Despite his trials and tribulations during the Velux 5 Oceans, Graham Dalton completes his circumnaviation 19/6/07

Graham Dalton, onboard his Open 50 A Southern Man – AGD, yesterday completed his voyage round the world when he arrived at 03:15 local time (02:15 UTC) into Bilbao, Spanish Basque Country.

While many others would have given up after the consecutive ordeals that the skipper endured, the determined Kiwi sailed back to Bilbao to complete his own personal challenge and a monumental solo circumnavigation, which is a testament to his character and conviction.

Only days before his arrival, on 15 June Dalton reported that he had lost his port rudder. Yet he was determined to make it to Bilbao when he left Norfolk (Virginia, USA).

Graham Dalton said: “You never give up. I see it as a lack of character. I see it in yachting, I see it in other sports, where someone’s not winning, and because someone’s not winning, they give up. I see it as a heresy; I see it as a lack of backbone. You have to take it on the chin, you have your good days and your bad days.”

“To complete the race is something I’ve wanted to do for 40 years and that I’ve worked towards my entire life. Not just Leg 2, but 40 years. Everything you’ve done in your life has been geared towards this. But these things happen. I’m going to Spain, I’ve said before and I’ll say again, there’ll be snow on the Equator before I give up. I can’t change any administrative decision, that’s a simple fact of life, but what I can change is the way I react to it. The way I react it is we will do what we have to do here, and we will reach Spain.”

Although Dalton is not classed as a finisher in the Velux 5 Oceans 2006-07 he decided to complete the epic journey in memory of his beloved deceased son, Tony whose photograph and spirit have shared this journey with Dalton. His son tragically died of cancer and the boat is called Southern Man AGD, his son’s initials.

At 02:57 local time (06:57 GMT) on Wednesday 25 April, brave solo skipper Graham Dalton finally arrived in Norfolk, Virginia (USA), 102 days after leaving Fremantle (Western Australia), in what was an enormous battle across the Southern Ocean. He completed leg two of the Velux 5 Oceans, but was not able to complete leg three within race rules and was therefore classed ‘Did Not Start Leg 3’.

Sailing onboard an Open 50 yacht, Dalton’s race was plagued by onboard problems that have caused him to make no less than six pit stops around the world. Whilst at sea, A Southern Man – AGD showed great pace but was battered by extreme weather and strong winds that would have tested the nerve of the hardest of competitors.

The race rules stated that a competitor must spend a mandatory 72 hours in Norfolk and start leg three within one week of the start gun firing. The remaining competitors left Norfolk at 12:20 on Wednesday April 18. This meant that in order to respect the 72 hour rule, Dalton needed to arrive in the Virginian city by 12:20 on Sunday April 15. Although he did not officially complete the race, he had in fact already completed a solo circumnavigation of the planet, as his qualification for the Velux 5 Oceans was a solo navigation from Norfolk to Bilbao – so his arrival into Norfolk completed the circle he started in September 2005.

Despite all the problems of leg two, Dalton still looked set to reach Norfolk in time until lady luck dealt a final blow as a storm shredded his genoa and damaged the autopilot system, meaning he had to seek port once again in Bermuda. Race rules also mean that competitors must respect a 48-hour time penalty for receiving outside assistance. This left nearly 600 miles for A Southern Man – AGD to cover in just over 24 hours, from Bermuda to Norfolk, in order for him to continue in the race in accordance with the rules.

Commenting from race HQ, Race Director David Adams concludes: “This race is truly one of the toughest sporting events in the world, that tests us physically, mentally and emotionally. Although the 2006-2007 Velux 5 Oceans race itself is finished and Graham no longer has any obligations as a competitor, he is showing tenacity in finishing the course single-handed in memory of his son Tony.”

– 21 December 2005: Son Tony dies of cancer and begins dream of sailing around world solo in new boat

– 19 October 2006: Mast spreaders damaged by storm in Bilbao, causing him to miss race start (Oct 22)

– 27 October: Leaves Bilbao one week after the start but avoids the atrocious Bay of Biscay Storm

– 3 November: PIT STOP 1: Pulls into Porto Santo to make repairs to rudder

– 19 December: PIT STOP 2: Pulls into Kerguelen Islands to re-fuel and repair torn headsail

– 21 December: One year anniversary of Tony’s death, alone at sea

– 24 December: Runs into largest storm in the race and questions his survival as he is battered by 90 mph winds

– 25 December: Christmas alone at sea

– 2 January, 2007: FINISH LEG ONE: Arrives fourth in Fremantle and is informed that wife Robbie underwent a mastectomy for breast cancer that she discovered during the first leg

– 14 January: Start of leg two from Fremantle to Norfolk

– 27 January: PIT STOP 3: Pulls in Bluff (New Zealand) to replace food supplies ruined by diesel leak

– 13 February: Breaks two fingers close to where his boom snapped in the Around Alone 2002

– 21 February: PIT STOP 4: Pulls into Port Stanley, Falkland Islands, to re-fuel and repair headboard car

– 14 March: PIT STOP 5: Damages rudder cassette and arrives in Fortaleza (Brazil)

– 19 March: Discovers keel bulb has fallen off, after suffering food poisoning and all electrical and navigational equipment has been stolen, whilst in Fortaleza

– 4 April: Leaves Brazil after building a new keel bulb in local yard

– 19 April: PIT STOP 6: Pulls into Bermuda after shredding genoa is storm and to repair autopilot system

– 25 April: FINISH LEG TWO: Arrives in Norfolk, but too late to start leg three without breaking race rules

– 1 June: Departs on spiritual journey from Norfolk destined for Bilbao to complete race course

– 15 June: Dalton reports that he has lost his port rudder

– 18 June: Arrives in Bilbao