A SIXTY-YEAR-OLD doctor from Ramsbury swapped her familiar village surroundings for a trip of a lifetime as she took to the seas in August last year for an 11-month voyage.

Tessa Hicks, who had no previous sailing experience, cast off from Liverpool’s Albert Docks last year for the 40,000 nautical mile Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Now safely back on shore, she has spoken about her once-in-a-lifetime experience as she heads back to work at local surgeries in Swindon.

Mrs Hicks, of Isles Road, said: “I am so glad that I had this opportunity and I feel very privileged to have gone on this trip.

“We all took it in turns working shifts on deck, raising the sails and steering the boat, and below deck there was always jobs to do as well.

“A highlight for me was meeting such great people, both on the boat and in the ports, the locals were very friendly and helpful.

“Also seeing all the sealife was incredible, seeing dolphins jumping and other deep sea life was fascinating.

“Although the trip really was a once in a lifetime opportunity, we did all miss our loved ones who we had left at home.

“There was a limited emailing facility onboard, but when we arrived at ports everyone was rushing to phone, Skype and Facetime their families.”

The crew had a day of celebrations as Mrs Hick’s celebrated her 60th birthday onboard the yacht.

“I spent my birthday out at sea between South Africa and Australia.

“We had balloons on the deck, and my children sent out a big Union Jack flag with a caricature drawing of my face in the middle which we had flying from the back of the ship.

“They also sent out marshmallows which went down well with the entire crew.

“It was just so peaceful being a tiny dot in the middle of the ocean, with no one else around for miles.”

Being a fully trained and working GP, Mrs Hicks was made the medical expert onboard the yacht.

She said: “Although our resources were very limited, I looked after people who were seasick, had colds or were injured while on board.

“However, apart from a few other boats who were a couple of hundred miles from us, the closest people to us when we were in the middle of the Pacific Ocean were people on the Space Station. There was no one else to help apart from passing boats.”

And despite being almost a complete beginner, after only a few lessons once she had been chosen for the trip, Mrs Hicks now thinks she will be back on the ocean soon.

She said: “I expect I probably will do some more sailing now, maybe not every weekend.”