SOUTHAMPTON skipper Ian Walker spoke of his excitement and sadness after finishing the Volvo Ocean Race.

The final leg of the gruelling round-the-world challenge came to an end in the early hours of today.

Walker and his crew recorded a sixth-placed finish in the France to Ireland sprint on board Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing’s Azzam yacht, putting them fifth in the overall standings.

They are the first Arabian-based entry to complete the punishing nine-month odyssey.

For Walker, there were plenty of ups and downs throughout the race.

The highlight was undoubtedly winning the prestigious Transatlantic leg, while the low point was dismasting in the early stages and retiring from the Southern Ocean.

Walker admitted it was an emotional moment as they sailed into Galway.

“In many regards this feels like the ‘closing of the loop’ the moment you have actually made it around the world,” he said.

“The last 200 miles of the race were both exciting and sad. Exciting because you knew a long awaited break for mind and body was not far away, but sad as the Volvo Ocean Race becomes a way of life and will always leave a void.

“It has been a remarkable experience being part of this team.”

On Groupama, the winning team, Walker said: "I have huge admiration for Franck (Cammas, skipper) and his team. They’ve gone about it in their own way, not the way others have done it traditionally.

"They’ve dominated the second half of the race. I have good friends on the boat and I’m absolutely thrilled for them."

The event closes with one final in-port race in Ireland this Saturday.