Derry-Londonderry has arrived in Madeira at the end of the first stage of the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race which began in Southampton on 31 July. The team crossed the line outside of Quinta Do Lorde Marina at 0210 local time (0110GMT) and despite a valiant effort to get on the podium the team finished the race in a respectable fourth place.
Derry celebrate arrival into Madeira. Photo: OnEdition
The battle for the final podium position was intense amongst five of the teams with only a handful of miles separating them over the last 24 hours of racing. In the end the American entry, New York, was able to hold their position at the front of the mid-fleet pack to take third place. Line honours in Race 1 went to Gold Coast Australia who came out victorious following a two-way battle for supremacy with Visit Finland. A tactical move east towards the coast of Portugal at the end of the 1,340-mile race enabled the Australian team to pull out a sizeable lead, forcing the Finns to settle for second place.
Shortly after the Northern Irish team pulled alongside at the Quinta Do Lorde Marina, skipper of Derry-Londonderry, Mark Light said, "It's brilliant to be here after ten days of racing. It was a shake down sail for all of us and everyone is now getting used to being on board. We raced very well and sailed really well as a team and could have taken third. In the end it was very close but we're pleased with fourth.
"The crew have all surprised me in that they've got used to everything so much quicker than I thought they would. The spinnaker work, the hoisting and dropping of sails... everything has worked really well. I can honestly say they've come on a lot more than I expected, even at this early stage."
Despite an excellent start out of the Solent at the beginning of the 40,000-mile race around the world, Derry-Londonderry and the nine other international teams taking part were caught out on the first night when the wind died, forcing the crews to drop their kedge anchors to prevent their boats going backwards with the tide. The fickle conditions continued until the teams entered the notorious Bay of Biscay which lived up to its reputation by delivering strong headwinds and lumpy seas. Eventually the trade winds kicked in as the fleet rounded Cape Finisterre and the crews were able to enjoy the fast downwind sailing conditions that the Clipper 68s are built for.
As with all ten teams taking part in Clipper 11-12, Derry-Londonderry's crew come from all walks of life, all ages and have different levels of sailing experience. 23-year-old Niall Boyle is one of five Derry City residents who have been chosen to take part in the race and will be an ambassador for the city, inviting visitors from around the world to experience Derry-Londonderry during 2013 when the city becomes the first UK City of Culture.
Speaking from the dockside, Niall said, "It's great to be finally in. The race itself was fantastic, full of ups and downs. We had a few times when we were making good progress on the other boats and catching them up, just to have the wind die on us and drift backwards. But on the whole it's been great, an unreal experience."
Joining the friends and family members of the crew to welcome Derry-Londonderry were representatives from Quinta Do Lorde Marina who have laid on a packed social programme for crews to enjoy during their short stopover. After the deep cleans and essential maintenance have taken place the crew will have some time to explore the beautiful island with a jeep tour and visit to the Madeira Wine Caves and a tour round the island's capital, Funchal City, where they will have the chance to sample the local cuisine and taste the Madeira wine that the island is renowned for. The crews will rejoin their boats on Friday 12 August for the next leg of the race across the Atlantic to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which is scheduled to start at 1630 local time (1530GMT).
Clipper 11-12 is the world's longest ocean race at 40,000 miles and started from Southampton on 31 July 2011. It will take the teams 12 months to complete and the remainder of the race course will take them from Madeira across the Atlantic to Rio de Janeiro and then on to Cape Town in South Africa, Geraldton in Western Australia, New Zealand, Australia's Gold Coast, Singapore, Qingdao in China, California, Panama, New York, Nova Scotia, Derry-Londonderry and Den Helder in the Netherlands. The race will make its triumphant return to the Solent on 22 July 2012.