GREAT Britain Clipper 2015-16 Race Highlights

19 August 2016

After nine days of team highlights, we now reach the final three podium winning teams. Today it is third overall placed GREAT Britain’s recap moment.

(The team pictured outside Number 10 Downing Street ahead of the Race Start.)

Led by Skipper Peter Thornton MBE, from Cornwall, GREAT Britain achieved six podium finishes, which included one first place, three second place, and two third place finishes, plus they claimed twelve Scoring Gate bonus points throughout the 14 races.

The team’s best race result of the circumnavigation came early on when it took line honours in Race 2 from Rio de Janeiro to Cape Town, claiming the golden pennant after an incredibly close fought finish between themselves, Derry~Londonderry~Doire and Garmin. The British Government sponsored team had been in third place the previous day by 2.4NM until a cruelly placed wind hole beneath the shadow of Table Mountain allowed GREAT Britain to overtake its rivals at the final hurdle.

Arriving into port Skipper Peter said: "The tension was incredible in those last few miles. I must admit I was getting very worried because not only had we been neck and neck with Derry~Londonderry~Doire, Garmin and Mission Performance for the last 72 hours, but racing down towards Cape Town in the last closing hours it was just so close. Derry~Londonderry~Doire was just yards behind us again, a little bit like Race 1 so it could’ve been anybody’s race.

"I’m hoping it’s not going to be like this for the rest of the race, it’s very exhausting! We are constantly looking at the AIS, looking at the speeds of the other competitors, looking over your shoulder or ahead of you trying to catch up. It's really amazing stuff."

Peter’s hopes for a less stressful race did not come true as we know he spent the next nine months in constant and heated duals with LMAX Exchange, Derry~Londonderry~Doire and Garmin in the fight for the overall podium places, which came down to the very final miles of the series. GREAT Britain’s most successful results streak came during the All-Australian Leg 4 when it recorded three back to back second place finishes into Sydney, Hobart, and also Airlie Beach – which is where the closest finish of the Clipper 2015-16 Race up to that point occurred.

After drag racing with LMAX Exchange, GREAT Britain finished under a mile and just 42 seconds behind them in the Whitsundays after seven days of racing. The points all evened out however as GREAT Britain had crossed the Scoring Gate ahead of their rivals early on in the race so picked up an extra bonus point to make it 14 points each for Race 6.

Arriving into Airlie Beach, Circumnavigator Phil Orford MBE said: "It’s been the closest finish of the Clipper Race so far at 42 seconds! It’s been nip and tuck right from the start, we managed to beat LMAX Exchange at the Scoring Gate and they managed to nip us in the final miles but it’s been fantastic. What’s great about the race is the camaraderie (changed from US to English spelling) between the two teams, we’ve all arrived into port and are sharing a beer congratulating one another on what has been achieved over the past eight days.

"We drive LMAX Exchange on, they drive us on, that’s what it’s all about, and if we didn’t we wouldn’t be arriving in first and second place!”

Amongst GREAT Britain’s biggest but youngest supporters were Miss Mills’ Prep 2 Class at Truro High School for Girls. The class were captivated by the team’s journey and successes and sent letters, photos, drawings and even personalised maps of made up islands they imagined the teams sailing past as they toured the world. One particular drawing imagined the GREAT Britain crew as chicks, and included Skipper Peter Chick, Curly Moustached Chick (Simon Rosbottom) and Salty Sea Dog Chick (Mike Tatham).

Off the race course the GREAT Britain team developed a creative way to raise funds for the Clipper Race’s Official Charity Unicef when they worked with government officials to create ‘Sailing is GREAT’ t-shirts for a donation to the charity. They proved a huge hit with crew from other teams sporting them, as well as leading British sailors Dee Caffari and Ian Walker.

The idea for the shirts came after the first two legs of the race, and crew member Debbie Porter, who works for the Home Office, championed the creation of the shirts when she returned home, and with help from fellow crew member Samantha Adams, the pair got the campaign moving.

A limited run of 800 t-shirts was produced and the team has so far raised over £11,500 of its £12,000 target. If you didn’t get a shirt and still want one there are now just a few left, available via for a suggested £15 donation.

As part of the GREAT Britain campaign which involved the crew in various government initiatives in the ports they visited around the world, the team’s sponsorship was also responsible for a number of elite British athletes, each representing a different sport, joining the crew. These crew included former UFC fighter turned Ambassador Dan ‘ The Outlaw’ Hardy, Olympic Rower Bill Lucas, Gold medallist Paralympic Ski guide Charlotte Evans, Olympic 200 and 400m runner Abi Oyepitan, and Olympic silver medallist badminton player Nathan Robertson.

With no previous sailing experience before starting their training, each athlete took on a different leg of the race. After completing the first opening leg to Rio, Dan Hardy said: “I will fight anyone over 25 minutes rather than battling the Atlantic again. It was relentless. As soon as you get on the boat it continues until you get off on the other end.

Charlotte Evans MBE, 24, guided her skiing partner Kelly Gallagher MBE to Paralympic gold at Sochi 2014, and went on to receive an MBE for their services to Paralympic Sport, along with a nomination for BBC Sports Personality of the Year. She took part in Leg 5, from Airlie Beach to Qingdao, China and said: “From the first few days of my Level 1 training, to this point, I have conquered a lot of fears. I actually have a big fear of water so just deciding to do something like this was huge for me. I feel like I’ve got a lot of things done on the boat and contributed as best as I can and I’ve really enjoyed testing my mental capacity with a new sport, plus I have met some totally incredible people and made friends for life.”

Circumnavigator crew member Simon ‘Wing Commander’ Rosbottom took on the on board media role during the race and kept followers updated by sending the most amount of blogs, photos and footage from the boat. A Civil Engineer with a very keen interest in geography, maritime geology and maths, Simon often found pleasure in writing interesting references of the places, waters, and solar system views the team experienced.

Without access to google at sea, this excerpt from a blog during Race 11 to Panama on a long, hot Friday 13 May, was particularly impressive: “On a warm cloudless night, a highlight of the night watches is the Milky Way. Once the half moon is well below the western horizon, a river of stars slowly reveals itself, stretching from horizon to horizon. From our position half way out from the centre of our flat, spiral galaxy, we can look up through its thickness at the bulk of its 400 million stars.

“Ordinarily prominent stars such as Deneb in Cygnus, The Swan, become drowned in the background ribbon of millions of distant stars. Sagittarius is prominent and well above the horizon at these latitudes. Through this constellation the centre of our galaxy lies, a supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A* (A-Star) some 26,000 light years away. Cosmologist Carl Sagan once wrote that astronomy is an uplifting yet humbling experience - it certainly is, viewed from this little boat, in this vast ocean.”

Back to the race course and it was consistency, and bonus points, which ensured GREAT Britain’s final podium position. Over the 14 races, GREAT Britain had only dropped out of the top half of the fleet once until the almost heartbreaking final race when the team recorded its lowest finish of tenth place, pipped on the line by Unicef by mere seconds. But it was enough to keep Garmin in fourth overall position, albeit by just one point. In the end every single race position, sail change and trim, pint of sweat, hour of sleep lost, and those all-important bonus points, counted. That’s ocean racing for you

Conrad Bird, Head of the GREAT Campaign at Number 10, who hosted the team at the Foreign Office before the race start and was in London to meet the team at the finish, said: “It is has been brilliant work by Peter and his team. It was totally fantastic, they surpassed all of our expectations and have done an incredibly amazing job. We’re really, really grateful for all their hard work and for promoting the best of Britain around the world.”

Thank you GREAT Britain for your charm, your enthusiastic and adventurously located tea drinking,, surprise singing talents (Amanda in Da Nang) and poetry writing (Phil Orford), your excellent bone re-setting and stitching skills, your competitive drive, and of course that very GREAT British (and Northern Ireland, Jackie!) ability to push through challenges and never complain about the weather….mostly!

Congratulations to Abi Oyepitan, Amanda Navalkar , Andrew Hendley, Andrew Mather, Anton Mitchell, Ben Moir, Bradley Hastings, Bill Lucus, Brett Shinnebarger, Charlotte Evans, Charlotte Morton-Haworth, Christine Adams, Claire Chapman, Dan Hardy, David Lewis, Dawn Miller, Debbie Porter, Deepak Pande, Dhruv Boruah, Kikki Bakker, Faye Christopherson, Heidi Malein, Ivan Howe, Jackie Patton, John Charles, Keith Barker, Leslie Hamilton, Mandy Mitten, Mark Owens, Mark Gallagher, Mark Swift, Martin Anning, Matt Connell, Mel Thompson, Memnia Theodorou, Mike Tatham, Nathan Robertson, Nick Ellis, Noel Beavis, Noreen Rahman, Penny Carter, Phil Orford, Rowan Fernando, Rupert Hamilton, Samantha Adams, Sharon Collinge, Sharon Lim, Simon Rosbottom, Steven Tng, Sunil Prabhakar, Sylvia Chesters, Tim Lawson, Ken Brown…..and not forgetting ‘Grace’ herself!

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