Teen’s gruelling 950-mile voyage

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A High Peak youngster has returned home in ship-shape after completing a gruelling 10-day sailing voyage across the North Atlantic.

James Qualtrough, 16, battled through force 10 gales, 12-foot waves, torrential rain, and even sharks, to finish fifth in the Tall Ships Race last week.

The punishing challenge sees competitors race a 950-mile route between Belfast and Aalesund, in Norway.

James, of Mousley Bottom, New Mills, said: “From the moment the Red Arrows passed over us as we sailed out of Belfast to the amazing welcome we received in Norway, it was an incredible journey.

“We saw so many dolphins swimming alongside the ship we almost stopped noticing them after a while, and being out in the middle of the ocean with nothing in sight – no land and no boats – gives you a feeling that’s hard to describe.”

James, who is a pupil at Fallibroome Academy and member of Errwood Sailing Club, clocked-up the fastest racing speed at the helm of the historic Dutch racing sail boat, Tecla, as he skilfully skippered the 125-foot-long sail boat to a top speed of over 13 knots.

But it wasn’t all plain sailing as James described his encounter with sharks.

He said: “We were very low in the water at the time so we couldn’t have been any nearer to the sharks. We were right there on a level with them and they must have been at least 20-foot long”

James’s next challenge will be his A-levels, but he is already saving for the trans-Atlantic sailing race as soon as his final exam is finished in two years’ time.