Saffron Walden man returns home after sailing round the world for six months
11:20 31 July 2014
When Edward Gildea was 19 he hitchhiked around Europe and the Middle East on a budget of £100. In his words, the journey was about transitioning from boyhood to adulthood.
Forty years later Edward felt it was time to make the next transition in his life. While walking through the London Underground he spotted a poster advertising a round-the-world sailing race. At first, he ignored it. But day after day he walked by that same poster until the temptation of that next great adventure became too much.
Edward took the words of Mark Twain onboard, threw off the bowlines and sailed away from the safe harbour.
Explore. Dream. Discover. That was what he intended to do.
At the age of 60, the Saffron Walden resident set about making his transition into retirement with an epic six-month voyage which saw him join a 15-strong crew taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
“The best thing is no sailing experience is needed,” said Edward, who has three daughters and recently became a grandfather.
“They give you three weeks’ training beforehand, so all you need is to be slightly insane!
“My dad taught me when I was little, and I’ve sailed in the Mediterranean, but I’ve never done anything like this.”
After leaving Brisbane, which Edward later admits was not the smartest place to start because of the rocky waves the team endured, the 70ft yacht headed towards Singapore. From there, the crew went on to Qingdao in China, San Francisco, down to Panama and round to New York.
At each port, Edward left his sea legs behind and spent a few days on dry land.
“We aimed to have five days to a week off, but ocean racing doesn’t run to a schedule,” added Edward, a former headteacher and education consultant who lives in Chaters Hill.
“I think the toughest part was in the Taiwan Straits, between China and Taiwan, because of the very strong head winds.
“We were tacking all the time so instead of doing six to seven knots we were actually doing one to two knots VMG (Velocity Made Good).
“It meant we were only inching towards our destination and I had to dig deep to get through it because you know you’ve still got thousands of miles to go. It was physically draining – I had bruises because I was being thrown around.”
The final stretch saw the team cross the Atlantic, stop off in Ireland, head round the Outer Hebrides, dock in Holland and finally cross the finish line in London.
“There were so many gorgeous sunsets and dawns,” said Edward when asked about his favourite moment from the trip.
“Sailing under the Golden Gate Bridge at midnight was amazing, while we were also followed by a big school of pilot whales in the Mid-Atlantic.
“It was lovely to arrive in New York, too. We sailed past the Statue of Liberty, which was all lit up, and I’ll never forget the sight of the Manhattan skyline – it was exquisite as it grew and grew on the horizon.”
Now in its ninth year, the Clipper Round the World has eight legs – of which people can sign up to join at any one – and 16 races in total.
It was created by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, 75, who in 1969 became the first sailor to complete a single-handed non-stop circumnavigation of the globe.
Reflecting on the voyage, Edward told the Reporter: “There’s that point in your life where you’ve got health, wealth and time – and I wanted to use it.
“The voyage was an enormous exclamation mark in my life.
“I’m still very proud of living it rough and having the adventures and scrapes I had when I went travelling at the age of 19. That was my transition from boyhood to manhood and this has been a transition from manhood to old age!”