We left a sunny Den Helder with 6 points between us and LMax who were in the overall lead. There was lots of speculation as to whether we could pull back the points needed to catch them or not. As a team we had decided to push hard for this one last race – it was only 200 odd miles so a new watch system was created to ensure maximum performance (and not much sleep!) . We were also 13 points in front of Great Britain which meant that whatever we did they couldn’t catch us so going all out was all we could do.
The race started and we had a great line across the start and led the fleet out into the North Sea. We were going well with spinnaker up when it was suggested we’d gone the wrong side of a marker buoy. This meant we got the spinnaker down, turned round to re-cross the marker which took us from 1st to 12th. We later found out there had been a confusion and in fact we didn’t need to pass the mark so had been right all along! I was filled with dread as I could see all the fleet was ahead and that this was game over. However we began to overtake other yachts and weave our way through the tacking fleet to regain the lead.
This was probably the most intense race ever. With the short distance it meant the fleet never really spread out that much so we could nearly always see those near to us on AIS if not visually too. This meant that we were doing as much as we could to keep the boat going fast. We even slept on the floor of the high side to make us go faster along with extended periods sitting on the rail. The final few miles became very tense as Visit Seattle were hot on our heels. We were almost a silent crew all wanting to win the race but knowing it wasn’t in the bag for certain. We could see the finish line and we could see the crew of Visit Seattle. We were all willing us to make it to the line first and luckily all our efforts paid off as we crossed the one for Race 14 in first place, 29 seconds in front of the yacht in second! Suddenly our boat went from silent to ecstatic as we celebrated not only our win but making it back to Southend after the circumnavigation. As LMax crossed the line third it meant that they ended up 4 points ahead of us overall.
It was an odd feeling coming back to where the race began last year. I did feel emotional but also disbelief that I’d actually made it all the way round the world on a yacht. I think it is going to take a while for this fact to fully sink in.
We anchored up for a few hours to get some rest before meeting up with the rest of the fleet to begin the parade of sail up the Thames. As we approached the Thames Barrier, the first of the supporters’ boats came into view so we all stood by to start the waving. This boat had all my friends and family on it including an awesome banner which my friend Sally made for me. It was wonderful to see everyone. As the morning progressed as we got closer to St Katharine Docks, the more I began to realise that this amazing adventure was soon to be over. The familiar London skyline came into view and Tower Bridge lifted for us. As we had come second overall we lined up with LMax who won and Great Britain who were third overall and came back through Tower Bridge in podium formation. This was exciting and we were all in high spirits on board. We then had to wait our turn to enter St Katharine Docks and this bit of waiting felt like forever. We locked in and I could see my supporters up close and spotted more people who had come to welcome me home – it was quite overwhelming the number of people who were there for me. Oddly I didn’t feel emotional, just amazingly happy to be back and I couldn’t stop smiling!
When we got alongside we were presented with our pennant for first place in race 14 and Dan had fun spraying the Champagne which mainly ended up all over me!
I got to lead our team round the dock to the podium and had great fun waving the massive team flag. We were presented with our overall second place pennant which I will treasure forever.
After our podium moment I walked out the dock to the most wonderful welcome from those who had come to support me. I got the most amazing hug from my godson Tom and Emma and got the first cuddles with Isaac and Noah who have both been born while I was away. I couldn’t have wished for a better welcome home from everyone so thank you to each and every one of you for your love and support.
Thank you to everyone who has supported me this year and read these blogs. It’s been an incredible adventure and I’m glad to have been able to share it with you all.
Ruth – circumnavigator!