Lone sailor Lisa completes world trip of spacey

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The Independent Online
IAN MacKINNON

Unlike most round-the-world sailors, her epic solo voyage has gone almost unnoticed. She still lacks a major sponsor. She owes the bank pounds 60,000.

But as Lisa Clayton sails the final few miles on the 286th day of her 31,000-mile, pounds 420,000 journey and steps ashore in the Devon port of Dartmouth this morning, these will be mere inconveniences in the face of her achievement.

In becoming the first British woman to circumnavigate the globe, unaided and non-stop, the 36-year-old former holiday firm executive scaled the heights of physical and mental endurance. At times she feared she would not make it. Her constant stream of faxed messages back to her tiny backup team in Birmingham betrayed her emotional roller-coaster.

Often though, as she battled through mountainous seas in her 39ft steel- hulled sloop, Spirit of Birmingham, her fears were well founded. Twice the boat was hit by enormous waves and "knocked down" on to its side in the Southern Ocean.

Once Ms Clayton, who sank life-savings into the voyage to realise a long- held ambition, was swept over the side by a wave, only to be lifted back aboard by the next.

Yet, for all her fears for her life, fear of failure was the larger demon. "I know I may die on this trip but that fear won't stop me going on," she wrote. "It is better to have died trying than not to have tried at all."

On the voyage, gear failures and breakdowns were her constant companion, a stark counterpoint to a grinding loneliness that left her screaming on deck and pleading with her team: "Please keep talking to me all the time ... don't stop."

In the faxes, more than 1,000 of them, she tells of scaling the 50ft mast in high seas for the first time, and the impossibility of standing against 60-70mph winds.

She celebrated crossing the equator with an egg facepack."One look in the mirror was too much - laughter bubbled up inside me and the next minute it cracked into a hundred pieces."

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