THE SOUTH AFRICAN TEAM ON PHESHEYA-RACING RIDE THE STORM INTO LES SABLES D’OLONNE
10 JUNE, 2012 | by Oliver Dewar
The South African duo of Phillippa Hutton-Squire and Nick Leggatt crossed the Global Ocean Race (GOR) Leg 5 finish line off Les Sables d’Olonne at 23:40:21 GMT on Saturday 9 June (01:40:21 Sunday 10 June local), taking third place in the circumnavigation’s final leg and securing third place overall in the GOR after 30,000 miles and 168 days of racing around the planet spread over almost nine months since the start in Mallorca last September.
In flat water and strong following wind after the passage of a front, the South African duo sped towards the finish line at good pace hitting speeds of 15 knots as Phesheya-Racing completed Leg 5 from Charleston, USA, to Les Sables d’Olonne, France. With 100% cloud cover, the grey-black, moonless and starless canopy over the finish line was broken only by a ragged band of light from the loom of the French town’s street lights as Hutton-Squire and Leggatt made landfall at the end of an epic circumnavigation.
With one reef in the main and the staysail, the final miles of the round-the-world race through the Bay of Biscay were deeply memorable for the South African duo: “It was very damp and very fast,” said Leggatt shortly after they tied-up to the Vendée Globe pontoon in Port Olona. “In many ways, it was the best sailing we’ve had in the entire race,” he adds. Indeed, the duo’s four-year-old Akilaria Class40 lit-up in the strong, downwind conditions. “It was pretty flat and the boat just picked-up on the tiniest waves and just took off doing 14 or 15 knots down the smallest waves,” explains Hutton-Squire.
As the champagne celebrations with Hutton-Squire’s family and representatives from their sponsor, bluQube, continued on the pontoon, a cold drizzle filtered through from the Atlantic, sweeping through the port. “This leg has been pretty special,” said Leggatt, turning up the collar of his foul weather gear. “We left Charleston and went right into the teeth of Tropical Storm Alberto,” he recalls. “And when we survived that, we were promptly hit by Tropical Storm Beryl and then re-hit by the same storm.” However, there was one bonus: “At least we weren’t beating, we were sailing downwind and the boat wasn’t slamming and banging and it was bad, I admit, but nowhere near as bad as out ten days upwind in the Pacific,” Hutton-Squire pointed out.
While Nick Leggatt has completed three circumnavigations, the GOR’s route around the planet was a first for Hutton-Squire: “Three years ago I never thought I’d sail around the world,” she admits. “I’d think we’d both do it again, but going a little bit faster would be good.” For both Hutton-Squire and Leggatt, sharing the entire 30,000 miles is an immense achievement: “Something we’re most proud of is being the only team in the race to have done it the whole way together,” says Leggatt. “While all the other teams swapped co-skippers, we stuck together,” he adds. “Not only are we still talking, but we’re talking about maybe doing the next GOR in 2013,” he confirms.
However, before formal plans for the next adventure are drawn up, the duo still have some travelling to complete: “We’ll sail the boat back to England and carry out some sailing with our sponsors, bluQube, and then home to South Africa,” says Hutton-Squire. “We’ll just spend some time re-thinking what has happened, what we’ve just done and, basically, chilling out!”
While Leggatt and Hutton-Squire recover from Leg 5, one Class40 remains at sea and at 02:00 GMT on Sunday, the Dutch father-and-son duo of Nico and Frans Budel in fourth place were 155 miles from the Les Sables d’Olonne finish line averaging 9.2kts with Sec. Hayai.
GOR leaderboard at 02:00 GMT 10/6/12:
1. Cessna Citation 17d 22h 50m 14s (162 points)
2. Financial Crisis 19d 01h 19m 48s (132 points)
3. Phesheya-Racing 23:40:21 GMT 9/6/12 (96 points)
4. Sec. Hayai DTF 155 9.2kts