After sailing a rigorous 3,400 nautical miles from Rio to Cape Town, the teams in the Clipper Round the World Race were celebrating as they flaked their sails and tossed out the fenders to dock at the V&A Waterfront Marina in Cape Town Oct. 21.

First in for the fleet was Great Britain, recording a time the night before of 14 days, two hours and 30 minutes. What the completion of a leg means is celebration, fanfare, great stories and of course re-adjustment to solid ground.

Anyone who’s spent a good amount of time on the water, and especially on a sailboat, has had the strange experience of stepping onto the dock after days of existing in a reality that is quite completely liquid. It’s a world of constant rolls, bucks, slides and lurches.

Once back on land, the collection of motions your brain has become accustomed to will stay with you. I can recall leaning in to get a drink at a marina bar after days on the water and feeling very much that the bar was swaying up and down. It’s a very real sensation, both visually and otherwise, and it takes a bit for it to go away.

So when we watch the teams with their champagne and their laughter, keep in mind that they’re all having a grand time in a sensory world where equilibrium has not yet caught up to the present conditions. It’s great fun.

Clipper Telemed+ was the first boat to fetch Cape Town in daylight, and the fifth one overall, recording a time of 14 days, 11 hours, 39 minutes and 51 seconds. Canadian Crew Member Ryan Finlay, 49, is on board for the duration of the race. He said this last leg was an absolute blast.

“The highlight of the race for me was spending more time at the bow than I ever have before in my life and pulling down the Yankee in 45 – 50 knot winds,” he said, referring to the flying headsail made famous by Yankee fishing schooners. “It was the hardest thing I have ever done but I loved it!”

Indeed. Anyone who’s worked the foredeck can attest that pulling in a headsail in any amount of wind is violent and alarming; the bow rising and falling with a cruel rhythm, sending salt spray across your face like boxing blows, the sail flapping and straining with no relent to stop, halyards whipping and balance threatening to give way. It’s magnificent.

The teams continue to arrive, refit, and celebrate while they prepare to sail again. Race three is set to start Oct. 31, when the teams set out from Cape Town to Albany, Western Australia.

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Photo credit: Clipper Round the World Race