Brid couple sail home after round world yacht adventure

Tom Sampson and Nicolette Knoop during their round the world voyage.
Tom Sampson and Nicolette Knoop during their round the world voyage.

AN ADVENTUROUS couple are to return to Bridlington eight years after setting sail from the harbour on a round-the-world yachting trip.

Tom Sampson and his partner Nicolette Knoop left Bridlington on June 15 2004 to embark on their circumnavigation – visiting exotic locations, experiencing harsh weather conditions and even encountering pirates.

Now, before they return to Bridlington next month, Tom and Nicolette are hoping to reconnect with any old friends they may have lost touch with since they set sail on their trusty yacht Katanne.

Tom, 66, who is from Bridlington and completed the circumnavigation in August, said: “We both feel very privileged to have been able to see so many places and meet some wonderful people. We have been excited, thrilled, awed and humbled.”

Back in 2004, Tom and Nicolette left Bridlington and approached Spain, taking in Portugal, the Mediterranean and Gibraltar before setting off for Barbados – which they reached in December 2004.

The couple spent until July 2005 in the Caribbean, before embarking along the Panama Canel, across the Pacific to Australia, up through Indonesia and the Far East before navigating the Suez Canal.

The pair rounded off their circumnavigation coming through the Mediterranean and finishing in Cartagena, Spain on August 21 this year.

Tom said: “I would like to say that it was an emotional event but since we have known it was going to happen for a long time there was no immediate sense of achievement.

“However, over the following days whilst we celebrated in Cartagena we did come to feel that we had achieved something. Nicolette was told the other day that more people had climbed Everest than had circumnavigated.

“I don’t know if that’s true or not but I suppose we have joined a select group and one which won’t expand, as it has done in recent years, whilst the Somali pirates maintain their stranglehold on the Indian Ocean.”

Tom made headline news in 2010 when he led a convoy of 27 yachts from Salalah in Oman to Aden in Yemen in 2010, where pirates were operating and attacking vessels.

He said at the time: “Yes, of course going through that region is dangerous. But as a circumnavigating yachtsman we are always being faced with dangers of one sort or another all the time.

“You can go overboard in a storm, fall ill at sea, suffer a breakdown or whatever.”

An entire journey without refuelling, and a minimum use of lighting and radios were tactics used by the convoy to avoid the attention of pirates.

At one point, the convoy listened anxiously to the radio as reports came in of pirates attacking a commercial vessel just 30 miles away, and on several occasions watched in terror as suspicious-looking vessels approached them.

However after a number of high profile piracy incidents in 2011, Tom “became convinced that convoys to deter and avoid the pirates were possibly more dangerous than sailing alone” as pirates were prepared to abandon yachts and take crew members hostage for ransoms of more than $1 million each.

With the pirate’s techniques and equipment becoming more sophisticated, Tom now “firmly believes” that the situation is too dangerous for yachts to transit the Indian Ocean and Red Sea and to do so in a convoy is potentially even more dangerous.

Tim said he decided to embark on the epic journey because he missed the sailing he used to do in the forces.

“During my time in the RAF I did a lot of sailing. I became an RYA Yachtmaster Offshore in 1974 and continued to sail and race for some time after that.

“I had missed the sailing so when I was able to do so I bought Katanne with the intention of sailing first to the Caribbean,” said Tom.

“From there it was either return via the Atlantic or continue on through the Panama Canal which inevitably would mean a circumnavigation or sell Katanne at some stage en route.”

Tom said: “The strongest thoughts I have of the voyage concern the people we have met rather than the places we have visited,” continued Tom, who was born in Bridlington and went to Burlington School and Bridlington Grammar School before joining the RAF at 17.

“We’ve experienced all types of weather and sea but remember, in the main, the best times and allow our selective short term memory to erase the rest.”

The pair will be back in Bridlington at the start of November, and leave again in early December.

Tom continued: “We will be returning to Bridlington permanently next year and after settling in I would like to visit local schools and talk about our voyage if any of them have an interest in my doing so.”

Tom has two daughters and five grandchildren, and will spend the the winter in Lagos, Portugal, with Nicolette.

They now plan to sell The Katanne and will visit Bridlington in November. Anyone who would like to get back in touch with the couple can contact the Free Press and pass their details on.