It was, Bill Homewood said modestly, "a great adventure, by God -- the greatest thing that a man could do."
Homewood, a bald and slat thin Briton who lives now in Alexandria, was safe and only slightly battered today after 6,000 miles at sea in a small boat.
According to the tally sheet for the Observer Single-handed Transatlantic Race from Plymouth, England, Homewood had not exactly set the world afire.
He and his 31-foot trimaran Third Turtle arrived in Newport, R.i., Thursday, the 25th finisher from a fleet of 110 boats that signed up to brave the North Atlantic in a race to America.
More was expected of Third Turtle, which was third under another helmsman in 1976. Homewood, of course, whishes he'd done better. But at least he got home.
Sometimes he had his doubts.
Just a couple of days out from England a flailing jib sheet caught him in the hand as he worked to change sails in a building blow. The sheet cracked a finger in two places.
There are no doctors at sea on a single-handed boat, so Homewood scowled and bore it.
Worse was to come.
Two days later and almost 1,000 miles into the race bad news barked over the radio from BBC. A hard storm was brewing, with Force 10 (60 to 65 knots) winds.
Homewood's frail 3,000-pound craft was in for it. He doused sails and rigged two sea anchors to trail off the boat and slow it down. Then he watched the wind build. And the seas build.
"Describe it? The only thing I could think of at the time was Hawaii Five-O. The seas were huge. Huge.
"It's not the wind that damages a boat," Homewood said. "It's the action of the seas. The boat goes up on a swell and comes down with a bang that knocks your eyes out."
One of the sea anchors gave way under the stress, but the other held. If it hadn't, Homewood said, "I know I'd be boatless right now."
He climbed into his survival suit, readied the inflatable life raft and hung on. With nothing to do but wait he took movies.
Twenty-six hours later the northwester blew itself out and Homewood went above the decks to check damage. He found one steel cable supporting a pontoon had parted and another cable was working loose. He tied himself to the cockpit and ducked over the side to do repairs. Each time the boat dove into a swell his head went under with it. When it came back up, he worked.
Homewood's problem, once he'd fixed the steel cables, was mostly in his mind. He'd been on top of the world till the storm hit, averaging 200 miles a day and leading his class. The storm wiped out a day and pushed him back 70 miles.
So he did what he realizes now was a stupid thing. He piled on sail and went for speed.
It didn't last long. That same day, from his tiny bunk quarters below, Homewood heard a thunderous crack from above. He could find no damage. Then he heard it again, peeked out and saw his mainsail flapping uselessly. The boom had broken in two.
"I got mad," Homewood said. "The sea was beating up my boat. Then I realized it was my own fault. I was simply pushing it too hard."
He realized it a little late.
His hopes for a high-place finish dashed, Homewood started thinking about how to get home. For two days he sailed under jib alone, an unsatisfactory solution that left the boat so out of balance she wouldn't go straight under self-steering.
With 1,100 miles to go, Homewood said, "I got angry with myself. I went out and spent a half a day lashing the two pieces of the boom together with an oar."
It wasn't pretty but it allowed him to hoist half a mainsail, which balanced the boat.
He sailed her that way for 1,100 miles, through icebergs, through nine days of fog, through shipping lanes and, finally, into a flat calm. Ten miles from the finish the wind quit and Homewood sat. It took six hours to go those final 10 miles.
He finished 12th in the Gipsy Moth class, six hours behind Francis Stokes of Annapolis, with whom Homewood was in radio contact the final three days.
Judy Lawson, the third Washington area sailor in the race, remains at sea. She was heard from July 3, still 1,000 miles from the finish.
For Homewood, the worst is over. The 6,000-mile solo journey, over and back, is complete. Today he and his mended boat depart Newport for home.
I say it's over," Homewood said, "but I'll probably get nailed to the wall coming up the damn bay."