Voyage was like a big dipper for chipper Clipper skipper

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JUBILANT Chichester skipper Oli Osborne is back home after a triumphant Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

The former Itchenor Sailing Club boatman led his Visit Finland crew to second place in the 40,000-mile adventure of a lifetime. They and the other nine yachts finished in Southampton on Sunday, when thousands turned out to welcome them home.

After 51 weeks of ocean racing, Gold Coast Australia took first place. Visit Finland pipped Singapore to second.

Osborne, 31, who lives in Chichester and learned to sail at Itchenor, told the Observer: “Second place was more than we could have hoped for.

“The whole experience was fantastic – extremely tough but so rewarding. You’re battling the weather – and light airs can be just as challenging as the storms. And you’re cooped up in a pressure-cooker atmosphere.

“As skipper you have to try to keep everyone happy but I was lucky I had a really good crew – they were very focused and business-like.

“We managed to keep sane by having fun and doing things like playing deck cricket – and we’ve all lived to tell the tale!”

Visit Finland had one win in the 15 different race legs.

That came heading into Australia, where Osborne admitted to feeling just a little sympathy for the Gold Coast crew, who’d been desperate to win their ‘home’ leg. Osborne’s crew also notched six second-place finishes and a third.

But he said: “It’s not all about podium places. The whole idea behind the Clipper race is to get people sailing around the world who wouldn’t normally have that chance.”

Osborne set sail last year just three weeks after marrying wife Lucy, who got to several of the stop-overs to meet him. Now he is looking forward to spending quality time with her after their unusual first year of marriage.

“She was great – she’s been so supportive. She came to meet me wherever she could and she’s helped keep me sane,” he added.

Visit Finland didn’t have many dark moments. The worst was when a crew member broke a wrist and was in a temporary cast for four days before they could be taken off for treatment.

It was Osborne’s first round-the-world and ‘probably the last’ and he plans to take time out before deciding on his next project. Osborne grew up in Itchenor and went on to train youngsters on tall ships.