We didn’t make it on Monday. We arrived in at 1.30am Tuesday morning – although it felt a lot later. Having not been to bed since I got up for the 2am – 6am shift 24 hours ago, I was a little tired to say the least.
But the entrance into Sydney was something else. Let me rewind a few hours.
We spent rather a long time looking at Botany Bay. Hours and hours in fact. Being so close to land, we all had internet reception, so were in touch with the real world at long last. I had the race viewer on my phone, and found out that the last two boats, Teletubbies and PSP had both accepted eleventh and twelfth places and were now motoring into Sydney. We expected a call at any time to say that Derry had accepted tenth place, and we both would also be motoring in. We waited and we waited. Nothing. Bearing in mind our boat was being lifted for anti-fouling the following day, no-one could understand why the decision hadn’t been called.
I was on the helm for a good few hours, so when Michael suggested that I phone Paul so that he could meet up with Michael’s wife at the CYCA I told him to use my phone and do it himself. No using the telephone whilst driving on here! He spoke to Paul (they had met in London in the run up to departure) and the two waiting relatives drunk several glasses together in anticipation of our arrival. Wendo was visibly upset at the fact that we were not getting in to the harbour during daylight hours when it could have so easily been so. Sydney Harbour is like her back yard – she sails out of it, and has even lived in it for months and months at a time. She is a local legend being chosen as a skipper in this race – what a PR faux pas Clipper have made here.
Wendo then got a phone call from one of her sailing buddies on Last Tango to say that they were coming out to meet us. That put a smile on her face. This was the moment that she had been waiting for, when all her pals would be there to welcome her home. We all hoped they hadn’t all gone home.
I then found out on my phone (again) that Derry had accepted tenth place, but incredulously it stated on the race viewer that Danang Vietnam were still racing. Against whom? What a joke. We had to wait another two hours before we were given the OK to turn on the engine and motor towards the harbour. She then asked if Paul would like a ride out to meet us on a boat – she knew that there would be several boats that would be sailing out to meet her. She put in a phone call – and within minutes Paul had got a ride on “Not a Dull Moment” (topical being married to me!). She said they would meet us inside the harbour.
We had Last Tango meet up with us first, and accompanied us (a bit too closely at times – Emily wanted to get the fenders out to make sure we didn’t collide!). Then a power boat came roaring up – can’t remember what that one was called – and there was great hilarity on both boats. Just as we were coming up to the heads, we saw two boats waiting for us outside. Not a Dull Moment and Wild Thing. Oh dear – Paul does not travel well and I could see that they were bobbing around a little. Fingers crossed!! Wild Thing was playing Wild Thing very loudly on the stereo – the boat was the reason that this was our song. I am sure Paul was on the boat somewhere – couldn’t see him as it was pitch dark. Marc decided to shout over to Paul – “No wonder you wanted to get rid of her for a year. Her snoring is awful”. Thanks Marc!
We got inside the heads, and even more boats were there to accompany us in. Wendo was in awe of the people who were there to meet us. She didn’t even know them all. There was champagne being sprayed over the side of our boat (what a waste – could have done with some of that being in mind the time of the night it was!) and so many people shouting and congratulating Wendo. I was so pleased for her. The local girl was coming home, and the people were there – even at past midnight – to greet her.
The race office came on the radio, and said they were sending out a skiff to meet us. A little tongue in cheek, Wendo replied that they would be able to recognise us, as we were the large boat in the middle of the flotilla.
The lights in Sydney Harbour were spectacular. As we turned one of the corners the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge appeared, lit up and standing out like jewels on a tiara. Magnificent. If we had come in during the day we would have missed this.
By the time we had moored by the other Clipper Ships, we could see the pontoon absolutely full of people. Amongst them Paul, Fran and Georgina. Georgina was jumping up and down with excitement so much I thought she might fall in. It was a lovely arrival – and to see Paul after nearly four months was the icing on the cake. Nobody else had a welcome into Sydney like we did – and all the stress of the time that it had taken to get in was soon forgotten. After a bottle or two of the sparkly stuff of course!