The wild sea is still calling me

A yatchsman whose dream of winning a solo transatlantic race ended when his boat capsized is back on dry land - and says he is not striking his colours just yet.

Ross Hobson with wife Sally

A yatchsman whose dream of winning a solo transatlantic race ended when his boat capsized is back on dry land - and says he is not striking his colours just yet.

Ross Hobson, 46, from Kirkley, near Ponteland, Northumberland, was winning his class in the 3,500-mile Route du Rhum race when a 60-knot gust capsized his boat Ideal Stelrad in five metre waves on November 7.

The dental lecturer was forced to spend eight hours in the dark on the upturned hull, 1,750 miles off the American coast, with no way to contact the coastguard, before he was rescued by a Spanish ship.

Mr Hobson, now back in the North-East, said at the time of his rescue he was considering giving up racing, after his wife Sally, 44, and their sons Peter, 19, and Simon, 17, spent anxious hours not knowing whether he was alive or dead.

But he told The Journal last night: "Potentially I will sail again, although probably not solo across the Atlantic, because of what my wife and family had to go through.

"They are not keen for me to go single-handed again, although I would consider racing in the waters around Britain and Ireland.

"It was frustrating following the rest of the race, watching guys I know finish, when it could have been me.

"I later found out, that in the position I was in and with the wind at my back, at the time the boat capsized, I would have been ahead of my class by 300 miles within the next 48 hours. I was that close to victory."

Mr Hobson had to abandon his 45ft trimaran, after 15 years of sailing together, but he said last night if he raced again he would opt for a larger, faster model. He said: "It was an awful moment having to say goodbye and she looked after me to the end, but I had been considering getting another yacht before the Route du Rhum race.

"We achieved a lot together, but it was time to get a more modern model. The 60-footers are much faster - like a Formula 1 car. They have a presence. That is what I would be looking at."

The Spanish freighter Carmen dropped Mr Hobson at Santander in northern Spain on November 12 and from there he flew back to the North-East.

He has since been to visit his mother, who is seriously ill in a Belfast hospital after suffering a stroke while Mr Hobson was racing, and last week he returned to work at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

He said: "It is nice to be back home - the family was pleased to see me, but I'll never say I won't race again.

"I know my sponsors, Ideal Stelrad, were pleased with the exposure from the race and I will be meeting up with them soon to discuss the future."

Page 2: Crests and troughs

Crests and troughs

Ross Hobson was competing in the Route du Rhum race from St Malo in France to Guadeloupe in the Caribbean when the Ideal Stelrad, formerly the Mollymawk, capsized.

He had first tried to sail solo across the Atlantic in the Europe 1 Star Race from Plymouth to Rhode Island USA in June 2000, but storms snapped his 60ft main mast after 500 miles.

That August, he and his crew had to quit the Criterion Round Britain and Ireland race moments after the start, after their new mast developed a fault.

In November 2003, he was forced out of the 4,340-mile Transat Jacques-Vabre race between France and Brazil on the second day, after his vessel was holed.

And in June last year, a broken rudder put him out of the Faraday Mill Original Single-handed Transatlantic race.

There has however, been some success.

In 2001, Mr Hobson broke the record for sailing between Plymouth and La Rochelle in France and in 2002 he won the Round Britain and Ireland Race.

More success came in August 2004, when Mr Hobson and his two crewmen broke the 30-year record for the 2,870-mile crossing from Bermuda to Plymouth.

They completed the voyage in 14 days and six hours.


Luke leaves the rest in his wake

A 12-year-old who beat Britain's best young power-boat skippers picked up his prize yesterday - a £12,500 speedboat.

Luke McGill, a pupil at St Aidan's RC Comprehensive School, in Sunderland, was presented with the brand new Rib for his victory at Southampton Boat Show in September.

He beat 15 racers from across the UK - from an original field of 1,500 - in a series of timed trials.

Luke, of Mayswood Road, Fulwell, said: "I came third in last year's race, but have been training really hard for this one."

The Honda RYA Youth RIB Championship, is part of a Royal Yachting Association drive to encourage more children to get involved in boating.

Luke's time in the race, featuring a high-speed obstacle course and a man-over-board recovery, was 13 seconds ahead of the second place finisher.

He was presented with his prize, a 50hp Honda powerboat, at Sunderland Yacht Club yesterday - and he is letting the club use it as a safety vessel.

Luke said: "Maybe once or twice I'll be able to take it out on my own."


David Whetstone
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