Former Huntingdon school pupil finishes her Cross Atlantic challenge

CROSS Atlantic yachtswoman, Pippa Hildesley, a former Hinchingbrooke pupil, set of on May 25 to sail Cazenove Capital. She achieved 5th in class and 16th over in the Ostar (Original Single Handed Transatlantic Race). Here is an extract from her blog. Jun

CROSS Atlantic yachtswoman, Pippa Hildesley, a former Hinchingbrooke pupil, set of on May 25 to sail Cazenove Capital. She achieved 5th in class and 16th over in the Ostar (Original Single Handed Transatlantic Race). Here is an extract from her blog.

June 17 - 18 miles to the finish.

OVER the last couple of days my progress has been so great that I dared to imagine sailing into Rhode Island sound with hours to spare to beat QII and BluQube. I had my chickens counted and am now paying the price.

After a blistering night, with no fog and the stars out in their splendour, the wind died.

What is unlucky for me has been lucky for Jerry on QII. Tonight, the luck will either be with me or with Katie on BluQube.

Dawn took an age; the sky to the east was purple, then pink then orange and eventually, a burning sun appeared to do its work for the day.

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I sat and waited, coaxing Cazenove Capital when I could, but organising ropes and sails and even having a wash in the calm.

Time rolled on but no sign of wind. At one point I was alerted by the sound of a wave and looked up to sea a huge dorsal fin cruise around the boat in a large arc. We are of course in whaling country.

Midday came and went and still no wind. Still I waited. Surely this is a form of torture.

Dropping the main allowed the big spinnaker to take all the air and we started to move off at two knots VMG (velocity made good). With 50 miles still to go, this was hard to bear.

Eventually, about two hours ago with 33 miles to go, a late sea breeze filled in.

Too late for me to catch QII. If the wind holds, I should arrive an hour after my target time. I still have three hours in hand for BluQube.

One happy outcome of my becalming is that my welcoming party will arrive in time to welcome me. To share my final moments with people who have supported me and shared this race with me is a prize that money cannot buy.

June 18

NEWPORT Yacht Club - just outside the bar. I am sitting at the computer onboard Cazenove Capital which is oddly still, just resting.

It is raining outside and I am listening to the sound of the wind and struggling for words.

After a heart wrenching day yesterday, the end tantalizingly close, and still seemingly just out of my reach, the wind stayed true and I made it to the finish.

Just as the sun was setting, I made my call to the committee; six miles to go and making six knots. In the distance I could see navigation lights weaving towards me. I guessed this would be my welcome, as they got closer the rib put on a spurt, leapt clean out of the water in front of me and then arced around to show me its crew: a team of well wishers from the yacht club and Mum, Rachael and Derek.

Later Martin and Jean arrived in another boat, shouting their congratulations into the night.

I cannot tell you what I felt, but I can look back and smile as they shared this moment with me.

They cruised alongside me, calling encouragement and watching me trim the spinnaker. The low light from the now set sun, bathed us in orange and then the night was upon us and I was feeling my through the darkness to a finish line. An imaginary line, drawn across a stretch of water that marked a moment in time when I would stop.

At 1:35am a hooter blew and before I knew it, I was smothered in hugs and kisses, hand shakes, helping hands. I was whisked into the dock, where other skippers were waiting for me with cheers and beers, there was champagne, strawberries, friendly faces and I did not know what to do.

Today, I have started work to turn the boat around and make it ready for sailing back. It has been a great pleasure to meet other skippers, hear their stories and share our experiences. Some of them seem so very together. Others, like me, look dazed and like they should not be allowed to cross a road unaccompanied.

Starting from the back of the fleet, I had nothing to lose. I got to know the limits at which I would arrive at exhaustion and was ever hovering just the right side of them. Single handed yacht racing is a battle against elements and emotions that goes on and on. It will build you up and then strip you down. My love for the sea and sailing becomes stronger with every ocean I cross. This year I have sailed nearly 11,000 miles single handed and am about to turn around and rack up another 3,000 on my return voyage. Every mile is a gift.

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