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Brave Harrogate man survives epic sea challenge

Clipper Round the World Race crew member Michael Husband from Harrogate. (Picture by onEdition)
Clipper Round the World Race crew member Michael Husband from Harrogate. (Picture by onEdition)

A little tired, perhaps, but glad to be in one piece, brave Harrogate man Mick Husband is finally back on dry land after 11 months at sea in one of the world’s most exhilarating naval challenges.

This insurance underwriter from Killinghall arrives home to his wife and family laden with stories of daring and danger after successfully completing all 40, 796 nautical miles of The Clipper Race Round the World Race.

The Dare To lead yacht Harrogate's Mick Husband was a crew member of. (Picture by onEdition)

The Dare To lead yacht Harrogate's Mick Husband was a crew member of. (Picture by onEdition)

Remarkably, Mick had had no experience of sailing before, except for the training required to take part in the only global yacht race crewed to a large degree by amateurs.

The dangers were all too real and, though Mick seems to have taken them in his stride, there are certain moments he says he simply can’t forget.

He said: “One of the lowest points was in rough seas off the Cape of Good Hope off the treacherous coast of South Africa.
“One of the boats ran aground and couldn’t be recovered and the whole team had to pull out of the race.”
Mick, 62, who is married to Alison with two daughters Anna and Lara, had his fair share of knocks as a member of the international crew of the Dare To Lead team who were part of a fleet of 12 different Clipper 70 yachts.

Among them were:
Sleep deprivation.
Cracked ribs.
Chipped finger.
Chest infection.

In a very matter-of-fact way. Mick describes how quickly the challenging rigours of sailing the world started to seem entirely normal.

He said: “I hadn’t sailed at all before the training. It sort of prepares you but it doesn’t.
“I remember one of the first nights at sea I was on duty on the foredeck in the dark in the middle of a storm.
“My colleague said “I think I’m going to fall off, Mick.”
“I just made a joke about it. From that night on I thought this is just what happens.

“Virtually everything on the boats is manually operated. It’s not easy bringing down a sail in crashing winds when you’re being tossed about the place.

“Even sleeping is hard when you’re at a 45 degree angle. You get knocked around the boat like a little boy. I never managed to sleep for more than two hours a night.
“But I never felt frightened. You just had to get on and do it.

Born and bred in Harrogate; he went to Bilton Grange Primary School and Harrogate Grammar School, Mick had enjoyed a long and successful career in insurance before taking the plunge in the Clipper Race.

After setting off from the start and finish point at Albert Dock in Liverpool, Mick says every day of the epic voyage had the same, simple routine: Eat Sleep Sail Repeat.

But the views were truly spectacular as his yacht confronted the race’s eight different legs which took in everywhere from Sanya in China, Seattle in the USA and Punta del Este in Uruguay to Sydney in Australia.

Mick says he found the vastness of the oceans with their awesome beauty and power inspirational.
He was amazed by the force of nature expressed through the extremes of weather and the beauty of the night skies.
The Clipper Race is not designed to be a breeze, however.

The founder of the race, Sir Robin Knox Johnson, the first yachtsman to perform a single-handed non-stop circumnavigation of the globe, first set up the race in 1996 as the ultimate nautical challenge after being inspired by his friend Sir Chris Bonnington’s scaling of Everest.

Risk is built into this exciting yacht race but nothing can prepare you when the wost happens.
Mick said: “The worst thing that happened was when a fellow mariner lost his life off the coast of Australia after going overboard.
“I trained with him. He was a really nice guy. He drowned and was buried at sea.
“That was a tough time for everyone in the fleet, not just me.

“The organisers to take into account health and safety and you are usually tethered to the boast with a safety harness but the nature of the race is that you are in danger.
“You join the race knowing there’s the potential for that sort of thing.”

Mick says the occasional visit by his wife Alison lifted his spirits at bad moments.
Taking part in the race, which he paid for himself, wasn’t just about taking on a new challenge at 60.

By successfully lasting the pace in a race whose participants were for the most part closer to the International Space Station than inhabited land, Mick was also raising funds for Shooting Star Chase, a children’s charity for children and the families of children with life-limiting conditions.

A proud Yorkshire man, Mick flew the White Rose flag all the way during his gruelling round the world voyage.
Put in charge of ensuring his yacht’s food and drink in the role of victualler, he managed to make sure everyone on board had a taste of god’s own county thanks to one of Harrogate’s leading companies.

He said: “I phoned up Bettys & Taylors before we set off explaining that I had to work to a budget of £3.50 per person a day.
“They very kindly gave me 4,000 Yorkshire tea bags and, later in the race when we’d run out, they offered another 600.”

When he arrived back in the UK at the end of the race just two weeks ago, Mick felt a great sense of relief, as well as achievement.

Missing his wife, his family and his friends was tough. The preparations and training meant the race was all-consuming for nearly two years.
But now he’s safely back on dry land, he also misses the boat and its crew.

“I was so happy getting off the boat at Liverpool and so happy to be back with Alison and our daughters.
“But now I miss the comradeship of people I spent a year of my life with.
“I’m proud to have sailed with such great people. The support of my fellow crew members and from my family and friends at home during the voyage was incredible.

“I learnt that you can do anything you put your mind to - but not without the support of others.”
As for the future, Mick says he might do the coast to coast walk and he’d like to do talks at schools about what he’s learnt from his adventures.

Then there’s a pause for a moment before another idea floats up. “There’s always Everest,” Mick adds.

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