Pippa completes her solo sailing trip from Uruguay to UK

IAN MacKELLAR A HUNTINGDONSHIRE woman s epic 6,500-mile solo trans-Atlantic voyage ended in triumph yesterday (Tuesday) – but only after she had groped blindly through the world s busiest shipping lane in thick fog. And no sooner had 35-year-old former H

IAN MacKELLAR

A HUNTINGDONSHIRE woman's epic 6,500-mile solo trans-Atlantic voyage ended in triumph yesterday (Tuesday) - but only after she had groped blindly through the world's busiest shipping lane in thick fog.

And no sooner had 35-year-old former Hinchingbrooke pupil Pippa Hildersley made landfall in Suffolk than she was preparing to make the crossing again - this time in the opposite direction and in the Original Single-Handed Trans-Atlantic race.

The 57-day trip, which has had a series of complications and setbacks, also ended in some frustration - Pippa's boat, The Shed, was unable to make land despite being within shouting distance of completing her single-handed voyage from Uruguay.

She arrived at Levington, on the Orwell estuary near Ipswich, at half-past midnight. "But my engine was broken, so I wasn't able to get into the marina," she told The Hunts Post. "I just picked up a buoy and tethered the boat.

"Then at about 8am, when I was still asleep, a team of men came to pull me into the marina."

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Now comes the dash to prepare herself and her boat for another trans-Atlantic crossing in barely two months' time.

On May 25 she sets out from Plymouth in a single-handed race to Newport, Rhode Island, a voyage she expects to complete in just under four weeks.

"Now that I know I'm well capable of sailing across the Atlantic single-handed, I can focus on training to sail fast and move up a gear. I've discovered a toughness in myself that I didn't know I had.

"It's amazing to be back - not just because I'm back, but because I'm really chuffed to have done it. I'm raring to do it all over again after I've had the boat re-fitted.

The Hunts Post has plotted her epic voyage through a series of mid-Atlantic blogs, the last of which saw her past the Azores approaching the notoriously stormy Bay of Biscay, off western France, which completely failed to live up to its reputation.

"There was a massive area of high pressure. There was no wind. I blew out my main spinnaker and it ripped to shreds. I've been thinking about it all the time since."

The hard part came later, in the English Channel. "There was very thick fog between Portland Bill and Selsey Bill. I just sailed into a fog-bank on Sunday morning. I saw nothing for about 50 miles, but the radar alarm [warning of other shipping] kept going off continuously. I could hear the ships, but I couldn't see a thing. So I haven't had an awful lot of sleep."

And the character-building experience? "Every day something will happen that will make me feel so good. Climbing the mast was a real boost to my confidence.

"When the boat is really sailing well and I have speed on, and can feel all that energy, it doesn't matter how bad the rest of the day has been.

"The worst bits are when you think you have finished a job, and something else breaks or you find the bilge is full of water. It's difficult then to find the motivation to carry on. But you don't have much choice.

"Either I can fix it and carry on or I could give up. But giving up is not an option in mid-Atlantic.

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