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Tunbridge Wells school student secures podium position in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

A Tunbridge Wells school student raced 3,400 miles around Australia, facing wind speeds of more than 75mph, to come third in an international yacht race.

Ellen O'Brien spent her Christmas holidays taking part in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Ellen (centre) and her teammates cross the finish line
Ellen (centre) and her teammates cross the finish line

Ellen, who has now returned home said: “They were the toughest weeks of my life in some ways but also the happiest. It was everything I expected and a million times more.”

Along with 20 teammates, Ellen travelled from Fremantle, western Australia, to Airlie Beach in The Whitsundays.

Reflecting on the route, which was the fourth of eight stages that make up the race's global route, she said: “We’ve had blistering heat, I don't think I’ve been so hot in my life. And we also had freezing cold temperatures as we headed south.

"Living below deck was far harder than I thought. I think I was a bit naïve as to how challenging the constant angle of the boat would be.

“I was away for Christmas for the first time. It was strange not waking up with my parents and my brother but I had my clipper race family with me and it’s absolutely a Christmas I will never forget.”

Ellen's family was waiting to greet her on the dock in Airlie Beach
Ellen's family was waiting to greet her on the dock in Airlie Beach

Ellen was the youngest of 700 people from around the world who signed up to take part in the Clipper 2019-20 Race, which offers the opportunity for anyone to race the world’s oceans regardless of previous sailing experience.

Led by a professional skipper and first mate, the total route is 40,000 miles long and takes eleven months to complete.

The school pupil said: “I've learnt my boundaries. Until now I’ve very much lived within my comfort zone, I’ve never really had a reason to test myself, but learnt how to take a step back if everything is going crazy, not to get too caught up in it all.

"I’ve also learnt that worrying won't get you anywhere and. I’ve also shown myself that anyone can do anything if they put their mind to it and if they really, really want it. I really wanted this so much and look where I am now.”

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