Sailing in the dark of night across the Atlantic Ocean after embarking from New York harbor in late June, a sudden shift of wind direction and strength toppled Jericho resident George Stephanos’ team’s boat on its side.
“It was a nerve-wracking experience,” Stephanos said by phone from London on Sunday after finishing almost six weeks of sailing 3,350 nautical miles across the Atlantic and the North Sea. “You’re wondering what the heck is going on ... It’s completely dark and the waves are the size of houses.”
The crew of the PSP Logistics, one of 12 boats competing the Clipper Round the World race, knew what to do: pull in the sails to depower the boat, change direction and get crew members on one side of the vessel to tip it back upright.
“When you’re on the boat, you have a job to do and you’re focused on only that and you tune out everything else,” Stephanos said. Righting the boat took maybe five minutes, he said, but it felt like a lot longer. And that wasn’t the boat’s only problem with the wind before sailing across the finish line in London on Friday.
Although the PSP Logistics came in last place overall, it had its best showing in the 13th race of the competition — from Northern Ireland to the Netherlands — coming in second after getting a boost from the tides off Scotland.
“The tides can either kill you or help you,” Stephanos said. “We were at the right spot so when the tides turned we just got swept into the North Sea.”
While some of his crewmates circumnavigated the globe, Stephanos, 53, an operations manager at an insurance company, sailed on only the eighth and final leg of race, fulfilling a dream to cross the Atlantic. The more than 40,000-nautical-mile race, which is held biannually and has been run 10 times, is made up of 14 smaller races.
On a voyage that included days of unending rain, iceberg watches, dolphins and doldrums, Stephanos said he’s come away with lifetime friends and a new outlook that focuses on the big picture.
“You should not let any of the smaller issues distract you,” he said. “You just to deal with what comes in front of you.”