Shropshire Star

Flashback to 2005: Making some waves in toughest yacht race

They were taking a well-earned break in New Zealand after travelling half way round the globe as part of the world's toughest yacht race.

The crew of BP Explorer taking part in the Global Challenge Yacht Race

David Pugh and Major Malhi, both from the Midlands, were members of BP Explorer ocean racing team taking part in the 2004/05 Global Challenge.

By late January 2005, the crew had arrived in Wellington, New Zealand where they were to spend a few weeks making repairs to the boat before setting off on the next leg to Sydney, Australia.

Mr Pugh, a builder from Wolverhampton, from Mr Malhi, a retired company director, from Stirchley, Telford, were also celebrating their team earning second place after the most dangerous leg of the contest.

Twelve yachts originally set off from Portsmouth in October 2004, travelled more than 6,000 miles to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

From South America, the crews spent 34 days at sea before sailing safely into harbour in Wellington.

After the third leg to Australia, the crews were to race to Cape Town, Boston and La Rochelle before making their way back to Portsmouth.

Mr Pugh had been inspired to take on the challenge after watching his wife Anne successfully complete it four years earlier on board the winning yacht LG Flatron.

Reflecting on the second leg of the race, he told the Star: "All I remember from the Southern Ocean is the cold. Getting out of my bunk and going up on deck where it was absolutely freezing was difficult sometimes."

"Going round Cape Horn was a real achievement though, as you think to yourself: I'm doing something that not many people have achieved," he added.

Quantity surveyor Anne was following her husband round the world - but this time by plane.

"I don't feel too worried about him when he's at sea because I know he's got a very professional skipper and the yachts are virtually indestructible, but it is always good to see him when he arrives safely in port," she said.

Meanwhile Mr Malhi had an enthusiastic fan club to cheer him on back in England as his four children tracked his progress with regulars at the family’s pub, the Seven Bar and Restaurant in Shifnal.

Major Malhi

Daughter Rochelle Malhi said they had been missing their father but were very proud of his adventures.

“They aren’t even allowed to take mobile phones with them and all he’s got is a laminated picture of us all,” she said.

“But its an incredible thing for him to take part in.

“They aren’t travelling round the usual way but are going in the opposite direction, which is apparently a lot more difficult. He has always had an interest in yachting and has been training for this event for two and a half years.”

Mr Malhi’s travels were providing holiday opportunities for his family though.

His daughters Carla, 22, and Cass, 24 were planning to fly out to meet him in Sydney and Rochelle and sister, Melissa, 29, hoped to join him later in South America.

The BP Explorer crew arrived back in England to take up third place on the winner's podium.

They had been set to take first place but felt their elation turn to despair as they lost their lead after taking a wrong turn on the final leg.

The team had been leading the score board until that point, performing consistently well in each leg of the trip to gain the highest number of points overall.

It all went wrong in the the final stretch when, after more than eight months at sea, the crew set off from La Rochelle to make their way back to the home shores of Portsmouth and missed one of the race markers.

“We had a disastrous leg. We made a mistake and had to go back 30 miles to go round it again,” he said.

“But everybody who did the race has achieved circumnavigating the world so we were all winners really.

“It was better than I hoped for and we got so much attention at all the ports we stopped at.

“I’m still waiting to come down from the high of it all.”

The race also saw Laura Alexander, from Basingstoke, agree to marry Graham Thompson, from West Sussex, after he popped the question as they rounded the treacherous waters of Cape Horn in rival boats.

It was thought to be the first time two competitors had become engaged during a major sporting event.

Mr Thompson had to use an open radio frequency, meaning that the intimate moment was heard by all 216 competitors in the challenge.

Mr Thompson bought the engagement ring on a race stopover in Argentina and arranged for Ms Alexander's crewmate, Mr Pugh, to present it as he proposed.

He admitted it was a "pretty unorthodox way of proposing", but said: "Rounding Cape Horn is such a significant landmark for sailors that I decided that it was the perfect place to do it."

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