HAMPSHIRE sailors will today reach New York after conquering one of the most dramatically contested heats of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

The first of the 12-strong fleet were expected to berth in the Big Apple at 5am British time and midnight local time.

Their arrival marks the climax of a rollercoaster week in the “nail biting” finale of the 13th race in the 16 race round-the-world series.

Southampton sailor Steve Mabey, 47, and Jacob Carter, 20, from Portchester are set for wild podium celebrations after their yacht Great Britain finished runners up in the latest leg on Saturday.

They were narrowly beaten to the finishing line - located 200 miles south of New York - by long term rivals Henri Lloyd.

But they valiantly fought off stiff competition in an epic 'cat and mouse' game with team Switzerland also crewed by Hampshire sailors.

Switzerland whose crew includes former principal at Southampton City College principal Lindsey Noble, 60, narrowly missed a podium position finishing fourth behind OneDLL.

Team Garmin crewed by Matthew Wade, 19, from Totton finished yesterday afternoon in 11th place.

It means Great Britain are second in the overall standings behind Henri Lloyd with just three of 16 races forming the homecoming leg of the gruelling 400,000 mile race to go.

Crews set off on the 1,500 mile New York leg from Port Antonio, Jamaica, last Saturday [May 24].

The section, named the Grange Hotels Trophy, proved a tightly contested battle with many of the fleet were in sight of each other as they raced up the Caribbean windward passage , through the notorious Bermuda triangle and into the North Atlantic Ocean.

But lighter winds slowed their progress, forcing race organisers to shorten the course at the Norfolk Gate.

Relieved Great Britain skipper Simon Talbot branded it a “nail biter” and said: “After nearly seven days of some of the most intense racing I can remember in a long time, we finally crossed the finish line.

“Whilst disappointed that Mother Nature had not once, but twice taken our lead and given it to Henri Lloyd, the entire team is over the moon to have finished second in such a tough race.”

The crews will pass the iconic Statue of Liberty close to midnight with Manhattan skyline forming a spectacular back drop of electric lights and skyscrapers.

They will berth in the Liberty Landing Marina, New Jersey, until Wednesday], when they transfer to North Cove Marina in Manhattan.

The 14th race sets off from there to Derry Londonderry Northern Ireland next Saturday.

The race is organised by Gosport-based Clipper Ventures with the competition skippered by professionals but crewed by novices.

It finishes in London in June where it set off from in September.