Intense rivalry, podium places and near misses sum up Garmin’s circumnavigation from a racing perspective, but there was much more to the team which claimed fourth place as the ‘Garminions’ were a lively bunch who engaged with school children following their journey, took great pride in ensuring that they never missed a daily crew diary in their 217 days at sea, and celebrated the achievement of a certain Aussie helmsman who became the first ever double circumnavigating crew member in Clipper Race history.
Global GPS technology company Garmin was a second-time Team Sponsor in the Clipper 2015-16 Race and under British Skipper Ash Skett, Garmin was a constant and serious contender for the overall podium. They never gave up and ended up finishing an agonising one point behind third-placed GREAT Britain in the final standings.
It was in Race 2 across the South Atlantic to Cape Town, South Africa, when Garmin claimed its first podium, with a third place. At the Prize-giving Skipper Ash and the crew also celebrated winning the Stormhoek Social Spirit Award for their interaction with Great Easton Primary School which featured regularly in their blogs.
After collecting two more third place finishes in the All-Australian Leg, it was in the following Asian Pacific Leg that Garmin began achieving its best results with two consecutive second places behind Derry~Londonderry~Doire into Da Nang,Vietnam, and Qingdao, China. Following the month-long Da Nang New Discovery of Asia Race, Ash described the closing stages.
"[GREAT Britain] did have the edge on us to begin with and north of the Equator we had quite a few miles to make up, but we pushed the boat hard and made up the ground. It still took us right up to the end of the race to squeeze out the extra miles but I think we had a slightly more favourable wind as we were coming back north. We played the tacking angles quite spot on and overtook GREAT Britain on the second to last day so we were absolutely thrilled with all the effort we put in. We just refused to give up and I'm proud of all the team for that."
Sitting steadily in fourth place on the leaderboard Garmin had an overall podium spot in its sights, and GREAT Britain, in third place, became its prey. With the teams regularly finishing within a couple of positions of each other a rivalry developed as Garmin chipped away to edge closer to the overall podium in a fight which would last right up to Race Finish in London.
During Race 8 into Qingdao the team also managed to collect two bonus points at the Scoring Gate to add to their second place finish and in turn aiding their ambitions for a bigger prize.
It was on Race 9, the Mighty Pacific Leg from China to Seattle, USA, that Garmin suffered severe boat damage after the same secondary depression that knocked down Da Nang – Viet Nam, creating “Some of the worst seas that I have ever experienced,” reported Ash Skett at the time.
Luckily, there were no injuries, and the yacht managed to continue racing to Seattle, finishing in a very respectable sixth position.
While the team missed out on a podium to Panama, spirits didn’t dampen on board as the ‘Garmin Girls Breakfast Show’ took charge of the entertainment once the team was under motor towards Costa Rica to refuel. Traveling in convoy with Qingdao, GREAT Britain and IchorCoal, Jenn Burgis, Holly Kitching, Jenny Day and Charlotte Willis delivered news and weather reports, as well as hosting agony aunt sessions for their fellow crew. The team, self-named the ‘Garminions’ living up to its reputation as a fun-loving crew.
Holly Kitching (legs 5-8) wrote at the time: “Some of the guys on GREAT Britain wanted to know how many people were involved in the show as it sounded like about 20 girls. They were shocked to find that the noise was made by a mere four of us.... This is possibly why Ash has refused to have us all on the same watch. Something about noise levels, sleeping and the rest of the boat’s sanity.”
After a quick recharge in Panama, on Race 11 to New York, the team missed out to first-time race winner ClipperTelemed+ by 40 minutes having led for the majority of the race. However, with its second place, Garmin narrowed the gap on GREAT Britain to four points in the Overall Race Standings with extra bonus points from being first through the Scoring Gate.
While all this was going on, the team continued to send daily crew diaries every day at sea, a target set and overseen by circumnavigator Rich Perkins who led the on board media effort. The Skipper blogs also included a feature called Jenny Day’s Days, named after the Leg 1 and 7 crew member who had been through the world calendar to find what was being celebrated each particular day of the race. Days included King Tutankhamun Tomb Celebration Day, International Sceptics Day, Moments of Frustration Day, Love a Tree Day, and National Seamonkey Day. Yes, really.
On Race 12 to Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland, it looked like the team’s fate had been sealed when Garmin finished in sixth, two places behind GREAT Britain, with six points separating them on the overall leaderboard by this stage.
Returning to the UK also meant that round the world crew member Ross Ham was also nearing the end of his second Clipper Race circumnavigation, having also completed the race in 2013-14 on board Old Pulteney.
On the penultimate race to Den Helder, The Netherlands, Garmin finished one place behind GREAT Britain despite having exited the Pentland Firth with its notorious tides ahead. Rival SkipperPeter Thornton was relieved to have also increased the team’s lead slightly to seven points after Garmin got stuck in an eddy.
Despite now trailing an overall podium place by seven points, Race 14 produced an intense finale as Garmin came so close to overhauling GREAT Britain on the leaderboard, finishing in fourth place while its rival suffered its worst result of the series so far with a tenth place.
In the end, Garmin finished just one point behind GREAT Britain in fourth in the final overall standings, with a total of six podiums, seven Scoring Gate points and two Ocean Sprint points, though the team came very close, they didn’t quite manage to clinch the illusive golden pennant which came with a race win.
At the finish Skipper Ash said: “We are obviously disappointed to miss out by such a small margin, and we can't help but think back to points given away due to things like the odd tactical error or penalty points.
"Overall though it takes nothing from the achievement of a successful circumnavigation. It's been an amazing adventure and we are all ready for one last hurrah in London before we return to our real lives once again, whatever they may be now," Ash added.
Kiwi circumnavigator and Team Coordinator Andy Kerrison reflected on his round the world journey during the final leg of the race.
“To my team, Garmin, Skipper Ash and all the crew: We set out on this adventure as a disparate bunch of people with various aptitudes, experience and expectations. Our goals were to have a happy, competitive boat. On both accounts, I feel proud to acknowledge that we have achieved our goals. I have met many new friends that, no matter where they are or how often I see them, will always share with me the deep understanding of the journey we have been on. The Clipper family experience reinforces the universal truth of the Maori proverb "He aha te mea nui? He tangata. He tangata. He tangata." What is the most important thing in the world? It is people. It is people. It is people.”
Thank you Ash and all the Garmin crew for keeping the racing exciting right up the end, for being the most consistent bloggers of the fleet and for all the great images and videos that helped us tell your story, and of course for helping to inspire the next generation of Clipper Race sailors at Great Easton Primary School.
Congratulations Garminions Michael Adams, Catherine Anderson, Malcolm Anderson, Edvard Baardsen, Terri Baker, Michael Baumann, Thomas Blunt, Leonora Bowen, Jennifer Burgis, Sally Elizabeth Cahill, Christopher Cattrall, Jack Chidley, Jennifer Day, Stuart Dick, Sean Ferguson, Peter Fitch, Lucy Frost, Jerry Halterman, Ross Ham, Katy Harwood-Lane, Bradley Hastings, Luminita Holban, Suzanne Hughes, Kieran Husband, Per Olav Kallestad, Andrew Kerrison, Allison King, Holly May Kitching, Kersten Kroehl, Terence Langley, Rick Lawrence, Margaret Ledra, William Longley-Cook, Muchi Lukhezo, Campbell Mackie, Duncan Marchbanks, Jess Miller, Ilya Nikiforov, Brian Noble, Willi Obrist, Jon Øygard, Rich Perkin, Susan Pither, John Raven, Thomas Reese, Anna Root, Pavels Saikins, Ian Sandman, Richard Silcock, Greg Skilbeck, Michael Turner, Miguel Van Der Velden, Lucie Ward, Nicholas Warren, Charlotte Willis, Hayley Wimpory, Kate Woods and John Worby.
To read more about the Qingdao crew’s experience in the Clipper 2015-16 Race click here to read the crew diaries sent back while they were racing.
If you are interested in finding out more about how you could become a Clipper Race crew member in the 2017-18 or 2019-20 editions click here.Join The Race