"I'll hae nae hauf-way hoose but aye be whaur extremes meet..." Hugh McDiarmid

Friday, 24 April 2015


so this was it. we got the call to form up and start motoring toward the dartford bridge. it is a long and fairly boring motor up the thames from southend. we had to wait until the thames barrier before we could see any spectator boats. 11 months ago we had left them behind at the barrier, as they were not allowed to pass through it and keep following us. at this point, they had turned and we had all switched the kettle on...

this year, the spectators were not so restrained. one boat came through, and then suddenly they were all there. this was supposed to be our final wee bit of peace before the parade! but it was amazing to see them all. everyone was spotting their friends and family. the mission guys had commandeered a boat for our crew and families to be on, although my lot stuck with the original clipper boat as there were a fair few of them!

my sister, leigh, had sent me a viber message a bit before saying 'at the barrier, can't see the boats, it's a bit choppy' and I had replied 'we're about ten minutes away, waiting for the helicopter. fyi. that's not choppy' :)

and then suddenly, there they were. shouting and waving. I had been worried that I would just cry when I started seeing folk I knew, but it turned out I didn't have to worry. I knew there was a couple of folk waiting for me in st kats as well. annika, who had followed the whole race and whose husband I'd met up with in NY, and sarah, who had so generously organised me a hotel room in albany when I really needed a good night's sleep.

heading back through the thames barrier 11 months later

happy to be home!

and then we could see tower bridge! we were so close. but the tide wasn't quite high enough and we had to wait another few minutes before we could go into the dock. as we were last placed overall (boo!) we were going to be first in. we could hear the speakers from the river as we were being introduced, then suddenly the red bridge lifted and we were heading in.

seeing the maintenance guys and the rest of the clipper team waiting to take our lines was brilliant, even though we'd only seen them a few days before in den helder. within minutes we were alongside and the next boat was coming through the lock and they'd all moved on. interviews were done, photos were taken and we were all looking for faces in the crowd.

I'd spotted sarah as we came through the lock and I could see her again in the crowd near where we'd berthed. I also saw annika, who was standing behind us. I shouted up to her 'apparently the days of the week have names' and made her laugh. a few of the folk around looked at her and she said later that she'd told them proudly 'that's my friend, she's just sailed round the world'.

just off the boat!
taken from the spectator boat

we weren't allowed off the boat until everyone was berthed, but our former crewmates were allowed to join us for the last bit on stage. suddenly all these folk we hadn't seen for a while appeared and stories were told, hugs given and received, and some champagne may have been consumed....

we were called onto the stage in reverse order, so we were first. sometimes it's good being last! once the photos had been taken, that was us. we were released back into society! the race was over. it was an incredible feeling. 

my parents and leigh had booked the same hotel for race finish as they'd had for race start so I knew I had a bed that night, instead of crashing on the boat. as they'd been on the spectator boat, they had gone for some dinner and I'd arranged to meet them in the dickens inn. I set off with sarah and annika, and met up with them and leigh's friends denise and mike, and their wee boy thomas.

a lovely evening in the pub ensued, with all the crews being in their with friends and family. food was had and folk started to drift off. I packed all my stuff up from the boat and took it back to the hotel, as I had decided not to do the delivery back to gosport. my mum was delighted!!

the crew party was good fun. me and leigh went, and it was really busy. I caught up with some more folk and left on a high. we got the train back to scotland on monday morning and that was that. race over!!

leg 8 race 3: den helder to london

frigate is one end of the start line

once we had negotiated the canal and lock, and made it out to sea it was main up and head to the start line. a beautiful sunny day in den helder with loads of folk out on the water to see us off. 

we thought we'd been set up for a great start, but unfortunately that wasn't the case. as the gun went off, we were pointing the wrong way without enough sail up. we'd been waiting to hoist the code 1 but needed to quickly hoist the staysail so we could turn towards the start line! dammit. everyone crossed in front of us with a mix of code 1 and code 2  flying. we managed to turn the boat and get across the line. dropped the staysail and threw the code 1 up. at this point, sophie and the sail repair team had already fixed our code 1 twice after it had exploded. 

it looked like the code 2 gang had made a mistake as we flew up the outside of the fleet. they'd managed to get tangled up in each other and we were clear! so from an awful start we ended up working our way through the fleet. we were sitting in 4th, looking to overtake the 3rd placed boat when our code 1 gave way for what would be the final time. 

all the repairs seemed to give way at once as the wind built, but luckily the entire crew were on deck. we split into teams: a couple of folk to go and push the code 2 up through the hatch, a group to retrieve the body of the code 1 out of the water, a couple of folk to gently pull the tape and retrieve the head from the top of the rig while someone else eased the halyard. we got the code 2 up on deck and the bag attached, pulled out the three ends and started running them while the code 1 was unceremoniously stuffed down the hatch to be dealt with later. sheets were re-run, halyard and tack attached, then within 8 minutes the code 2 was up and being trimmed. 

during all this, matt had calmly helmed. we had enough experience now to not need telling what had to be done. shortly after the code 2 was up, rich gould from invest africa radioed through to give matt his congratulations on a speedy recovery. matt admitted that he hadn't done anything, just driven! 

the code 1 was just rammed into its bag and stuffed back in its bunk. we weren't going to be needing it again after all... and we'd only lost 1 or 2 places! awesome.

our good fortune was not to last however. somehow we'd managed to miss a mark of the course, so we had to return to it, losing valuable distance to the rest of the fleet. bloody typical. even in the last race, we were having no luck.

the final race to southend only took a day and a half, with the last bit being a short course between two marks so we did get to see the rest of the fleet as they passed us going in the opposite direction. eventually we got the call to finish and everyone headed to the line at southend pier. 

there were mixed emotions as we crossed the line. anger at losing out on the final race. an overwhelming feeling of sadness that our year had just come to an end. there was celebrating and hugs, but there was also a quiet mood among the round the worlders and multiple leggers. at one point matt asked if anyone wanted to steal the boat and do it all again. 

out of the gloom in southend, we appear! and finish the race!!

happy to be nearly home :D

we put the boat to bed for the final time in the race and started slowly motoring around to wait for 7am so we could form up and parade into london. everyone was thinking about how they would deal with the homecoming. I was worried I'd be a total mess and just cry openly!

but first of all, sleep! and a bit of overnight motoring and banter. the last time the fleet would be this close but still at sea.