A Perthshire woman rescued 10 stranded Britons from Antigua and sailed them 3,800 miles across the ocean on her yacht in a storm ravaged 22 day journey.
Claire Fulton, 38, from Balbeggie, was on the Caribbean island last month when the country was placed in lockdown, leaving tourists and workers unable to leave.
The former Perth Academy student owns adventure sailing company Fearless Projects with her partner Lance Shepherd, 56, who used to train with the Royal Marines in Arbroath.
With all their tourist bookings cancelled due to Covid-19, the couple put out an offer to sail UK residents home and provide training on the way.
However disaster struck when their main sail ripped 1,800 miles from home, adding an extra week to their already mammoth journey in the Volvo 70 racing yacht.
Claire said: “There had been lots of posts when they shut the airport about people who couldn’t get home.
“So we put out a post saying we had 10 spaces if anyone needed to get back home and it was on a first come first served basis.
“We got a mix of people, some who had never been on a yacht before to people with a bit of experience.
“We had a couple of people that had been on an extended holiday for a month or two, some that were working on the super yachts but finished their contracts too late and people who were working out there and just not able to get back.”
After getting the crew, all the travellers had to self-isolate on the island for 14 days to make sure nobody carried coronavirus on to the small boat.
But 2,000 miles into the journey disaster struck and the team were left with a dilemma, did they carry on forward or try find the nearest port, 700 miles away, and risk having to go back into isolation.
Claire said: “It took us 22 days to get across which was about a week longer than we had planned.
“It was 22 days without a shower.
“We had done about 2,000 miles when the main sail ripped in a storm.
“We couldn’t have been further from land.
“We had isolated for 14 days before we left so we didn’t want to divert anywhere else and then we might have trouble with UK customs.
“We did the 14 days to make sure no-one got sick on the boat. We are in very close quarters and isolation would have been impossible.”
With a week’s worth of emergency food the crew sailed on before finally landing in Plymouth late last week and made their way to Southampton on Friday.
On arriving home, Claire was shocked by the death toll in the UK compared to when they departed Antigua in early April.
She said: “It has been really strange coming home to all the news to be honest.
“You’re quite removed when you’re on the boat.
“You don’t really get the full impact until you get back home and back on mobile reception.
“It was really quite a shock when we started to hear the numbers.”
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