Intrepid grandfather from Saffron Walden who sailed around the world recalls thrill of the oceans
- Credit: Archant
A 64-year-old from Saffron Walden who recently completed the second leg of his bid to sail around the world has recalled the moment a crew member went overboard and how he has been inspired to “go green” upon his return to land.
Edward Gildea, father of three daughters and grandfather to three grandsons, set off in October from Punta del Este in Uruguay as part of a team in the ‘Clipper Round the World Yacht Race’ and sailed across the South Atlantic to Cape Town.
From there, Edward and his crew crossed the Indian and Southern Oceans to Fremantle, in Western Australia, before heading down into the Southern Ocean again and sailing under Australia and Tasmania and up to Sydney for Christmas.
On Boxing Day, they took part in the Rolex Sydney Hobart race and in the new year, they sailed from Hobart to Airlie Beach in Queensland, by the Whitsunday Islands, covering a total of 14,663 nautical miles.
In 2013, Edward completed the first leg of his trip, sailing from Brisbane through to Singapore, Qingdao in China, San Francisco, Panama, Jamaica, New York, Londonderry, Den Helder in Holland and ending his journey in London at St Katharine Docks.
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Edward said the worst part of the second trip was when a crew member went overboard in the Southern Ocean. He said it felt like they were going to lose him.
“We were in a really full-on storm in the Southern Ocean, about a week out of Cape Town. We had tough winds against us and I had been on the helm and we had too much sail up. The deck was completely awash.
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“The skipper took over the helm and he sent crews forward including another crew member and he was clipped on but he was getting the sail half down and it’s really hard to pull it down in strong winds. You just have to battle.
“He got it half down but was swept over by a big wave. We were running him over. We were just trying to pull him up by the tether. You could see his face underwater looking at us but we just could not pick him up out of the water.
“Eventually we managed to grind him up. It was probably about 10 minutes, but it felt like 20 minutes. It just felt like we were losing him. That was really hard.
“It is dangerous, but it’s part of the thrill. There’s nothing coming between you and your experience of the planet. You really are experiencing the planet with nothing in your way - the beauty, the danger, the harmony, the thrill.
“But I never felt unsafe. The only moment of fear was when this man was overboard.”
Edward, who climbed with Himalayas 18 months ago, said the best part of sailing is the ‘thrill’ from helming and getting a sudden lift from the waves.
“It’s thrilling. The moment when a strong wind in your main sail and you get a lift from the wave and suddenly the boat shoots forward and you get a curtain of spray coming up sides of the boat. This whoosh hits you in the face and you’re still steering and doing it blind. It’s just so thrilling.
“And I’ve become green since coming home. If I can sail around the world, you realise this planet is not a very big one and you understand how delicate the climates are, moving from sub-tropical to freezing temperatures.”
But asked if he would do it all again, Edward said he won’t be sailing around the world again, however he will cross another ocean.
“Sailing around the world once is good enough for me.”