Published: 27 June 2017

Civil Engineering student competes in Tall Ships Race

Undergraduate Alexa Hughes helped her team to fifth place in the Rendezvous 2017 Tall Ships Race – a transatlantic battle which takes place once every nine years.

Alexa Hughes, a third-year Civil Engineering student, swapped her end of year exams for an even more gruelling challenge when she took part in one leg of the transatlantic Tall Ships Race, sailing from Portugal to Gran Canaria, and Gran Canaria to Bermuda.

Setting sail on 1 May, Alexa spent a month racing against hundreds of other boats over nearly 3,000 miles of the Atlantic. She was part of an all-girl crew on a 21-metre Ketch Oyster boat, which was raced by the Rona Sailing Trust, a charity that enables school children – particularly in inner cities – to have a go at sailing. Her team battled their way to achieve fifth place out of nine within their section.

Alexa commented: “Being promoted to Watch Leader in Gran Canaria – when a Watch Officer pulled out – was a great experience for me. Although the weather was mainly calm, we had a few squalls (sudden increases in wind speed) now and then, and at one point we had to change a headsail during a squall, with waves crashing over the deck!”

Highlights of the trip for Alexa included swimming mid-Atlantic and seeing whales on the horizon, helming with spinnakers (special sails) at 13 knots, experiencing the beauty of Bermuda, and seeing the Americas Cup boats coming in for the ‘Parade of Sail’.

“Overall it was an excellent experience. I’ve learnt so much and would do it again in a heartbeat,” she said.

Now back at Surrey, Alexa is settling into normal life and working towards her dissertation and exams, which her lecturers have allowed her to take later in the summer to accommodate the race.

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