David Pugh and team aboard the Clipper yacht Liverpool crosses the Jersey finish line 21/7/06

Two major milestones mark the last 24 hours forLiverpool’s crew as they complete both their circumnavigation and the Atlantic race.

After 17 days at sea,Liverpoolfinally crossed the line today to become the sixth boat to complete the North Atlantic leg of the Clipper race, 27 hours and 8 minutes behind the lead boat. Ahead of us, in order, finishedNew York,Western Australia,Victoria,QingdaoandJersey. It’s a slightly odd finish – we’re still 30 miles from the nearest land, so it’s hard to believe we’ve crossed an ocean. Perhaps Jersey will help to reinforce reality.

The last few hours of the race have been a welcome and uplifting change from the previous 48 hours’ light airs. As promised by the shipping forecast, the wind came round to the south as we penetrated deeper into Sole, allowing us a fast 9 knot reach across a calm sea on a direct course to the finish line. Helming the boat was a real pleasure, and with Singapore hovering on the horizon astern the competitive edge has been maintained right to the finish. We had hoped to make up the 10 miles required to boost us into fifth place ahead ofJersey, but clearly the other boat has made good adequate speeds to maintain their lead as they finished 45 minutes ahead, giving an average of 7.5 knots.

Last night also marked another, for some perhaps even more important milestone asLiverpoolintersected her outward course to complete her circumnavigation. Celebrations were a bit low key, although Tim kindly provided a bottle of bubbly to share between the crew – a real treat on an otherwise ‘dry’ boat. The general reaction seemed to be ‘I don’t feel much different’ – a point on the ocean holds little emotional appeal. No doubt the return to Liverpool will really mark the achievement for most.

Neap tides should make our passage to Jersey fairly straightforward, and we’ll now be using engine and sails to make progress as fast as possible for the remaining 120 miles. The boat has become an instant hive of activity – each boat is ‘deep cleaned’ between each race, a laborious process involving lifting all the floorboards to wash the bilges, cleaning each bunk area and making sure the galley is clear of any stray food from the past few weeks’ cooking.

The watch on deck are at present flaking down the No.2 yankee, normally stowed on deck to allow an instant change from the No.1 should the wind pick up, and the newly-relieved starboard watch are headed below to one of the best lunches I’ve had during my time aboard – home-made pizza.

The drone of the engine underlies all, and will for the rest of the voyage – sailing under plain sail is permitted, but spinnakers
are never used when not racing for fear of damage.

It’s maybe not the ideal time for fluffy visitors, but in addition to the ship’s bear Barnaby, a racing pigeon has decided that this is the ideal place to alight for a rest. He doesn’t exactly look slim, but even so bread and water are clearly welcome. The crew feel similarly – much of the enthusiasm for cleaning the boat comes from a desire to get ashore and in the bar as fast as possible. People’s priorities are different, but family, fresh vegetables and beer seem to be almost equal at present. It’s strange how a couple of weeks at sea simplifies tastes.