The crew of Derry–Londonderry–Doire are hoping for a rare home port win as they depart New York for Derry-Londonderry in the Atlantic Homecoming Leg of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.
Led by Scottish Skipper Daniel Smith, the Northern Irish entry is currently second in the overall race standings and so far has recorded three victories in this 14-race global series. Today the twelve-strong fleet of Clipper 70 racing yachts has departed New York for Race 12, the LegenDerry Finale which will see the teams arrive into Lough Foyle between 7 – 11 July.
On board are three local crew members from Derry-Londonderry along with many more from across Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Before departing Liberty Landing Marina and taking part in a spectacular Parade of Sail in front of the Statue of Liberty and Manhatton skyline, Derry~Londonderry~Doire Skipper Daniel Smith said: “We’re getting into the home stretch now and heading for our home port of Derry-Londonderry. We’ve been really proud to fly the flag for the city all around the world and are really excited for the welcome we are going to get when we sail up the River Foyle and celebrate our final crossing at the Foyle Maritime Festival.
“It’s now one year since we were last in Derry-Londonderry for our team building weekend and we got such a warm welcome then that we even had crew who weren’t already on this final leg sign up so they could arrive into the city on board Derry~Londonderry~Doire. It’s going to be a very special stopover for all of us and will be driving us forward as we race across the Atlantic Ocean.
“The race is incredibly tight now with all the podium positions still up for grabs. We are going to be putting everything into the LegenDerry Finale and hoping, at the very least, that we can maintain our second place in the Overall Race Standings.”
Making up some of the 22 man crew on board are Derry-Londonderry natives Kieran Lynch, Danny Bryce and Sinead Diver.
Kieran, 36, is a fitter and welder on boats and had done some sailing in Lough Foyle before embarking on his Clipper Race adventure which started in Seattle in April. For Danny and Sinead, learning to sail is a completely new experience and the four weeks of compulsory training in Gosport gave them their first taste of life on the ocean waves. Both have joined the team in New York and will be sailing past their homes as they arrive into Derry-Londonderry in early July.
Before departing New York, Sinead, 33, said: “I didn’t know anything about sailing before starting my training at the race. I’d seen the yachts arrive into Derry a couple of years ago and something about it made me want to get involved but I thought I wouldn’t have enough experience of the finances to do it. But I saved and signed up for the training, and now here I am about to race across the Atlantic Ocean.
“I’ll have a lump in my throat when we finish and are sailing up the River Foyle. It’s not like this is a normal holiday and then I’m just arriving home again, the fleet will be coming in and I’ll be on board with our Derry~Londonderry~Doire team. Four or five years ago I would never have through I’d be able to do this. I looked at the crew that sailed into Derry the last time with complete admiration for the challenge they had taken on. So I feel very proud that I’ll be among them on this race,” she added.
Danny Bryce, 40, is the fifth and final Derry City and Strabane District Council bursary candidate to sail a leg of the Clipper 2015-16 Race. Danny won his berth after being nominated for the local hero ‘Voice of the Community’ scheme for the work he does with vulnerable young people in the city.
“Personally working with people so closely on a day to day basis I think the Clipper Race experience will offer a great opportunity to learn more about overcoming adversity as part of a team, and the psychology and logistics of living and working in such a restricted environment for such a prolonged period.
“Everyone has been so supportive, but I know that the most difficult thing for me will be leaving my family behind. So the fact that I will be coming back into Derry for a homecoming welcome is a real bonus. It will be emotional knowing that my family will be waiting for me on the quayside.”
This 3,100 nautical mile marathon across the Atlantic Ocean is due to begin at 1900 local time on Monday 20 June (2300 UTC) with a Le Mans start off the Ambrose Lighthouse led by Skipper Matt Mitchell on ClipperTelemed+. Having raced over 37,000 nautical miles the round the world Skippers and crew are embarking on the final ocean crossing of their circumnavigation and they know that an almighty welcome awaits at the Foyle Maritime Festival which runs from 9 – 17 July.
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Hilary McClintock was in New York to meet the Clipper Race crew ahead of its arrival into the city for the third consecutive race.
“The welcome the Clipper Race teams have received in our city in the past can only be described as phenomenal – thousands of people came out to watch the fleet as it sailed up the River Foyle and this was followed by a week of festivities. This year the Foyle Maritime Festival is set to be bigger and better than ever as it starts within the city walls before moving out along the quayside and stretching across the river to Ebrington Square.
“We are very proud of the Derry~Londonderry~Doire team and how Skipper Daniel Smith and all his crew are performing the race. It is reflective of their good team spirit, excellent leadership and positive attitude. At the crew brief before the start of the LegenDerry Finale, I told the crew that Derry-Londonderry will host a homecoming to remember. We want them to take care of each other, be safe and most of all enjoy the experience of being part of this once in a lifetime opportunity.”
150,000 people visited the Clipper Race stopover two years ago and the Foyle Maritime Festival was crowned Best Event/Festival Experience title at the prestigious 2015 Northern Ireland Tourism NITA Awards.