A PRIMITIVE sailing venture being led by a Dorset adventurer has overcome its biggest challenge yet.

A team of 15 international sailors have breathed a sigh of relief as they successfully completed one of the toughest stretches of a 17,000-mile voyage around Africa – navigating the Cape of Good Hope.

This stretch of coastline is a considerable challenge in any modern sailing yacht, but the Phoenicia team managed it in a replica 600 BC Phoenician wooden ship.

Expedition leader Philip Beale, who conceived the project from his base at East Chaldon, near Lulworth, had described it as the ‘critical point in the expedition’.

He said: “It is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous stretches of coastline in the world, and the Phoenicia expedition team have made history by showing incredible seamanship and courage in gale force winds, waves seven meters high and a main sail torn in two before their eyes.

“But these challenges have not deterred the crew as they rounded the Cape during the early hours of Thursday, March 4.”

The ship is now alongside at the North Wharf of the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town where it has been invited to berth alongside other prestigious sailors including Dilip Donde, India’s first solo circumnavigator, and a team of sailors onboard ‘Majan’ – a state of the art Arabian 100 Trimaran.

Their stop in Cape Town has included a press conference and interviews, and they opened Phoenicia up to public visits over the course of the visit.

The Phoenician Ship Expedition has brought together sailors and adventurers from across the globe as part of the crew.

The expedition launched from Syria in summer 2008, and over the past 18 months an international crew, of up to 16 people on any one leg, have battled against the elements to re-trace the Phoenicians ancient route around Africa.

Follow the voyage progress at www.phoenicia.org.uk