Sailors' sights set on happier landings: After sailing the world, adjusting to ordinary life seems daunting. John Arlidge talks to some returning crews

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The Independent Online
A YEAR ago Pippa Welch was a computer analyst from Basingstoke. On Sunday she returned to Britain after crewing a 67-foot yacht 28,000 miles around the world through 70-mile-an-hour winds and 50-foot waves. After three legs of the eight-month British Steel 'round the world the wrong way' Challenge, she recovered in Rio de Janeiro, Tasmania and Cape Town. But the most daunting part of the race was returning to Southampton.

'When the crew and I crossed the line it was the end of a four-year mission. My time has not been my own for the past four years. For three years I sacrificed good food and nights out to raise the pounds 15,000 entry fee. Then, when I was on the yacht, the days were very structured. Now I have all the time in the world to do what I want. I'm 29, have no job and no house and pounds 3,000 debts to repay. I feel daunted.'

She added: 'What we have done is extraordinary but we have got used to it. It feels odd to find people making such a fuss. I am concerned that now what ordinary people find interesting - the cinema or a darts match - I will find dull. I think it might be hard to adjust.'

Few of the returning 'family' of 130 amateur yachtsmen and women, the first group to circum- navigate the globe from east to west, say that they will find it easy to re-adjust to everyday life.

Some younger competitors want a change of direction. Jonny Norton, 24, a former Lloyd's of London insurance broker, cannot face returning to the City. 'It's so mundane and boring. There's no real challenge at all.' He wants to set up a horticulture business near his Somerset home.

Others do not want to work at all. Alison McKichan, 28, who was a member of the crew of the Commercial Union yacht which mutinied on the first leg to force a change of skipper, said: 'I loathe work. I find it so boring.' The former freelance marketing consultant said she would start 'plotting and planning' a new adventure as soon as she returned home to Edinburgh. 'My mother hoped that this trip would calm me down . . . I have returned more insane than ever.'

Some with no immediate plans or money admit to feeling deflated. Sam Wood, 23, who will next week start looking for 'two jobs' to raise the pounds 3,000 she needs to get through her first-year medicine course at Sheffield University, said: 'You look out of the window and it is grey and polluted. Nothing has changed. I find I have to keep distracting myself - forcing myself to go out - to stop myself getting miserable.'

To avoid 'moping around' Nick Jubert, 41, arranged to return to work at the Surrey company that makes uniforms for Group 4 security guards. Next month he will cut off his pony tail and remove his 'Cape Horn' ear-ring before taking his seat on the board. 'I have commitments. I am married with two teenage daughters. Even though we got used to our remarkable lives over the past eight months, we have to remember the reality is here in England. It has been wonderful - the ultimate adventure - but . . . it is time to return to earth.'

Leading article, page 21

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