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#ClipperRace - The 13th and final stage of the 2017-18 Clipper Race remains anyone’s, with the fleet still tightly packed as the upwind beat down the western Irish coast continues.

And with now less than 36 hours left until the teams reach Liverpool, the battle for the overall win and illustrious Clipper Race Trophy between Visit Seattle and Sanya Serenity Coast is starting to heat up, with the two boats still virtually neck-and-neck on Day 3 of Race 13 (Wednesday 25 July).

After dropping in the standings yesterday, Visit Seattle worked hard overnight to move back in touch with the main chasing pack. Skipper Nikki Henderson explained this morning: “Life feels brighter today. We have been thinking and trimming and driving this boat like we have never done before and bit by bit yesterday we managed to make up some ground back to the fleet.

“We are now joined by Sanya Serenity Coast, Dare To Lead, and PSP Logistics in the middle pack - so it’s a fight to stay in fifth at the moment.”

While the four leading teams – Liverpool 2018, Qingdao, Unicef and Garmin – are all still in AIS range, Henderson was concerned time is running out to make a move.

“The four up ahead will be hard to catch once we turn the corner of Virtual Mark Fastnet. They will crack off their sails and zoom along at probably 10-12 knots whilst the rest of us slog it out at 7-8 in the wrong direction. So still thinking, trimming, and driving to see if we can make it there first! In the words of Dory: ‘Just keep sailing, just keep sailing, sailing, sailing.’”

Sanya Serenity Coast is also having to put in the hard yards to keep the competition in check. Skipper Wendy Tuck commented: “Again it’s been an up and down day and night. Sometimes we do OK, then sometimes we don’t do so OK. But all is well on the mighty Sanya Serenity Coast.

“Overnight the breeze picked up a little more so it’s back to living on the north edge, good thing the green monster has left the boat.”

Despite veering away from the main pack yesterday after being hit by a wind-shift whilst tacking, Liverpool 2018 is right back in the thick of things leading the pack. But with just 17 nautical miles between the first four boats, skipper Lance Shepherd isn’t getting carried away.

“It is so tight I think the positions will be contently changing right up until the finish line,” he said.

The currently third-placed Unicef is eyeing up a podium position, with skipper Bob Beggs reporting: “We are now about a third of our way between Virtual Mark Siraut and Virtual Mark Fastnet and we are engaged in a great battle out here heading for Liverpool in this, our final race. The fleet is very tight and really any boat may have a chance of winning.

“The weather has been kind in this latter part of the race and after tonight's blow passes through, the weather forecast is promising some great light wind spinnaker action via St Georges Channel and the Irish Sea.”

As the finish line draws closer, realisation is dawning about just what the teams have accomplished over the last eleven months. Dare To Lead skipper Dale Smyth said: “Sailing against the 10 other skippers has been such a pleasure and challenge. Each skipper individually has become a close colleague and friend as we have travelled around the world racing each other.

“Individually, each of us has our own style and personality and although we sail our hearts out against each other, we have really had each other to rely on for the last year. It is comforting to know that any one of the eleven would stop racing instantly to come to your assistance if need be.

“Skippering in a Clipper Race is a lonely role in some respects, carrying the responsibility of these 70-foot machines full of people and their hopes and dreams, in a hugely hostile environment. We have truly had a group of Skippers that have supported and been there for each other and I would like to express my deepest thanks to all of you individually for your friendship, support, and competition this year.”

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#ClipperRace - Since leaving Liverpool almost a year ago, the 11 teams in the 2017-18 Clipper Race have battled each other in 12 races, experiencing everything from frustrating wind holes to “phenomenal” sea states, boat speeds up to 35 knots, extreme heat and freezing conditions.

But their epic endurance challenge is almost over as the 13th and final stage in this unique global adventure departed today (Sunday 22 July) from Derry-Londonderry, destination Liverpool, where the race will end next Saturday 28 July.

In an exciting outcome for women’s sport, skippers Nikki Henderson and Wendy Tuck are competing to be the first ever female winner in the event’s 22 years, with the strong likelihood that both will end up topping the overall standings.

This would be a ground-breaking result for sailing, as a female skipper has never before won a round-the-world yacht race, and also for sport in general where it is rare to have women and men compete in the same competition.

Race 13 got off to a clean start at 5pm off Greencastle on the Donegal side of Lough Foyle. Dare To Lead was the first over the start line in front of hundreds of spectators who gathered along on the coastline, closely followed by Unicef, Sanya Serenity Coast and Visit Seattle.

Teams will race anti-clockwise around Ireland to Liverpool over the next five days. The final race will conclude with a thrilling sprint finish up the River Mersey on Saturday towards the Royal Albert Dock, where crews will be given a heroes’ welcome by family, friends and over 100,000 expected spectators.

Sanya Serenity Coast, skippered by Australian Wendy Tuck, went into the final race at the top of the leaderboard with 137 points. Teams Visit Seattle and Qingdao, skippered by Brit Nikki Henderson and German Chris Kobusch, are joint second with 123 points each. Shrewd tactician Henderson, also the youngest ever skipper in the Clipper Race at 24, has chosen to play her Joker Card on the very last race which means her points will be doubled.

Ahead of departing for the race start, Sanya skipper Tuck said: “It’s time for us to pull out everything we have, last night one of my crew reminded me that when I first met the team I said I was aiming for a top four finish. We can certainly aim higher now.

“I have had an awesome year and I feel privileged to have been the leader of this amazing crew. To my biggest competitor in this final race I say, Nikki you are amazing, at 24 I couldn’t even be in charge of myself, let alone up to 50 plus crew who you have got round the world fast and safely. However we finish up, women’s sailing will be the winner.”

Once teams cross the finish line in Liverpool Bay, it won’t quite be over because Race 13 will then conclude with a Le Mans start and a 20-mile sprint up the River Mersey to the Royal Albert Dock, in which the top three teams will be awarded 3, 2 and 1 points respectively.

Giving his opinion on the contest for the overall trophy, Clipper Race chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston said: “There has never been a round the world sailing race where the leading skippers are women. The competition is tough with experienced sailors and a previous winner too.

“To have men and women competing together in sport on a level playing field is very special and I’m really looking forward to what this last race brings. I’m incredibly proud of Nikki and Wendy and whatever their final standings are, I couldn’t imagine better role models for women's sport.”

Mathematically, Qingdao can still win the overall race title, but with a maximum 15 points on offer across the race and sprint finish, and a minimum two points awarded to the last-placed team, its overall victory would rely on Sanya Serenity Coast being disqualified or retiring from this final stage.

Among the rest of the fleet, there is still plenty of competition for final positions. PSP Logistics and Garmin are both tied in fourth and fifth place respectively, 11 points behind Qingdao, with both teams keeping their eye on making the podium. Dare To Lead, in sixth, is just two points ahead of Unicef, and at the bottom of the fleet, pride and positions are all to race for.

Conall Morrison’s in 10th will be looking to advance on Liverpool 2018, just two points above, though will also be keeping an eye on Nasdaq six points below.

“ sets off from Foyle Port Marina with the rest of the Clipper Race fleet

Hundreds lined Derry’s Quay this afternoon to bid farewell to the and the other Clipper Race teams as they slipped lines for the final stage of their global adventure.

It was an emotional send off after 10 days of celebrations as the city played host to the crew of the 11 visiting yachts during their stopover in the city.

Up to 220,000 people are estimated to have enjoyed the packed programme of nautical themed activities during the Foyle Maritime Festival which took over the city from 14-22 July.

The festival finale event on Friday night (20 July) included a spectacular Voyages and Parade of Light Showcase: an atmospheric performance featuring aerial performers, an illuminated flotilla of boats on the Foyle, fireworks and animation, retelling the epic voyage of Mannanan Mac Lir.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor John Boyle, led the city in waving off the fleet as it made its way back up the Foyle to the official race start at Greencastle.

“It was a sad moment as we waved farewell to the Clipper Race fleet today after an eventful week of celebration. We have welcomed visitors from all over the world over the past week and it has been fantastic to see Derry and the wider North West region profiled in such a positive way on a global platform,” said Mayor Boyle.

“Once again we’ve demonstrated our ability to stage an international event generating substantial revenue for the local economy, and enhancing the region’s profile as an exciting and unique visitor destination.

“All of the Clipper Race crew have really enjoyed their stay here, they have been overwhelmed with the warm welcome and the hospitality shown to them by local businesses and the people here.

“The Foyle Maritime Festival really showcases our commitment to maximising the opportunity to build on the successes of the past few years in hosting large scale events and to explore our options in terms of utilising our many wonderful resources such as the River Foyle as part of a long-term tourism strategy for the future.”

This is the fourth time the Clipper Race has included Derry-Londonderry as a stopover city, and the celebrations around the visit have now become an established highlight of the city’s events programme, with plans currently being developed to host the Foyle Maritime Festival biennially.

Aeidin McCarter, head of culture with Derry City and Strabane District Council, said: “We are absolutely delighted that through the Foyle Maritime Festival we have once again delivered a first-class international events programme showcasing our beautiful city and reaching new audiences.

“The Foyle Maritime Festival has certainly captured the imagination of local people and we’ve had amazing support from our local businesses and partners in staging the Festival, which has attracted record visitor numbers this year.

“Looking ahead now we will be exploring ways to build on the momentum created by the Maritime Festival in our future events, and ways to celebrate and showcase our beautiful city and district and our many exceptional visitor experiences.”

Visit Derry has said that while the final numbers were still being collated, hotel occupancy over the ten days had averaged around 80%. Commenting on the tens of thousands of visitors who flocked to the city for the Foyle Maritime Festival and Foyle Cup, she said: “Both events have been a fantastic opportunity to showcase the city as an international tourist destination.

“We have also had a group of international travel journalists visiting the city and region for the festival; they have been greatly impressed with our unique tourism offer and we welcome the opportunity for them to share what they have experienced here at first hand with their many readers in the USA, Canada, Belgium and the Republic of Ireland as we now prepare for the city and district’s next large-scale event with another week-long festival at Halloween.”

Roseann McGlinchey, Donegal native and crew member, added: “The stopover has been incredible. To sail into my home city and see my family for the first time in a year is something I will always remember. We almost felt like celebrities during our time in Derry, everyone made us feel so special and welcome. The Walled City Brewery adopted the team and even named a cocktail and a beer after me! How incredible is that? One more race to go and I will be home for good.”

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#ClipperRace - The race points on the overall Clipper Race leaderboard have been updated for the final time before the final stage to Liverpool, and the fight for the podium is going to be fierce.

Despite finishing eighth in Race 12 to Derry-Londonderry, Sanya Serenity Coast remains on top of the overall standings on 137 points. But Visit Seattle and Qingdao are just 14 points behind, level on 123 points.

PSP Logistics and Garmin are also tied on 112 points, meaning any of the top five teams are in with a chance of standing on the final podium at Royal Albert Dock on Saturday 28 July.

“This whole Clipper Race has been highly competitive right from the off,” said race director Mark Light. “We have had some tremendous finishes and one that sticks in my mind is a photo finish between Nasdaq and GREAT Britain racing into Sydney.

“No single team is running away with it and this only adds to the excitement for anyone watching. You only have to look at the Race Viewer to see the fleet racing side by side for days on end. It really is match racing but across oceans and a credit to the skill across the fleet.”

Adding to the excitement for the 13th and final race is that Visit Seattle is yet to play its Joker Card. If skipper Nikki Henderson and her team decide to play the Joker, they will be in the box seat to leapfrog Sanya Serenity Coast and take out the overall win.

The Joker Card will double any race points earned on the way to Liverpool, but as usual, it won’t apply to the bonus points on offer in the sprint.

The sprint will be the final feature of Race 13, with the race up the Mersey to potentially decide the top three.

“The tensions are mounting for lots of teams as we enter the final Race with the overall podium positions still to be decided,” Light added.

“Race 13 is made up of two parts – the race from Derry-Londonderry to Liverpool Bay for full race finishing points, and then a Le Mans start leading to the sprint finish all the way up into the finish line off Albert Dock. The sprint finish offers bonus points for the first three teams across the line – three points for first, two for second and one point for third.

“Seeing the Clipper fleet racing their way up the River Mersey in front of thousands of onlookers will be spectacular and knowing that the bonus points on offer could actually decide the overall Clipper Race winners adds an extra dimension that will have supporters, skippers and crews all on the edge of their seats … It is too close to call and we will all have to wait and see how this final race unfolds.”

Race 13 from Derry-Londonderry to Liverpool will begin this Sunday 22 July.

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#ClipperRace - The full Clipper Race fleet has arrived in Derry-Londonderry, with the crews now ready to enjoy an action-packed fortnight and the award-winning Foyle Maritime Festival.

After what has been a thrilling race full of tactical, close racing, incredible whale and dolphin sightings, and a thrilling finish and win by the youngest Clipper Race skipper, Nikki Henderson of Visit Seattle, the final two boats arrived into the Foyle Port Marina.

The third and final day of arrivals started with GREAT Britain after the team crossed the finish line in 10th place at 4.06am yesterday morning (Thursday 12 July).

Having sailed some 3,000 nautical miles from New York across the North Atlantic, the round-the-world crew were very happy to arrive in Northern Ireland and be back in the UK the first time since leaving Liverpool in August last year.

One of them, Phillipa O’Sullivan from Hampshire, said: “As a round-the-worlder, it feels amazing. I didn’t think about what it would feel like to be back in the UK but it’s brilliant and what a lovely warm welcome from everybody here.

“I thought the North Atlantic would be physically harder than it was but psychologically it was tough as we just took the wrong route with the weather and hit a wind hole. But we are here - we made it and crossed the Atlantic for the second time.”

This was the first ocean crossing for crew member Julie Snowdon from North Yorkshire. “It has been my dream for so long and I just can’t believe I have done it,” she said. “The North Atlantic was fantastic, I absolutely love that ocean.

“Now that we have arrived, I am looking forward to catching up with all the other teams and reflecting on what we have done. I also can’t wait to have a look around the Foyle Maritime Festival too.”

All 11 Clipper Race teams were reunited for the first time since leaving New York when Liverpool 2018 made its way up the River Foyle, after crossing the finish line at 1.13pm. A spectacular welcome awaited the eleventh placed team, with friends, family, supporters and fellow Clipper Race crews cheering the bright pink boat into Derry-Londonderry.

On arrival, skipper Lance Shepherd said: “The crew are at the top of their game and very excited to be in Derry-Londonderry, bit of a divert but we managed to catch up 500 miles on the fleet and get three points in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint. We saw the wind coming in — the further north we were, the stronger the winds would be, so we put ourselves up there to get a good result. We worked well as team so really well done to the crew.”

It wasn’t the standard Atlantic crossing for the Liverpool 2018 team, who had to divert to Newfoundland in Canada in the early stages of the race to carry out a successful medevac of an ill crew member.

But after leaving Canada, the team banded together and had great success in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint, picking up the maximum three bonus points on offer

Watch leader and resident Caymanian, James Macfee, said: “I am very excited to be here. We managed to get here despite some very difficult waters and tumultuous conditions. We had some good weather for the sprint, the boat was fast and it was good fun.”

With just one race to go and the overall leaderboard tight, the crew will be using every moment in Derry-Londonderry to rest and prepare for the final sprint to Liverpool, which will begin on the final day of the Foyle Maritime Festival on Sunday 22 July.

“SirSir Robin Knox-Johnston, Ralph Morton from the Seattle Sports Commission, and the Visit Seattle team

Meanwhile, legendary sailor Sir Robin Knox-Johnston has praised Derry-Londonderry as the Northern Irish city embraces the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race for a fourth consecutive visit.

Sir Robin, founder and chairman of the Clipper Race, sailed into the walled city on Wednesday (11 July) from Les Sables d'Olonne in France, where he was celebrating the 50th anniversary of when he began the epic voyage that would see him become the first person to sail solo and non-stop around the globe.

“It was lovely returning to Derry-Londonderry and heading up the Foyle, I’m just disappointed that I didn’t beat the entire Clipper Race fleet in!” Sir Robin said.

“I think the partnership we’ve had with the city is why the public give us such great support. This is a place where the city got behind the event and when you get that combination of an enthusiastic city and the spectacle of the boats and crew, you can do so much more. And I think the result has been a major event -- I give the city of Derry-Londonderry full credit for that success.”

Fresh from their win into Derry-Londonderry, the Visit Seattle team and skipper Nikki Henderson cheered Sir Robin into the Foyle Port Marina.

“Nikki’s performance was just fantastic, especially as I had Ralph Morton from the Seattle Sports Commission in my crew for the sail to Derry-Londonderry and he was following it avidly,” said the Clipper Race founder.

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#ClipperRace - With 13 nautical miles to go as of 9am this morning (Tuesday 10 July), Conall Morrison’s leads the five Clipper Race boats still battling to the finish of Race 12: The LegenDerry Race.

Yesterday’s arrivals were completed at 6.12pm local time when Dare to Lead finished in fifth place — some 90 minutes after Qingdao claimed fourth, and a possible leg up to an overall podium spot, in the penultimate race of the 2017-18 edition.

“The last twelve hours were very frustrating,” said Qingdai crew member Rory Rhind on arrival in Derry-Londonderry. “We had Dare To Lead 35 miles behind us and then after hitting an area of light airs in the bay they were five miles behind, so it was tight to the finish we thought they might catch us.

“Considering we were last for a fair amount of the race, we are very happy to come through and with our final position.”

Meanwhile, Race 12 is ongoing for almost half the fleet, and some impressive battles are taking place as teams strive to join the celebrations Foyleside.

PSP Logistics crossed the finish line at 8.27am this morning, finishing in sixth place — and will have its points doubled after playing its Joker Card.

Next in line is, skippered by Derry local Conall Morrison and crewed by a number of Irish team members who will no doubt receive an emotional welcome when the team sails up the River Foyle later this afternoon.

Among those supporters will be dairy farmer Patrick Merrick, whose wife Mary Frawley has crewed on every leg of the Clipper Race circumnavigation.

The couple haven’t been separated for long, however, as Patrick has been there to cheer Mary on at stopovers in Liverpool, Uruguay, Cape Town, Australia, Seattle and New York.

We must be getting close to the British Isles as it is grey, very grey and a bit drizzly

The tightest match race currently stands between Sanya Serenity Coast, in eighth, and Nasdaq which is just 7nm behind in ninth.

Sanya Serenity Coast skipper Wendy Tuck, currently 30nm from the finish line, explains: “In typical race finish fashion, it will be a close finish between us and Nasdaq, they are currently a couple of miles behind us, but sometimes they are faster, sometimes we are…

“We must be getting close to the British Isles as it is grey, very grey and a bit drizzly. So, this is our last ocean crossing drawing to an end.

“It’s been a different sort of race, I don’t think I have ever reached as much as this, been tough not being fast and watching boats we normally are faster than pull away from us, it’s been a bit sad, no more days out on the big blue, I really do love just being out on the ocean. Sad to think this big adventure is nearing its end.”

The most remarkable duel is playing out between the final two teams, however. Despite its diversion to Canada, the Liverpool 2018 team has managed to cut its deficit on the tenth placed GREAT Britain from over 500nm, to just 40nm this morning, though now finds its progress in the final miles halted by a dreaded wind hole.

In his blog today, Liverpool 2018 skipper Lance Shepherd explains: “Sailing wise I would title today, Man vs Wind hole!

“We are currently locked in battle with the blue dots of doom. Both of us trying to outwit each other. We gybe, wind hole counters with an immediate wind shift. We gybe back, wind hole then shifts the wind to exactly where we wanted it on the other gybe.

“This time, we stick to our course and success, the wind bends round and starts to build. It’s a will power thing and I am stubborn and tenacious, I will not let the blue dots of doom beat us!

“However, I do fear this is not the last blog of the race. We are doing our best to hurtle towards the Guinness and our friends in Derry-Londonderry. Big congrats to Nikki, Bob, GT and your teams for the podiums, well deserved.”

The GREAT Britain team has been experiencing satellite communications issues over the past few days of the race which has meant skipper David Hartshorn has been unable to send his daily blogs through. But the team has been in contact with the Race Office and all on board are safe and well.

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#ClipperRace - While the battle for the Race 12 podium was settled earlier this morning by victorious Visit Seattle, second-placed Unicef and Garmin in third, the pressure remains on for the rest of the Clipper Race fleet as teams push for their best possible race results.

Fourth place looks to be Qingdao’s to lose at it makes good headway towards Derry-Londonderry, despite nearest competition Dare To Lead maintaining a 1.5 knot speed over ground (SOG) advantage.

In what should be the final blog of the race for Qingdao, skipper Chris Kobusch reported: “For once the dreaded wind hole was not too bad and we made steady progress over the past 24 hours. We are now less than 30nm away from the finish, the breeze is still blowing with 10 knots from the north and it looks promising that we will arrive in Derry-Londonderry today.”

Racing is just as gripping further down the leaderboard and it will be interesting to watch how the final 200nm of Race 12 plays out for, Sanya Serenity Coast, Nasdaq and PSP Logistics., led by Derry-Londonderry local Conall Morrison, and PSP Logistics, led by Matt Mitchell, are descending upon the finish line from a northerly course, with the latter team waiting to see how well the bold northerly tactic will have paid off.

Morrison is also looking forward to racing into his home port after a fast and frustrating race. He reported this morning: “It is disappointing to see boats that we were ahead of sail in more breeze and pass us during the last couple of days mostly due to routing decisions made a week ago, that is ocean sailing for you.

“Big shout out to skipper Matt Mitchell and the PSP logistics team for making the bold decision and sailed a lot of extra miles to avoid this high pressure.”

Further south, the match race between Nasdaq and Sanya Serenity Coast continues and it will be down to the wire for the two teams.

Nasdaq skipper Rob Graham said: “What a tortuously slow end to the LegenDerry Race. Nasdaq has hardly moved in the past 23hrs as we drift around the windhole under a ridge of high pressure. Sanya Serenity Coast has just appeared on AIS, so after two weeks and 3,000nm our little race-within-a-race comes down to this!”

For GREAT Britain and Liverpool 2018, which are pushing through the final 330nm and 550nm respectively, the end to Race 12 is in sight.

Despite sitting in 11th place, Liverpool 2018 has done remarkably well in making up ground on the fleet after diverting to Newfoundland, Canada to medevac a crew member earlier in the race.

The Liverpool 2018 team also received the excellent news that it has scooped the maximum three bonus race points as the winners of the Race 12 Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint this morning. Garmin was second and picks up two points whilst third fastest team, Qingdao, picks up the final bonus point.

Stay glued to the Clipper Race Viewer today to watch how the battle for Race 12 leaderboard positions plays out.

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Nikki Henderson, 24, from Surrey, UK, has led her Visit Seattle team to an impressive victory in Race 12 to Derry-Londonderry, the penultimate race of the 40,000 nautical mile Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race.

Visit Seattle crossed the finish line in an area north east of the entrance to Lough Foyle at 00:21:57 UTC on Monday 9 July to complete the 3,000 nautical mile race across the Atlantic Ocean, the fast-paced sixth and final ocean crossing of the eleven-month circumnavigation, in just over 12 days.

Victory in the race from New York to Derry-Londonderry has set up a thrilling duel for the overall Clipper Race Trophy against Sanya Serenity Coast Skipper, Wendy Tuck, 53 from Sydney, Australia, with the pair now vying to be the first female winner in the 22-year history of the Clipper Race.

Nikki said: “I am so proud of how hard my team worked to get this win. The crew never let up over the past two weeks and really deserve this result.

“We will certainly be celebrating the result in Derry-Londonderry but we all know the job isn’t done yet. The leaderboard is very close so the final race to Liverpool will be very exciting.”

The Clipper Race is unique in that it trains non-professionals to be ocean faring sailors. Established in 1996 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail solo, non-stop around the world, 40 per cent of Clipper Race crew have no previous sailing experience before signing up and undergoing the compulsory four weeks of training.

In total, 711 people representing 42 different nationalities and from all walks of life are taking part in the Clipper 2017-18 Race. In Leg 8, the Visit Seattle crew represent six different nationalities - Netherlands, UK, France, Germany, USA, Canada – with the ages ranging from 26 to 66.

Derry-Londonderry is a much-anticipated stopover on the global Clipper Race circuit, with each of the 232 crew given a starring role in the award-winning Foyle Maritime Festival. Over the next fortnight, locals and visitors to Derry-Londonderry will be able to get up close to the 70-foot ocean racing yachts and take part in an exciting programme of diverse events in celebration of the Clipper Race crew and their adventurous spirit.

The Foyle Maritime Festival will come to an end when the Clipper Race fleet departs for the final race, to Liverpool, on Sunday 22 July. The circumnavigation will come to an end at the Royal Albert Dock in Liverpool on July 28.]

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#ClipperRace - With just 100 nautical miles remaining for the Clipper Race leaders, Race 12: The LegenDerry Race is playing out for the podium and certainly living up to its name as a tense battle, which could finish today.

Visit Seattle, leading the fleet for the third consecutive day, is aiming for its third race win. But with a dreaded wind hole ahead, and Unicef and Garmin hot on its heels — just 15 and 30nm behind respectively — skipper Nikki Henderson is not starting any early celebrations.

“We just started to slow down after a great 24 hours heading in the right direction - straight lining Northern Ireland… The dreaded wind hole looms, so it’s anyone’s guess as to how well we will do — but either way — it’s been an epic race and they have done brilliantly,” she said.

Spirits are high on board Unicef, which is playing its Joker Card on this race and is set to pick up the biggest points haul of the fleet.

Skipper Bob Beggs, hoping this will be his last blog of the race, explains: “The pace has been good despite the forecast and we have managed to stay ahead of the ridge of high pressure for much longer than we expected, but soon we will be slowing as the wind eases back and veers (moves clockwise).

“Just over a hundred and fifty miles to go and having played our Joker on this race we are hoping for a good result, the pressure is on to make the finish line within the next twenty four hours and avoid parking up for too long!”

After leading for times in this race, and after being overtaken by Unicef during the night due to a kite-mare, Garmin is feeling a little unlucky though is still in a strong position to claim its third podium result.

Skipper Gaetan Thomas says: “We can see Visit Seattle escaping slowly on our positions report. The more ahead you are, the more wind you have and less chances to finish in a wind hole very close to finish! Nail biting!”

The leaders may have opened up quite a gap on the rest of the fleet, with some 60nm separating third placed Garmin and Qingdao in fourth, but there is still plenty to play for amid the rest of the fleet in this final ocean crossing and penultimate race of the 2017-18 Clipper Race series.

Skipper Dale Smyth of Dare To Lead explains how the fleet got separated: “The boats that split to the south after the Ice Gate seemed to have fared much better weather wise and have made some good advance on the rest of the fleet. Those of us that went north got punished with a couple of lighter patches but that’s often the gamble of ocean racing.”

Nasdaq overtook Sanya Serenity Coast this morning to take sixth, and has since extended its lead by almost 20 nautical miles. Sanya, the overall race reader, has struggled in this race compared to its usually strong form, but skipper Wendy Tuck is trying everything to gain ground on her competition, and keep those behind her at bay.

“Hard to believe that this last ocean crossing is nearly done, still even harder to believe now is that we are having problems with boat speed. I changed to my lucky crocs and even my lucky sunnies and that didn’t seem to help, still scratching my head over it.”

Behind Sanya in eighth is, whose homeward-bound skipper Conall Morrison blogged earlier today: “It is bitterly cold both on deck and below as we chase the remnants of the front east towards the Donegal coastline. From this time yesterday, we’ve been through the spinnaker wardrobe and are now on our lightweight, trying to squeeze as many miles as possible out of each knot of wind. We have a long following swell which initially makes helming difficult but then pushes you onto a surf as each wave passes.”

Morrison added: “We haven’t seen another Clipper Race boat in over a week, I wonder who we will meet up with before the finish? We remain 300 miles to go and ekeing every last bit of speed out of the good ship and regardless of our finish position we know we've all had a good time and a tough challenge.”

Furthest back, Liverpool 2018 also has its eyes on the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint and the finish, remaining positive despite its diversion.

Skipper Lance Shepherd says: “When we left St John’s in Newfoundland we were over 500 miles behind the fleet and our race was technically over. Had we gone south west to the position we stopped racing then we would have been about 800 miles and at least five days behind the fleet.

“So, we’re racing ourselves and trying to do the best we can in terms of boat speeds and performance. We can still participate in the ocean sprint and intend to do our up-most to gain as many points as we can.”

The latest ETA (as of 1.45pm this afternoon) sees Visit Seattle and Unicef reach Derry-Londonderry between midnight and 6am early tomorrow morning (Monday 10 July). Stay glued to the Race Viewer to see if the dreaded wind hole causes any shake ups.

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#ClipperRace - The first few Clipper Race teams have commenced the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint as of this morning (Friday 6 July) but with two boats in Stealth Mode and some tricky weather conditions, it’s an edge-of-the-seat kind of sprint for Race Viewer fans.

Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell has advised the 11-strong fleet of the changeable conditions they will encounter over the next 24 hours. Liverpool 2018, who is in catch up and approximately 400 nautical miles behind, could expect a ‘quite fruity’ 30-40 knots.

The rest of the fleet, Rowell says, are in “various stages of the decaying front. This is not a very useful one either. Ahead of it there are reasonable SSW (ish) winds, behind it useful NW, but under it all sorts of patchy, shifty, opportunity-rich breeze.”

Unicef and Qingdao have both chosen to activate their invisibility cloak on Day 10 of Race 12: LegenDerry Race. Before this, standings showed Visit Seattle and Garmin racing in the leading pack, with Unicef’s last known position in the top three, too, so it will be an exciting wait until we can discover the pace they have managed in the sprint.

The fog has descended on Nasdaq as they race in the southerly pack. Speaking about the conditions, skipper Rob Graham says: “Well, it’s a good thing we have GPS - because on days like this, that’s the only way of knowing that we've moved. Nasdaq actually made some decent mileage, all of it through a featureless grey waterscape. Without a horizon, the dark grey sea blended into a mid grey sky, with an unrelenting grey drizzle throughout, and nobody else on AIS or radar.”

And the weather has been keeping the crew of GREAT Britain on its toes, albeit in a different way, due to the frequent sail changes the changing wind has brought about.

Skipper David Hartshorn has had a frustrating day with “the exclusive rights to two wind holes” and says: “It started so well yesterday morning, with the Code 3 (heavyweight spinnaker) up and reaching speeds of 16 knots. We then hit our first wind hole and wind shift putting us back to white sails. Then back to the Code 2 (mediumweight spinnaker), another wind hole, wind shift back to white sails.”

He continues: “The wind has veered from 165 to 325 degrees over the course of the day and has now backed to 260 degrees.”

Sanya Serenity Coast has been making the most of the fast conditions over the past day but the team is mindful of what is up ahead and the impact this can have on their overall leading position in this 2017-18 edition of the Clipper Race.

Skipper Wendy Tuck reports: “Today has been a fast blast sail - awesome fun overnight and today. It has been awhile since it’s been really fast and furious - there were a lot of wide eyes on board.

“Now the breeze has dropped a fair bit but we are still sailing along nicely and back in the correct direction. This race is proving to be one of the most tactical and stressful with so much on the line for all of us, and the great wind lottery about to come into play yet again.”

The Clipper Race fleet is estimated to arrive in Derry-Londonderry between 10-14 July – just in time for the Foyle Maritime Festival.

Meanwhile, the Clipper Race Committee has finalised the penalty points to be given to teams following assessment of damages and repairs needed after Races 10 and 11 (Leg 7) till the New York stopover.

Liverpool 2018 picks up one penalty point for equipment damage during Leg 7, Nasdaq gets four penalty points for sail repairs, while has been levied with eight penalty points for replacing its Code 3 heavyweight spinnaker — an unfortunate cost for Conall Morrison and his largely Irish crew as they head towards their home port.

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#ClipperRace - It may be the 4th of July but it’s not so much independence day for the Clipper Race fleet, as they are still racing in two fairly tight packs.

Five teams went for the Scoring Gate but with only points on offer for the first three to cross, the competition was closely fought.

Unicef was back in first place earlier today, and according to the race viewer it looked like the team’s decision to go for the Scoring Gate paid dividends.

Speaking on his birthday, Unicef’s additionally qualified person on board, Guy Waites, said: “Together we celebrated the day in style, we've gybed more times than there were candles on the cake (slight exaggeration) and just in time to pip Visit Seattle to the scoring gate.”

Nikki Henderson and her Visit Seattle team had their sights clearly on Unicef as they were just over one nautical mile behind the bright blue boat, and as of this afternoon had taken the lead by the same short distance.

They, too, went for the Scoring Gate, and being in Stealth Mode meant their sneaky progress was a surprise for their follow gate chasers. Again, official results are to be confirmed, but two bonus points will be very important to Henderson’s team, currently third on the Overall Race Leaderboard.

Skipper Nikki has high praise for the team, saying: “It felt like finally after a year's hard work training everyone - blindfolded helming, ripping spinnakers, whiteboard sessions, reef after reef after reef - and so much more, this team did some real racing. Like really classy racing - slick gybes, everyone getting involved in the tactics, a massive team effort with everyone pitching in.”

Dominic Littlewood, from Liverpool 2018, is now safely back in the UK and recovering well. His team have set sail from St John’s in Newfoundland and are now back racing.

Meanwhile, the weather has changed for the Scoring Gate pack. Rob Graham, skipper of third placed Nasdaq says: “We're now heading north-ish through some very tricky weather - big wind shifts, rain and limited visibility.”

But Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell has predicted low-pressure driven wind by the end of today and looking ahead towards the end of this Race 12: LegenDerry Race, there is a strong chance of light winds.

With six days to go until the Derry-Londonderry arrival window, the race is still wide open for teams to scoop victory.

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About the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is undoubtedly one of the greatest ocean adventures on the planet, also regarded as one of its toughest endurance challenges. Taking almost a year to complete, it consists of eleven teams competing against each other on the world’s largest matched fleet of 70-foot ocean racing yachts.

The Clipper Race was established in 1996 by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first person to sail solo, non-stop, around the world in 1968-69. His aim was to allow anyone, regardless of previous sailing experience, the chance to embrace the thrill of ocean racing; it is the only event of its kind for amateur sailors. Around 40 per cent of crew are novices and have never sailed before starting a comprehensive training programme ahead of their adventure.

This unique challenge brings together everyone from chief executives to train drivers, nurses and firefighters, farmers, airline pilots and students, from age 18 upwards, to take on Mother Nature’s toughest and most remote conditions. There is no upper age limit, the oldest competitor to date is 76.

Now in its twelfth edition, the Clipper 2019-20 Race started from London, UK, on 02 September 2019.


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