Vicki returns from epic voyage

By Ted JeoryA FORMER Essex schoolgirl is back on dry land after surviving 20ft waves and 11 months at sea in the world's longest round the world yacht race.

By Ted Jeory

A FORMER Essex schoolgirl is back on dry land after surviving 20ft waves and 11 months at sea in the world's longest round the world yacht race.

Vicki Holt, a former pupil at Felsted School, sailed home in front of 80,000 people who turned out in Liverpool to watch the gripping finish to Clipper 2002 race.

The 30-year-old was on board Bristol Clipper, which finished second on Saturday after 35,000 miles at sea, just behind Jersey.

One of 14 crew aboard the boat, Miss Holt had little previous sailing experience when she decided to take up the challenge and leave behind her management consultancy job in London for a year.

The contest saw eight professionally-skippered boats compete over an extended route around the world, taking in Brazil, Cape Town, New York and Panama.

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"I've got mixed feelings," Miss Holt said last night. I'm glad to be back, but a little sad that we didn't clinch first place – that was what we were after.

"It's all been a bit hectic, but wow, it was great. I've just realised that I'm 30 – the whole thing has been a year out of my life."

Miss Holt, who is single, said the scariest part of her gruelling trip had been just after she had set off from Liverpool last year.

"We were in the middle of a hurricane around the Bay of Biscay and it was only then really that I realised how inexperienced at sea I was – it was terrifying," she recalled

"But I also saw the most beautiful sights – Cape Town in sunset and dolphins and pilot whales following us.

"But it's also a little bit back to reality – I'm not sure what's next, maybe a holiday like the Great Barrier Reef."

Her mother Freya Williams, said: "I was quite determined not to cry, but I did – it was relief really. When she set off 11 months ago, you can't help but worry about 20ft high waves.

"I'm just so relieved that she came back in one piece. It's an absolutely fantastic feeling to see her again, I've hugged her no end."

Founded by record-breaking sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the event was designed to create the opportunity for amateur and novice sailors to compete with the professionals on the world stage.

ted.jeory@eadt.co.uk

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