Derry-Londonderry, one of the ten international teams competing in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race, has won the fight for fifth place in Race 3 of the 15-race series in a contest that went right down to the wire. As they closed in on the finish line in Cape Town, Derry-Londonderry and Qingdao were matching each other mile for mile with Welcome to Yorkshire and New York hot on their heels. At the line there was just five minutes and eleven seconds between the two teams after 3,300 miles of racing.
The 68-foot ocean racing yacht representing the UK City of Culture 2013 crossed the finish line in Table Bay against the magnificent backdrop of Table Mountain at 0505 local time on Thursday morning (0305 UTC) while Qingdao crossed at 0510 (0310 UTC). Race 3 was won by Gold Coast Australia, who completed a hat trick of victories so far in Clipper 11-12, with Visit Finland in second place and De Lage Landen in third.
Arriving in the V&A Waterfront, Derry-Londonderry skipper, Mark Light, said, "It was touch and go – a great finish. Qingdao crossed in front of us and then they had to gybe but we didn't have to. They crossed probably 200 metres in front of us and we were waiting and waiting for the gybe which didn't come and all of a sudden we cut inside of them and managed to take them in the last 0.8 of a mile. It was amazing.
"We were disappointed initially not to get fourth but that quickly disappeared because we were massively happy to get fifth place."
Qingdao's skipper, Ian Conchie, said, "It's been a duel all the way in up until the last six hours when we got ahead of them. In very light airs we found yet another wind hole as we approached Cape Town and then on the final gybe, less than a mile from the finish, the wind shifted on us which meant we could no longer hold the kite and they just sneaked in front of us. We were 50 metres off the beach – it was exhilarating stuff after 3,300 miles."
During the race the crews, who come from all walks of life and between them represent more than 40 nationalities, faced mountainous seas and strong headwinds.
Shauna O'Neill is one of the five Derry City Clipper Bursary winners. The bursary is a project designed to help unemployed people in the city learn the skills to get them back into work. The five will also carry out ambassadorial roles to help promote Derry-Londonderry as the City of Culture, each focussing on an area including, digital, young people and enterprise.
Arriving in Cape Town, where her mother was waiting to greet her on the dock, Shauna said, "The tough weather was exciting. I wasn't really in control of anything so I felt quite safe but I'd say it was hard for the watch leaders. There were some big waves and it was scary enough but we got through it.
"I absolutely loved it, every moment of it. I worried before I went away that I was going to hate it but it's just been amazing, I loved every bit. There have been so many best bits – navigating with the stars at night, helming with the sunrise, everybody on board, how friendly everyone was... all of it!
"It was nothing like what I expected. When I first heard about it I was imagining sailing around in luxury. It was really tough but the training was the hardest and the actual leg was so much fun."
During the stopover in Cape Town the crews will visit many of the attractions the city has to offer including taking the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, the beautiful botanic gardens at Kirstenbosch, and Cape Point which the teams will see from the ocean as they round the Cape of Good Hope in the next race to Geraldton in Western Australia.
Alongside the stopover a busy international trade programme is scheduled with delegations from Derry-Londonderry and many of the other team sponsors, partners and official suppliers to the Clipper Race visiting Cape Town to forge partnerships with local businesses, generating international trade opportunities and developing cultural links.
Race 4 to the City of Geraldton, Western Australia, will start on Wednesday 5 October.
The Clipper 11-12 Race started from Southampton on the south coast of England on 31 July. It runs every two years and is the only event in the world where people from all walks of life can take on the challenge of a lifetime and race around the globe on stripped down ocean racing yachts. Berths are now available for Clipper 13-14, which will see the introduction of a brand new fleet of twelve 70-foot yachts.