As Team Save the Children finishes, skipper Paul Kelly writes about the hardest leg

I was asked the other day if I’d write how I felt about the leaders sailing into a wind hole and us being able to make up some ground. I think the desired response was that we were very excited about reducing the deficit of miles to the boats in front. In fact it only served to prolong the agony of being at the back as I knew full well that the inevitable would happen: we, too, would sail into the same hole and the joy of reducing the miles would be short lived.

This is exactly what happened and yesterday saw us parked up on a millpond. The sunset was fantastic but that is about the only good thing that happened! The worst part about being back here is the other boats finishing. The elation of crossing the line is fantastic and the thought that some of the boats are in and enjoying a well-earned beer makes our position more of a reality.

Knowing that we sailed the boat hard and fast and overcame a lot of hardship on this leg makes it a slightly less bitter pill to swallow but I can’t help but feel envy and indeed jealousy for those crews. Most of the fleet have had their own little private battles on their hands and a true drama has unfolded. There will be a few gutted people when all the boats have finished, at the back and at the front.

I mainly feel disappointment – not with the crew, the boat or our performance but with the chain of events leading to where we are, 11th, at the back, disappointed we haven’t been able to bask in the glory that we thoroughly deserve. I’m filled with a huge sense of achievement that we sailed the boat so well, worked together as a team in a way that I can only compliment and not criticise. We’ve fought hard to fulfil the promise we made to each other the night of the medevac, while sitting around the cockpit in a stormy bay off Hobart: we are not coming last. It is little consolation but it is the main thing that has motivated us to keep pushing over the past five and a bit weeks.

This leg has been hard, really hard. I have very little positive to say about the Southern Ocean. It is a place that tests your nerves, pushes you to your physical and mental boundaries and sometimes beyond. It grinds you down, it tests you, punishes you and then in stark contrast amazes you with its untouched beauty. One thing is for sure, none of us will ever forget this place in a hurry and for most it is a case of ‘been there, done that and I’m not going back’.

We are now stronger than ever, we’ve had five weeks to come to terms with our position and have used the time well to think about the remainder of the race. The watches are settled and are led by two highly respected individuals. The crew dynamic of the boat changed after leaving Sydney in a way I never expected but always hoped for, the whole crew are happy, characters have emerged and people have come out of their shells a little more. Its amazing how small changes make big differences.

My thoughts now are on resting, keeping the fighting spirit alive and starting the next leg with the energy and enthusiasm that this team has developed and nurtured. Everyday this race and these people never fail to amaze me.

Paul Kelly, skipper Team Save the Children