They finished as they started. In fine style, all sails set, and a relaxed and happy crew looking like they had just sailed around the bay, not around the world. The wind was a steady 12 to 13 knots and the boat approached on a close reach sailing at 15 knots. They crossed the line close to the coastguard cutter that was the official finish boat providing the dignitaries on board with a terrific show as they rocketed past. A warm Qatari sun blazed down sparkling on the turquoise water as they crew threw their arms in the air in jubilation and lit flares to mark their win.
The last week of their around-the-world odyssey has been especially tedious for the team as they battled headwinds, or no wind. In fact it has been a long, hard slog all the way from south of South Africa but perhaps the worst part of the voyage has been the last 400 miles in the Strait of Hormuz. The wind died completely leaving the giant catamaran to float helplessly on a glassy sea. As Paul LARSEN (AUS) put it in one of his logs, 'each passing zephyr was pounced upon.'
The nimble cat sailed ungainly toward the finish, pouncing on zephyrs and catching whatever breeze it could in its massive sails while the crew watched the sun paint startling colours on the still water. They could smell the earthy scent of land with an occasional waft of something cooking reminding them that it had been a long time since 'real' food passed their lips.
Finally, during Friday night a steady wind filled in and the cat loped toward the finish line. First the shimmering haze off the desert sands reflected in the clear sky then signs of civilization as a small fleet of spectator boats approached the boat. Finally, just before they crossed the line, the square-topped outline of the high rise buildings in Doha came into view and then suddenly it was over. The finish gun fired and the race officially ended for Doha 2006. THOMPSON and his team have won, Tony BULLIMORE (GBR) and his crew will likely come in second, and the huge million dollar cash prize is all but in the bank.
An elated THOMPSON gave the credit to his crew, one of the most accomplished teams of offshore sailors ever assembled. 'I am lucky to have sailed around the globe with some of the best multihull sailors in the world,' he said. 'This is a truly great team and our victory is as much theirs as it is mine. We started as a team of sailors and finished as a team of best friends.'
The boat will proceed directly to the race village marina where there will be an official welcome. Doha 2006 is the national entry of Qatar and there has been much buzz in the papers about their impending win. Now the kind and generous people of Qatar will have the opportunity to formally welcome the team and thank them for their efforts. Thereafter the crew will head directly to a banquet lunch where they will feast on fresh food and savour their victory.
Whilst THOMPSON and the Doha 2006 crew celebrate their win, BULLIMORE and his team have hit the doldrums. Their boat speed for the last four hours has hovered between two and five knots; not exactly thrilling sailing, but perhaps a taste of what the next ten days might have to offer before they too will enjoy life on land.