I battled to mend boat but had to turn back

A BRAVE dad-of-two has told of how he battled for eight hours hanging from his sailing boat in terrible sea conditions to carry out a vital repair and salvage his dream of completing a solo race across the Atlantic.

Scott Turner spent three years preparing for the six-week race but had to turn back just four days into his voyage.

The 43-year-old was forced to abandon the 3,300-mile Jester Challenge 2010 when a freak wave destroyed his steering column.

After spending hours hanging from the back of the boat attempting to fix the bent rudder, Scott was forced to turn back, undergoing a gruelling three-day trek home without sleep and bleeding from a headwound as he manually guided the 21ft cruiser back to Plymouth.

Scott was due to reach Newport, Rhode Island, this week, as part of a 26-fleet of race competitors.

The carpet firm sales manager, now back at home with his family in East Linton, East Lothian, said that he is still "absolutely gutted" that he had to turn around, but is grateful that his 30-year-old boat, the Altamira, survived.

He said: "I was 220 miles out and all had been going well. There had been steady 15ft waves, which were fine, then this 20ft wave came out of nowhere and cut straight through the self-steering column, which sits exposed at the stern of the vessel.

"If it had been five minutes earlier or five minutes later it would have been fine, but it struck at such an angle to bend the steerer into the water.

"I tried for about eight hours but it was impossible to get to and it was pretty dangerous considering how much the boat was moving around."

Scott, an experienced sailor with 30 years' membership at the North Berwick Sailing Club, decided he had to turn back without the automatic steering column - which kept the boat on a steady course while he was working and sleeping - and manually guide the boat back.

He said: "I was gutted, just absolutely gutted, but it is the most common problem to face on transatlantic sailing, it's just a vulnerable part of the vessel.

"It was a tremendous endurance test on the way back. I was awake for three days and I had gashed my head open quite badly, so a combination of the loss of blood and seasickness left me a bit low."

Scott eventually reached Plymouth, where his head wound was patched up, and discovered that he was the first of 12 boats in the race to pull out.

One competitor aboard the Belgean fell overboard and had to be rescued, while another had to be picked up by a Dutch tanker after his vessel, the Amadeus, sank.

Scott said that even though he is still feeling down about having to abandon his dream voyage, which takes place every four years, he enjoyed the challenge and is happy to be back home with wife Lorraine, 45, and daughters Nicole, 15, and Rebecca, 13.

He said: "It's good to be back at home with my family, and it was an amazing experience having 100 boats, crowds and TV cameras sending us off.

"I'm back and safe and the boat is repaired, so I'm grateful for that.

"I don't think I'll take on the challenge again but I will be looking at continuing racing and sailing."

roryreynolds@edinburghnews.com

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