WYE rower and sailor Eric Froggatt is celebrating with his Clipper crew mates after taking the third stage of the 2023-24 Round the World Race from Cape Town to western Australia.

After an arduous 22 days at sea racing 4,700 nautical miles through the circumpolar Roaring 40s, their Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam yacht arrived first into Fremantle just before 8am local time last Sunday morning.

It was an amazing turnaround, given that they started the leg last of the 11-boat fleet after two stages from Portsmouth to Uruguay, and then on to South Africa.

But they pushed towards the front beside Zhuhai and Dare To Lead after five days, and then sailed clear to win by just over eight hours from the former, securing the Marlow Roaring 40s Challenge after more than three weeks of extreme sailing.

Monmouth Rowing Club member Eric, a co- founder of local business Siltbuster, did one of the stages six years ago, but has signed on for the full global trip this time, with the crew facing huge swells, challenging weather and freezing temperatures this time, in one of the longest, most testing legs of the circumnavigation.

On arrival into port, skipper Josh Stickland said: “We are very happy with our placing and it was a good performance. We just kept doing what we were doing and it paid off. I’m so proud of the team.

“The last time I did this race, for around 3,000 miles it was upwind. The conditions on this race were more characteristic of the Roaring Forties.

“The big waves made the boat feel very small. This race was the first time that we got this boat properly planing – our top speeds weren’t amazing but we were consistent and balanced, going consistently 13-14 knots and had some really good surfs.”

The Roaring Forties (40 degrees south of latitude) is one of the most remote places on the planet, where few sailors venture. The intrepid crew faced winds of more than 70 knots, huge sea states and lived in solitude with no other human life for thousands of miles around.

But having arrived in time for breakfast, Eric and crewmates were able to enjoy a real Aussie welcome – cold beers and a sausage sizzle!

Two other Wye Valley sailors who were still in the middle of the ocean battling the elements have also now finished.

Former Metropolitan Police officer David Hartshorn skippered Bekezela to fourth, crossing the line on Wednesday (December 13).

And Old Monmothian Angus Whitehead, the youngest professional sailor in the race at just 20, was at the back of the fleet playing catch up on Yacht Club Punta del Este after a broken mast track lost them valuable time, but finished on Thursday.

Angus, the boat’s first mate, posted that after losing 200 miles, and battling both wind holes and then violent winds, it had been a real test of the crew’s ‘resilience’.

“This leg has been a lesson in determination and maintaining a level of morale,” he said. But while they all had stories of how hard and painful it has been, or the cold on their faces, hands and feet, all the crew had a smile on their face.

“These moments are a testament to the human spirit, not only on Yacht Club Punta del Este, but all of the boats with everyone facing their own challenges,” he says.

They had been tested on Leg 1 when they showed ‘resilience’ to escape a wind hole and push from last to second with ‘sail change after sail change’, and on Leg 2 had fought 14 days of upwind, a lesson in “standing up in the face of adversity and taking what is given not dreaming what could have been”.

“It’s important to take the lessons, the stories and the memories and use them as a force of good, as we are doing now,” he adds.

“It is nice to win and be competitive, but it isn’t those moments that you remember. As a wise man once wrote on our quote wall “If you can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, stride down there and light the thing yourself.”