MEET THE CLIPPER FLEET

Whitsunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Peter Car­ruthers

TRACY Charles is stand­ing on the dock at Abell Point Ma­rina, her eyes cast seaward, wait­ing for her hus­band John Charles and the boat GREAT

Bri­tain.

Since the Clipper fleet left Hobart she has been glued to the race tracker. She can only imag­ine about con­di­tions on board and how her hus­band has been fair­ing.

Cir­cum­nav­i­gat­ing the globe had been on his bucket list since he re­tired. She was happy to sup­port him but said it had been an “emo­tional roller­coaster”.

“This is the first time in our 30 years’ to­gether that (he is on) an ad­ven­ture with­out (me),” she said.

But her hus­band’s voy­age has also cat­a­pulted Ms Charles into a jour­ney of her own she never ex­pected to make.

Along the way she has trav­elled and shared ac­com­mo­da­tion with other wives and girl­friends of sailors in pur­suit of the Clipper race.

“We un­der­stand what we are all go­ing through,” she said.

“Whether it be happy or sad or fear, it’s one of those things you re­ally bond over.”

Ms Charles has ex­pe­ri­enced all th­ese emo­tions and more. On Leg One of the race from Lon­don to Rio De Janeiro, Mr Charles was up the mast fix­ing stays on the hal­yard when a big wave hit the yacht.

“It ba­si­cally flicked him out, he was smashed on the mast like a rag doll,” she said.

Spend­ing the re­minder of the leg below deck, he then faced four days in a Rio hos­pi­tal and had two ma­jor surg­eries. The sur­geon said he was lucky to be alive – the lac­er­a­tion had missed his artery by four mil­lime­tres.

Mr Charles re-joined the race in Albany, West Aus­tralia.

Back on the dock on Sun­day night, Ms Charles picks Great

Bri­tain’s nav­i­ga­tion lights in the dis­tance and her heart races a bit faster. Re­united, the cou­ple will en­joy time to­gether in Air­lie Beach be­fore say­ing farewell again when the fleet leaves the Whit­sun­days and Aus­tralia for Viet­nam on , Jan­uary 18.

RE­UNITED: Tracy and John Charles en­joy a hug af­ter Race 6 in Air­lie Beach.

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