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First woman to win round-the-world yacht race never set out to achieve title

Australian sailor Wendy Tuck has won the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, with British skipper Nikki Henderson taking second place.

A female skipper who has sailed into the history books by becoming the first woman to win a race across the world’s oceans said she never set out to achieve the title.

More than 11 months after leaving Liverpool’s Albert Dock, a fleet of 11 Clipper Round the World Yacht Race vessels returned to the city on Saturday after completing their full circumnavigation.

It was Australian skipper Wendy Tuck who clinched overall victory on board Sanya Serenity Coast, followed closely by female British skipper Nikki Henderson on Visit Seattle.

Ms Tuck, who is originally from Sydney, spoke to the Press Association shortly after she had been thrown in Albert Dock as her crew celebrated their victory.

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Australian sailor and skipper Wendy Tuck (Andrew Matthews/PA)

The 53-year-old, who began sailing at the age of 24, said she never started the competition hoping to achieve the record of being the first woman to win an around-the-world yacht race.

“When we set out as a team we wanted to finish on the podium or the top four, and then to win and to find out the other result as well – I didn’t even think about that, it wasn’t on the radar at the start at all,” she said.

With women clinching first and second place in the overall standings, Ms Tuck said the result has “got to be nothing but positive”.

Asked how she was feeling about picking up the title and win, she said: “I am really happy, it still hasn’t sunk in just yet, it is pretty amazing.”

Describing winning as being “way up there”, she said it is definitely the “highest moment” in her sailing career so far.

“It has been tough, it has been fun, it has been heartbreaking … I think every emotion you can think of, I have felt it at some stage,” she said.

Moments before she went on stage to lift the Clipper Race trophy following a parade of sail, she said she was “so proud” of her crew, adding that they are “the most amazing team”.

The race officially ended with a sprint finish up the River Mersey to the Royal Albert Dock, won by Garmin, with throngs of spectators lining the waterside to welcome the fleet home.

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The Garmin team, centre, during a ‘sprint finish’ to conclude the Clipper 2017-2018 Round the World Yacht Race on the River Mersey in Liverpool (Peter Byrne/PA)

With Ms Tuck finishing on 143 overall points, 25-year-old Ms Henderson, the daughter of Conservative MP for Guildford Anne Milton, was hot on her heels with 139 points overall.

Portsmouth-based Ms Henderson, the youngest ever skipper in the Clipper Race, said she feels she can walk away from the competition with her head held high.

“It was always really important for me to have a good balance between doing well, but also having a happy crew and a crew that respected each other and were a good team and a good family,” she said.

“I really feel like overwhelmingly that is what I achieved.”

Describing the Clipper Race as being the hardest thing she has ever done in her life by far, Ms Henderson said she has come on a journey and that the race “will stand out forever”.

The 70ft Clipper yachts were raced across the planet by 712 amateur sailors – led by professional skippers – in the eleventh edition of the biennial race.

Split into eight legs, the first was from the UK to Punta del Este, Uruguay, and at more than 6,400 nautical miles made it the longest opening leg in the 21-year history of the race.

Across the 40,000 nautical miles as they crossed the world’s oceans, the race also visited other cities around the world including Seattle, Cape Town, Sanya and Qingdao.

Co-founder of the Clipper Race and the first person to sail solo and nonstop around the world, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, said it was a “brilliant finish” to the competition.

Asked how momentous the win by a woman is, Sir Robin said: “It is not just this race, it is any around-the-world race – it is the first time ever a female has won.

“It is bigger than people think. The fact we have first and second with both lady skippers is quite remarkable.”

Sir Robin praised the way the crews had handled a particularly difficult storm in the Pacific Ocean during the race, and said he is “very, very proud” of all the participants.

But this edition of the Clipper Race was not without incident.

In November the Greenings yacht, one of 12 which originally left Liverpool, ran aground off the coast of South Africa, forcing the vessel to be withdrawn due to the damage caused.

And in the same month, 60-year-old retired solicitor Simon Speirs, from Bristol, was killed on the leg from South Africa to Australia while racing on board the GREAT Britain yacht.

He had been on the foredeck of the vessel to help change a sail when the incident happened.

Mr Speirs became separated from the boat, which was in the Southern Ocean in what were rough seas, with 20 knots of wind and gusts at 40.

An investigation into why his tether failed to keep him attached to the boat is currently under way.

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