Now that the city of Derry’s legendary Halloween celebrations are over, all eyes are on July 2020 which will be a key date in the Derry/Londonderry calendar when, on Saturday 25th, the eleven 70-ft yachts in the Clipper Round the World Race are set to arrive in the city after a 2,850 nautical mile race across the Atlantic from Bermuda writes Betty Armstrong.
This is an endurance event which over eleven months amateur crews will cross six oceans and be tested to their absolute limit. With ages ranging from 18 to 76, the teams are made up of people from all walks of life, including doctors, homemakers, lawyers, builders, nurses, farmers, CEOS, and surf instructors.
The stopover is one of the most popular in the Round the World venture and will play a starring role in the acclaimed Foyle Maritime Festival which runs from Wednesday 29th July till Sunday 2nd August.
This is, of course, subject to funding. Everyone’s festival favourites are set to return to what is the only remaining completely walled city in Ireland. Among dozens of attractions and events, will be the Foyle Merchant Market, Clipper Race Yacht Tours and excursions, on-water activities and taster sessions, the Science of Water, Showcase Spectacular, the Festival Bar and live music.
The approach to the city from the Tuns Buoy at the mouth of Lough Foyle, along the 20 mile stretch of water with the high land of Donegal on the starboard side and the lower coastlands of County Derry on the other, is a most attractive passage, passing Greencastle, Moville, the Foyle commercial port where increasing numbers of cruise liners dock and then under the huge Foyle Bridge to Foyle Port Marina right inside the city.
This is the fifth consecutive edition to feature Derry as a Host Port Partner, making it the most visited European city in the 23-year history of the event. The stopover in 2020 will herald almost a decade long partnership between Derry City and Strabane District Council and the Clipper Race. The relationship has seen the rejuvenation of the waterfront and continued growth of the Foyle Maritime Festival, and this has resulted in the city, its people and thousands of visitors engaging positively with a local and global community.
Clipper Race CEO, William Ward OBE, said: “We greatly value our partnership with Derry City and Strabane District Council and are proud of the legacy we have built together over the past nine years.
“The Clipper Race crew are treated like friends wherever they go in Derry and it is hard to find a local who hasn’t come down to see our fleet at the Foyle Maritime Festival. Derry may not be on the same geographical scale as other Clipper Race destinations such as Cape Town and New York but its strong community pride and infectious sense of hospitality has consistently made it one of the most popular stopovers across all six continents we visit. In twenty years of working with global destinations, this partnership is one of our biggest success stories.”
Around 700 people from 44 different nationalities, including 26 from Northern Ireland and Ireland, are taking part in the Clipper 2019-20 Race. Derry will be the penultimate stop of the almost year-long circumnavigation and it is expected that as well as the current crews, past participants will also descend on what is arguably one of the biggest parties on the race circuit.
Founded in 1996 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, who in April celebrated 50 years since becoming the first person to sail solo and non-stop around the world, the Clipper Race is the only event of its kind for non-professional sailors and is now entering its twelfth consecutive edition.