After 40,000 nautical miles, almost 11 months, six continents and a few heart-stopping moments, Daniel Ho has finally joined an elite group of round-the-world sailors. Quite an achievement for the 38-year-old doctor from Sydney who had no sailing experience before his global odyssey.
‘‘I can’t wait to step on land. When I do that it will really feel like it is all over", Dr Ho said speaking via satellite phone from the River Thames in London.
Dr Ho set off as crew member on Team Garmin, one of a dozen 70-foot Clipper yachts that left London last September on a voyage that would bring him around the world and briefly back to his home town halfway through the circumnavigation to take part in the Sydney to Hobart race.
‘‘The hardest part was missing my family," he said. "Coming back to Sydney [in December last year] in the middle of the trip ... it was so hard to leave. I really thought about packing it in then, but I made a pact with another crewmate that we would both stick it out. So we both helped each other.’’
He said he was most looking forward to having a shower, getting some clean clothes and giving his two children, aged five and seven, a big hug.
‘‘The world is an amazingly large place. If you don’t look you won’t appreciate it,’’ Dr Ho said.
The Clipper race was not without its dramas. Yachts were knocked down by gale-force winds, one sailor spent 90 minutes in the freezing waters of the north Pacific after falling overboard, there were two hurricanes, growler icebergs and 120-knot winds.
But despite the hardships, Dr Ho and his fellow Australians on Team Garmin – Mike Morawa, Alan Bartley, Courtney Powys and Tracey Polglaze – felt it was worth it.
Sydney sailor Chris Hollis, who skippered PSP Logistics in the race, said the last day of racing was one of the most demanding of the series. "At the beginning, people try to tell you about it and what to expect, but until you do it, you just dont know. All I can say is, 'expect the unexpected, go with it and have fun'."
One of Dr Ho’s highlights was being at the helm in tough conditions in the Southern Ocean. ‘‘When your back is against the wall, you feel a lot more alive. All your senses are super sharp.’’
Apart from treating a crew member's head injury and putting in some stitches, Dr Ho said he didn’t really have to use his medical skills on the trip, but it was a comfort for the others knowing he was on board.
‘‘You realise you can’t do it by yourself," he said. "You learn to be resilient. Everyone has a day when you’re really down but you help each other through.’’
Other Australian crew in the race included Sydneysiders Kath Hall, Mark Pigram and Ursula Stroh.
The entire fleet was welcomed to London by a parade of sail on the River Thames on Saturday before hitting dry land and taking a long, well-deserved hot shower.