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The Ocean Race: Celebrating 30 years since Steinlager 2 won all six legs of the Whitbread

by Various authors, compiled by 21 May 19:49 PDT 22 May 2020
Steinlager 2 - Finish 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race - Southampton © Barry Pickthall / PPL

On May 22, 1990, Peter Blake and the crew of Steinlager 2 crossed the finish line of the 1989/90 Whitbread Round the World Race, to win the sixth leg from Fort Lauderdale to Southampton.

In doing so the Farr designed ketch became the only boat in the fully crewed round the world race to win all six legs.

After the race, Mike Quilter and Glen Sowry wrote their account "Big Red".

Here's a few paragraphs covering their final run up the Solent to the finish off Southampton:

Throughout our last night at sea we had everyone sitting with their legs over the side to get every ounce of speed out of Big Red. It was working and the F & P boys could make no impact on us. The southern coast of England is notorious for its tidal gates around the main headlands which can literally stop a yacht in its tracks.

After a brief park-up off Portland Bill we picked up a new southwesterly sea breeze, enabling us to set all the reaching sails and scoot across Poole Bay to the Needles. Fishpie had dropped even further astern and with the tide about to turn in our favour for the last 20 miles we slowly began to relax in the knowledge that they couldn't catch us.

With numerous spectator boats coming out to meet us, Pidgie decided it was all becoming a bit hectic and flew off towards the shore. One of the first boats out to see us was a press boat with an incredibly excited Peter Montgomery on board. Monty was getting so worked up we were expecting to see him go into orbit any second.

But it was our supporters' boat with our wives, girlfriends and families that we all wanted to see. As we approached the Needles they appeared, jammed into a launch looking like a Vietnamese refugee boat. For our wives and girlfriends it was also the end of a long nine-month race. Many of them had given up their jobs to fly around the world to meet us at the various ports throughout the race. While we were having all the fun and glory they'd been holding down part-time jobs, mowing the lawns and paying the bills. As we set our light spinnaker and red mizzen spinnaker to a roar of approval from our support boat it slowly began to sink in that we were going to do it! This very long race was going to be our own.

There was an incredible atmosphere on board as we completed gybe after perfect gybe down the So lent. Big Red was in her element, showing off to the world's press and we were thoroughly enjoying each other's company together at sea for the last time. Blakey took the helm for the last hour to guide the boat through the hundreds of spectator craft, while the rest of us trimmed the sails and coaxed Big Red along in the dying breeze. Mike was standing on the aft deck, eyes squinted into the late-afternoon sun looking for the fairway marks to make sure we didn't suffer the ignominy of running aground up the tidal Southampton Water.

The anticipation became almost unbearable as we drifted towards the finishline only one mile ahead until an elusive puff of breeze filled our light spinnaker and whisked us over the line to the boom of a large cannon. As we threw our arms into the air in triumph, emotion took over as we shouted at the tops of our voices. No-one could take that moment away from us. We had given it our all for the past two years and now it was ours.

Entering Ocean Village, to a cacophony of fireworks, we were stunned at the crowds lining the marina to welcome us. Our faces were set in permanent ear-toear grins as hundreds of Kiwis, many of whom had been waiting for three days, cheered us into the dock. Whitbread race committee chairman, Charles Williams, presented Blakey with our sixth Beefeater Trophy and, more importantly, the magnificent Whitbread Trophy.

As the champagne corks flew and our wives and families clambered aboard to join the party we stopped to applaud Grant Dalton and the F & P crew, who had finished 36 minutes behind us. A simple handshake and a look into their eyes was all that was required. Like us, they had given this race their hearts and souls and had been formidable competitors. We were all proud to have finished the race with an emphatic Kiwi first and second. The fact that this was Dalts's first attempt as a skipper made their result especially creditable.

That evening, as we enjoyed the party being thrown at the Royal Southampton Yacht Club by Steinlager 2's three trustees, many of us slipped out onto the balcony, leaving the noise of the party behind to sneak another look at our magnificent Big Red as she lay motionless alongside the dock awash with floodlights - her job completed at last.

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