthed in the sanctuary of Hull Marina.

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The Yorkshire Forward-sponsored entry Hull & Humber finished fourth overall but thrilled a crowd of thousands lining the banks of the Humber by taking first place in the John Harrison Race, a short sprint between King George Dock and St Andrew's Quay to mark the end of competitive sailing.

In total, more than 430 amateur sailors took part in the main event, won by Spirit of Australia, with 87 joining a select band who have made circumnavigations.

As well as enjoying emotional reunions with family and friends, they were personally congratulated by race founder and Clipper chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail solo, non-stop, around the globe.

He told the Yorkshire Post: "Fewer people have sailed around the world than have climbed Mount Everest and that puts what these people have achieved into perspective.

"Eighty-odd people have sailed around the world and they will be changed, they will be different. Their confidence is greater, their self-belief is greater and they have become good sailors."

He added: "We've had a shipwreck, a collision, two dismastings, a man overboard and a skipper had to be medivaced, and that's a fair old number of incidents.

"We could have done without them but two things come out of it – the Clipper team are brilliant because they just deal with it, and it's given the crews an experience they never expected, because even if they weren't on the boats involved they would have helped in one way or another.

"It's an experience they would never have imagined and will remember."

For those on Hull & Humber, who had a carpenter, a nurse, and a TV production editor in their number, the unexpected included sailing under three skippers.

They lost Piers Dudin to a broken leg in March – which resulted in a dramatic rescue by the Japanese coastguard – and borrowed Brendan Hall from Spirit of Australia until Justin Taylor, Mr Dudin's permanent replacement, could be flown out to San Francisco.

They also saw their vessel holed in a collision with Cork, and had to mount their own emergency procedures when Arthur Bowers, from Hull, was washed overboard in the South Atlantic.

Mr Bowers, 52, who completed all 35,000 miles and celebrated a birthday at sea, said he had come off lightly.

"I wasn't frightened," he said. "They say keep calm and don't try and swim to the boat because you end up exhausted and that's when you get in bother.

"If you look at what happened to Piers, and what a great guy, he ended up with a broken leg so worse can happen."

Mr Bowers used his savings to fund the 27,000 adventure and gave up his job in leaflet distribution. Unlike some of his crew he was never seasick but was nevertheless glad to be back.

"It's good to get back home. Ten months is a long time to be on board a 68ft yacht and getting along with 18 or 19 other people. But this was the challenge we wanted."

Yorkshire Forward has seen a good return on the 4m invested over the last four years through its sponsorship of Hull & Humber.

The race launch in Hull last September, attended by 150,000 people, netted almost 10m for the region in visitor spend, and this is expected to top 20m when the weekend's figures are added to ongoing business deals secured on the back of the event.

Hull Council leader Carl Minns said: "For the crews I'm sure this will be bitter-sweet after the adventure they've had, but there have also been some hard-nosed business deals done and trade links forged which will leave a long-term economic legacy, as well as putting Hull on the map for the right reasons."