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#ClipperRace - A split is starting to divide the fleet as if Tuesday 3 July as the Clipper Race teams make their Scoring Gate decisions. But with only 21 nautical miles (nm) separating first and fifth, it’s still anyone’s race.

Unicef skipper Bob Beggs, whose team had slipped from first to third before regaining the lead this afternoon, said this morning: “The competition is still tight with six yachts all within VHF radio range and five of the close competition visible on the horizon around Unicef. The wind and weather being amenable with easy good sailing but requiring concentration on course and sail trim.”

Unicef, Garmin and Nasdaq all look to be going for the Scoring Gate, though they could face competition for the bonus points on offer from Visit Seattle. However, its intentions remain unknown until later today as its track is hidden from public view until 7pm Irish time while in Stealth Mode.

Garmin skipper Gaetan Thomas said: “The team is working hard and my pirates are motivated to get some miles back but Captain Bob and his Unicef team are sailing well. We still have them on AIS and on sight but they haven’t done any mistakes (yet) so it’s pretty much cat and mouse now.”

HotelPlanner.com, like Visit Seattle, is also in Stealth Mode, but skipper Conall Morrison reveals his team is still making good progress to his home town of Derry-Londonderry, saying: “We’ve had a great day’s sailing yesterday under Code 2 (mediumweight spinnaker). Dare To Lead has been behind us most of the day and would gain some and lose some all day. It is definitely keeping us focussed on maximising our speed.”

Dare To Lead and Sanya Serenity Coast have both broken away from the main pack, gybing north as soon as they passed the final Virtual Waypoint for the Ice Limit. And the move paid dividends early, with Sanya Serenity Coast jumping from seventh to first place (the team has since slipped back to fifth) while Dare To Lead is now second, up from fifth.

However, with the path to Derry-Londonderry anything but smooth, Dare To Lead isn’t getting too comfortable at the top of the standings, as skipper Dale Smyth explains: “We took the decision to gybe north but the northerly or easterly gybe look pretty similar in terms of gain towards Ireland. The weather looks pretty complex for the next week with a range of pressure and systems all playing a role. It is definitely going to be a good dose of tactical decision and perhaps also a fair dose of luck.”

“Amazing to think that there is only around 1,300nm left of this race! In Clipper Race terms, that is next to nothing although these miles will be a lot harder earned than the first 1,500nm of this leg.”

PSP Logistics and Qingdao remain the most southerly of the teams, though PSP Logistics has now gybed north, with Skipper Matt Mitchell conceding: “The southerly strategy hasn’t paid off as well as I'd hoped which is a bit of a shame but I’d rather we'd done it than not and end up wishing we had.”

Despite the tactical loss, the team is relishing reaching the halfway mark of the race, with Matt adding: “We are now clear of our northerly limit which leaves the rest of the Atlantic as our playground. Today we received Met office charts once again, it feels lovely having the UK sat in the same bit of water that we’re sailing in. It’s felt like a long time since we were last at home.”

As well as sending the UK Met Office weather charts, Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell has also delivered the good news that the fleet is unlikely to hampered by the movement of the high and should continue making good progress to Ireland.

Meanwhile, Liverpool 2018 has spent the night in St John’s in Newfoundland after successfully delivering ill crew member Dominic Littlewood for medical treatment. The team was expected to depart to rejoin the race at first light today.

Race 12: The LegenDerry Race is expected to take up to 19 days, with the Clipper Race fleet estimated to arrive in Derry-Londonderry between 10 and 14 July – just in time for the Foyle Maritime Festival.

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#ClipperRace - It’s been a bumpy time for many of the Clipper Race teams as they braced themselves for a second day on the ‘rollercoaster’ Gulf Stream.

The competition remains tight on Saturday 30 June, day four of Race 12: The LegenDerry Race, with less than 14 nautical miles between first and fifth position, currently held by Conall Morrison’s HotelPlanner.com and his largely Irish crew.

“Yesterday was a day of bigger sea states and enough wind to require a reef at times,” Morrison wrote in his blog earlier today. “I am again impressed with crew resilience and hidden talents. All jobs are getting done and three meals prepared each day even though we've been bouncing around and over at 45 degrees.

“Big shout out to Simona Springer for her helming accuracy and to Julie Hesketh who drives it like she stole it every watch! Also a shout out for Maeve Hutchings who loves the pit and grinding winches so much she even brought a winch handle into her bunk.”

Another race milestone has been reached, too, as teams have passed the longitude of Punta del Este in Uruguay — meaning they have crossed every line of longitude on the earth’s surface.

Garmin skipper Gaëtan Thomas is keeping a close watch on his leading position as the standings are prone to change quickly.

“It was interesting to see some boats flying in the Gulf Stream, hopefully not for long so we will not lose too much ground,” Thomas said. “In a few days we will really see the verdict of what was the best course. The Scoring Gate is the next target, fingers crossed we get some extra points!”

For Joker-playing Unicef, it’s been life on a 35-degree angle and they are fully aware of just how close this race is. Skipper Bob Beggs said: “We are still in tough competition with HotelPlanner.com, Dare To Lead, and Sanya Serenity Coast.

“And the competition to the south seem to be having a battle with each other in stronger winds and fair current. There is soon to be the first mix up on the leaderboard in preparation for the final battle to be fought on the approach to Ireland in ten days from now.”

Seeking out the Gulf Stream has played into the hands of the Nasdaq team who welcomed the extra knots it rewarded to keep them ahead of their close competitors.

“You've got to love that Gulf Stream,” skipper Rob Graham said. “After a beautiful sunny day full of respectable progress at around 11 knots, Nasdaq came back into some very favourable current and our speed jumped up to 15! We needed it too, because Visit Seattle is in sight and chasing hard.

“By one measure Nasdaq completed our circumnavigation today, since we have crossed every line of longitude and are now further east than back in October when we arrived into Punta Del Este. Having Visit Seattle so close keeps the pressure on, and means that no-one feels they have finished - we're definitely still racing.”

The weather conditions will continue to be tricky for the fleet over the next few days. Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell has reported to the teams that after a ‘busy and bumpy 24 hours’, with many teams reporting squalls coming in, “satellite images show the cumulus developing rapidly, so these will continue and be strong.

“This band of wind [will be with you] for the next 48 hours, then just as you are approaching the end of the ice gates it will get very light and tricky for about 24 hours.”

Meanwhile, the Liverpool 2018 team is currently diverting to St John’s in Newfoundland so that crew member Dominic Littlewood can receive medical attention.

Littlewood is a Type 1 diabetic who has been suffering with sea sickness, which has affected his management of blood glucose levels. All other crew are safe and well.

Writing in his blog today, skipper Lance Shepherd explained: “I sat down with the crew and explained what was happening and why we needed to stop racing, everyone understood and was extremely supportive. The safety of the crew on board always comes before the racing.” More information can be found here.

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#ClipperRace - There’s been plenty of movement on the leaderboard, but none of the Clipper Race teams have broken away amid the tight racing conditions on Day 2 of Race 12 from New York to Derry-Londonderry, Thursday 28 June.

The split that appeared shortly after Tuesday’s Le Mans start became less noticeable overnight, with less than 20 nautical miles (nm) separating first from 10th.

However, that spread did widen almost four-fold over the next 24 hours, with a clear break between the first five teams, within 30nm, and the chasing pack from sixth to 10th.

Eleventh-placed PSP Logistics, meanwhile, is 30nm from its nearest competitor as the team persists in its search of the Gulf Stream with its southerly route.

While no stranger to taking a different tactic to the rest of the fleet, PSP Logistics skipper Matt Mitchell knows he is taking a risk, commenting: “Hopefully over the next 24 hours coming south will start to pay off.”

With the majority of the fleet in AIS range, there is little room for error, as Dare To Lead skipper Dale Smyth explains: “We are still tightly packed as a group so any small decision cannot be taken lightly.”

The pressure to make the right call is weighing on the skippers, especially as the results of this penultimate race of the circumnavigation could go a long way to deciding what teams will be on the podium at Race Finish in Liverpool.

Visit Seattle skipper Nikki Henderson shone a light on her thought process, saying: “There is positive current down south - but that’s sailing more miles and last time we sailed for current we ended up 150nm behind the fleet.

“There is a better wind angle up north - but 4 knots of current for 200 miles, I mean, are we really going to pass that by? And there is negative current where we we’re going - but at the time it was faster.”

Race 12 has special significance to Derry-Londonderry local Conall Morrison, and so far, the HotelPlanner.com skipper is enjoying the race home across the Atlantic, reporting: “What a lovely sailing day on Hotelplanner.com: it is thrilling to see the whole fleet so close together and be able to trump each other or see them pull away.

“The fleet seems to mix up quite a bit on the way along the northerly Ice limits. It seems to have separated into two major groups, one staying further south and the other following the rhumb line a little to the north.”

Being back in the North Atlantic is driving home how much the teams have accomplished over the past 10 months. Unicef skipper Bob Begg reflects: “In two and a half days from now, we will pass due North of Punta Del Este in Uruguay, which means we will have circled the planet crossing every line of longitude. This is the first benchmark for the round the worlder crew onboard Unicef.”

Those onboard Nasdaq are also celebrating the milestone, with skipper Rob Graham commenting: “We sailed off the edge of the coastal chart today and are now marking our position on the ‘North Atlantic, Northern Part’ chart that still shows our positions from Leg 1 back in August. A cause for excitement that we're getting closer to the finish and reflection on how far we’ve come, how much we've learned, and how much has happened in between.”

The good breeze is set to continue for the coming days and will help drive the fleet to what will be their final destination before the 40,000 nautical mile, 11-month circumnavigation comes to an end in Liverpool on 28 July.

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The Clipper Race fleet has captured a spectacular vision of the pod of whales that joined the teams for the Le Mans style start of the penultimate race of the 40,000 nautical mile, eleven-month circumnavigation - a two-week race across the North Atlantic to Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

The race to Ireland began in perfect champagne sailing conditions under bright blue skies off the coast of Long Island, New York, USA. Clipper Race team Sanya Serenity Coast was quick off the mark, followed closely by Nasdaq, though it quickly became apparent that it wouldn't be a straightforward start.

HotelPlanner.com Skipper Conall Morrison, who hails from Derry-Londonderry and learned to sail on Lough Swilly, says: "It is thrilling to see the whole fleet so close together and be able to trump each other or see them pull away. We got treated with whale sightings and a pod of dolphins as we sail along the continental shelf on top of it all. A huge whale cruised past us as we were going along at 8 knots ... he must have been in a hurry."

GREAT Britain Skipper Dave Hartshorn adds: "10 minutes after the Le Mans start, the point when you are free to choose your own course and point of sail, we could see coming towards a series of blow spouts of whales breaking water to breathe.

"As the fleet charged forward, it was if there were large puffs of smoke from small explosions breaking out across the water between the boats.

More than 200 people from all walks of life and representing 23 different nationalities are taking part in the race to Derry-Londonderry, including six from Ireland.

Race 12: The LegenDerry Race is expected to take up to 19 days, with the Clipper Race fleet estimated to arrive in Derry-Londonderry between 10-14 July – just in time for the Foyle Maritime Festival. The award-winning festival will run from Saturday 14 July until the fleet departs for Liverpool on Sunday 22 July.

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#ClipperRace - After bidding farewell to the Big Apple in style yesterday (Monday 25 June), the Clipper Race fleet has regrouped off Long Island ahead of today’s Le Mans start of Race 12: The LegenDerry Race from New York to Derry-Londonderry.

The 3,000-nautical-mile stage is due to begin at 2pm local time (7pm Irish time), and according to Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell, the teams should see the breeze gradually build to 10 knots and veer to south-southeast for the start.

But while the wind will keep building and veering over the coming days, visibility will be a concern at times, with fog developing at the centre of the new high cell as it moves east.

For now, all is well, with the fleet treated to several whale sightings and a dolphin show or two whilst going through refresher sailing training and MOB drills.

It also has been a time for reflection ahead of what will be the sixth and final ocean crossing of the 2017-18 edition of the Clipper Race.

Unicef skipper Bob Beggs says: “This our final ocean crossing and cannot be taken for granted. The North Atlantic can be as tough as any and needs to be given respect. Still, the weather forecast is fair at the present time.”

Visit Seattle skipper Nikki Henderson has also been thinking about the last big ocean race, adding: “Now our minds look to Derry-Londonderry – 3,000 nautical miles or so in the distance - and of home to Liverpool. It feels a significant moment as we head out to start our last ocean crossing of the race.

“Let’s hope we have a successful race, and hold our place on the leaderboard, and most importantly - have a fun crossing!”

While Visit Seattle, currently third in the overall standings, has opted to save its Joker Card for the final race from Derry-Londonderry to Liverpool, Unicef and PSP Logistics have decided to play the device now and double any race points earned in Race 12.

PSP Logistics skipper Matt Mitchell says: “The team is super keen to get stuck in to this race and it's all to play for in the Autumn stages of this round the world race.”

With just 15 points currently separating PSP Logistics in fifth from the second placed Qingdao, the latter’s skipper Chris Kobusch knows a lot is riding on Race 12.

“For us it will be a tough last Leg, as Visit Seattle and PSP Logistics both still have to play their Joker Card and might then either take our second place or be very close behind. The next two races will decide who gets onto the podium.”

This is the fourth consecutive time the Clipper Race fleet has raced across the Atlantic to Derry-Londonderry, and it will be a special homecoming for skipper Conall Morrison and the Irish members of his HotelPlanner.com team.

After being bid farewell by Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor John Boyle, in New York, Conall says: “I am now, more than ever looking forward to this LegenDerry Race into my own home port and am very proud to have such a great and happy team along with me.”

Race 12: The LegenDerry Race is expected to take up to 19 days, with the Clipper Race fleet estimated to arrive in Derry-Londonderry between 10-14 July – just in time for the Foyle Maritime Festival.

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#ClipperRace - The Clipper Race team of HotelPlanner.com led by Conall Morrison were in excellent spirits as they entered Liberty Landing Marina after taking seventh place in Race 11: Nasdaq Race from Panama to New York.

Greeted dockside by supporters and crew members hours after crossing the line at 11.39pm Irish time last night (Wednesday 13 June), skipper Morrison praised his hardworking team for keeping spirits high during the 10-day dash through the Caribbean and the Eastern Seaboard.

Conall and crew were the last to make port after a busy day of arrivals for the Clipper Race fleet, beginning with Race 11 winners PSP Logistics — who crossed the finish line some 55 nautical miles out from New York City at 3.41pm Irish time yesterday.

Speaking on arrival after his team’s second race win of the 2017-18 edition, skipper Matt Mitchell said: “It was a little bit touch and go towards the end but we made it. As a team I think we needed the win, we’ve had a bit of bad luck since the race into Qingdao, China, so it is good to get the win and hopefully it is a sign of our fortunes changing.”

Chinese entry Sanya Serenity Coast, led by Australian skipper Wendy Tuck, crossed the finish line at two hours and 40 minutes later to claim second place, the team’s sixth podium out of 11 — strengthening its lead in the overall standings going into the the circumnavigation’s final leg.

The GREAT Britain team claimed its second podium in two consecutive races when it crossed the line less than an hour later at 7.18pm to take third place. As well as picking up 10 race points, the team also collected a bonus race point for its third place in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.

On arrival, skipper David Hartshorn said: “This podium feels better than the last one, although that was a great feeling. The team has worked so hard to go from second to fourth and pull it back in the last few hours.

“The team worked really, really well. They thoroughly deserved this podium.”

The battle for the last podium spot came down to the wire, with Unicef coming in just nine minutes behind GREAT Britain.

On arrival into Liberty Landing in Jersey City, across the Hudson from lower Manhattan, Unicef skipper Bob Beggs said: “We had a good mixture of wind and the competition was very tight, all round a very good race.

“The team is coming together and we are working well together as a team, we are looking very confident as we complete the penultimate leg.”

Garmin closely followed the bright blue yacht into the city, and the fifth-placed team was given a warm and lively reception by supporters and fellow Clipper Race crews.

Skipper Gaetan Thomas was in good spirits, commenting: “It had a bit of everything. There was a little bit of a wind lottery at times, but we got two points in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint, too, which is great.

“I’ve never been to New York before so to go past Manhattan was incredible – the skyline is amazing.”

Nasdaq was next in sixth place heading into its team partner’s home port. On the 11th race, circumnavigating crew member Ineke Van Der Weijden said: “There was a time that we hoped we would come in a little bit better than sixth but the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint [which the team won, picking up three bonus race points] was awesome, we really went for it.

“We were the first boat to tack early at the start of the race which was a bit nerve wracking but soon others joined us!”

After HotelPlanner.com in sixth, the next team yacht to arrive was Qingdao, over the line at 4.52am Irish time this morning (Thursday 14 June), followed by Visit Seattle (7.18am) and Dare to Lead (9.10am).

Liverpool 2018 is the only team yet to complete Race 11, still some 85nm from the finish line as of 3pm Irish time today.

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#ClipperRace - The leading pack in the Clipper Race fleet has entered what should be the final 24 hours of Race 11: Nasdaq Race from Panama to New York today (Wednesday 13 June). But finishing positions are still very much up for grabs.

Just like the majority of the legs so far in the 2017-18 race, the end of Race 11 is set to be a close one. The latest ETA has the majority of the teams crossing the finish line within an 11-hour period from mid-afternoon today.

PSP Logistics remains in first place for a fifth consecutive day and has a 30 nautical mile lead on second-placed Sanya Serenity Coast with just 14nm to run until the finish line.

PSP skipper Matt Mitchell was enjoying where his team was at this morning even before the speed picked up, rocketing the boat within sight of the end.

“We are ghosting along towards the finish line with just under 80 nautical miles to go as I write. It’s been a lovely day today with nice clear skies and decent breeze.”

Things are far less settled in the chasing pack. As of 2.30pm Irish time on Wednesday afternoon, 40nm separates second from seventh. And with the wind forecasted to remain patchy for the next 24 hours, the final two spots on the podium are anyone’s.

Dave Hartshorn, skipper of fourth-placed GREAT Britain, explains: “The interesting bit is, no one knows what the end picture looks like. Earlier we were thundering along at 14-15 knots, now we are just making 7 knots.”

Sanya Serenity Coast, currently in second place after overtaking Unicef early on Wednesday, has also been experiencing changeable conditions.

Skipper Wendy Tuck reports: “So, it’s been a very mixed up sort of day. Started off blast reaching smoking along with the aid of the Gulf Stream. It was a bit of a rodeo ride and very splashy but heaps of fun. Then more reaching with an easing wind and sea state. Finally popped the kite and now charging to the finish line.

“Unicef is in our rear-view mirror, snapping at our heals, and over on the other side of the course we have Garmin and Nasdaq … it is a fight to the end.”

In order to podium in its home port of New York, seventh-placed Nasdaq — just a hair behind Conall Morrison’s HotelPlanner.com in sixth — will no doubt be looking for the same speed which saw it win the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint.

Nasdaq picked up three bonus points after completing the 180nm sprint in 15 hours, 14 minutes, and 10 seconds, at a very impressive average speed of just under 12 knots.

Garmin was just 29 minutes and 1 second behind to earn two bonus points, while GREAT Britain set the third fastest time, 16 hours, 24 minutes, and 25 seconds - just 15 minutes ahead of the fourth placed Qingdao - to collect one point.

On the push to the finish line, Nasdaq skipper Rob Graham says: “We spent last night weaving around some very shifty winds as a squally weather front passed overhead, then had a few hours storming progress northwards helped by the Gulf Stream.

“Conditions were initially a little sporty for the Code 2 (Mediumweight Spinnaker) but have been easing ever since, so I'm now going back on deck for a peel to the Code 1 (Lightweight Spinnaker).”

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#ClipperRace - After a week of racing around the clock in Race 11: Nasdaq Race, the Clipper Race fleet has been keeping everyone guessing as to their Scoring Gate tactics.

The Scoring Gate allows the first three teams that reach it to pick up three, two, or one bonus race point and is a favourite point scoring mechanism for some of the teams.

While Scoring Gate regulars Qingdao and the rest of the leading pack opted out, with Garmin skipper Gaëtan Thomas citing the uncertainty of so many teams remaining in Stealth Mode as of yesterday (Saturday 9 June), the path was cleared for the teams further back in the fleet.

Visit Seattle skipper Nikki Henderson explains: “Last night we pulled our hair out for a few hours going back and forth - to the Scoring Gate or not to the Scoring Gate?

“It was a gamble, but we took it - expecting at the time to come out with one point. So, lo and behold when the scheds came out I nearly fell of the chart table seat! It looks (although I don't know for sure just yet) that no one went - so that was good news for us. Gamble paid off. Great stuff.”

Visit Seattle was followed towards the Scoring Gate by Liverpool 2018, though the results will only be confirmed once formally announced by the Clipper Race Office.

On board Sanya Serenity Coast, which took a middle routing to enable them to have the option of heading to the Scoring Gate, the team is making up the lost ground after deciding to focus on race position.

Sanya skipper Wendy Tuck says: “So now we are trying to make up what we lost out, we still have over 700nm to go so we are trimming, trimming, and trimming. I think those off watch sleeping are dreaming of trimming.”

Across the fleet, teams are enjoying life at less of an angle and as they gear up for the upcoming Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint, and are making strong progress under spinnaker towards New York.

Qingdao skipper Chris Kobusch, reports: “Since we passed the Mandatory Gate Graves, the wind has slowly eased and veered which means we have had a flat boat and the spinnakers up again.

“The temperature has dropped a little bit and the stars are out tonight, too. All in all, champagne sailing conditions. And it looks like we will have these at least for the next 250nm until we get to the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint, where the forecast suggests an increase in wind again - luckily not in direction though.”

With less than 700 nautical miles left for leading team PSP Logistics, and points up for grabs in the Elliot Brown Ocean Sprint, it will be interesting to watch how the final race of the penultimate leg of the 2017-18 edition plays out in the coming days.

At present speeds and weather forecasts, the first boats are expected to cross the finish line this Friday morning 15 June and arrive at Liberty Landing Marina some eight hours later.

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#MaritimeFestivals - Do you have an urge to get others out on the water enjoying the River Foyle? Are you bursting to share your passion for science? Perhaps you’re just really friendly and feel you’re perfectly suited to welcoming and helping visitors to Derry-Londonderry.

Well now you have the perfect opportunity to do just that!

Anyone from the age of 16 up now has the chance to be involved in one of the biggest events in Ireland this summer by volunteering during Foyle Maritime Festival which runs from July 14th – July 22nd this year.

Aisling McCallion, Festival and Events Officer with Derry City and Strabane District Council said: “Volunteering can be a great way of adding to your experience or giving something back to your community. The Foyle Maritime Festival is looking to add to our existing team of event volunteers and we currently have roles available in a wide range of areas.

“We are looking for enthusiastic people to join our team and help us create an enjoyable, safe and friendly festival for visitors and international guests.

“You’ll have the opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills, build your CV and give back to your community while soaking up the fun at this world class festival. Lunch will be provided each day of your volunteering and a certificate of appreciation will be awarded.”

Volunteering opportunities include On the Water activity assistants, Welcome and Information assistants, main stage assistants, Science of Water marquee assistants, The Docks Zone assistants and event production assistants.

Whether it’s a teenager (16 and over) who wants to find something exciting to do during the summer holidays, a young person needing to gain vital experience in the field of their chosen profession or an older resident keen to enjoy the company of newcomers to the city, opportunities abound.

Tom Adams from Limavady can speak from experience about the benefits of volunteering, especially at such a high profile event as Foyle Maritime Festival.

Tom said: “I volunteered during the last Foyle Maritime Festival and I’m putting my name down again this year. I really enjoy meeting people and being able to help them out by signposting them to the various events and attractions. You get such a good feeling, especially when people come up to you to say what a wonderful place it is. It feels good to be helpful.

“Volunteering is great for getting you out of the house and keeping you busy so it’s good for both your mental and physical health.

“I work during the week but I spend my weekends volunteering and I’m really looking forward to Foyle Maritime Festival 2018.”

While the posts are unpaid, there are a range of benefits such as food allowance, a crew uniform, a volunteer recognition event and a certificate as well as free World Host training.

Volunteers are requested to give a minimum of 4 hours over the week of the event.

To make an expression of interest, apply online at: foylemaritime.com or email: [email protected] by Wednesday, June 20th, 2018.

A volunteer briefing will take place at The Guildhall on Wednesday, June 27th at 2 pm.

The Foyle Maritime Festival has a wealth of activities and attractions on offer to locals and visitors alike. Up to 160,000 people are expected to attend the nine day festival which culminates with a spectacular Voyages showcase before waving farewell to the Clipper 2017-18 Round the World Yacht Race fleet.

 To find out more about Foyle Maritime Festival 2018, visit www.foylemaritimefestival.com or you can follow on Facebook at www.facebook.com/foylemaritimefestival and on Twitter @Foylemaritime

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#ClipperRace - Wednesday’s game of snakes and ladders continues to disrupt the Race 11 leaderboard, but Day 4 (Thursday 7 June) has seen the majority of the Clipper Race fleet converge for the first time since Monday’s start.

For the teams that decided to head east at the beginning of the race, tactics have paid off, with PSP Logistics storming ahead rising up the ranks from fourth place yesterday to hold a 20 nautical mile (nm) lead on the pack.

Although PSP Logistics’ skipper Matt Mitchell is pleased with progress, he and the team know all too well the perils of ocean racing and in his report today, the leading skipper remained modest, saying: “It’s not been too bad over the last day with the wind fairly steady at around 15 knots.

“We managed to get around the first mark of the course without too much fuss and are now heading at speed towards the abyss that is the Windward Passage. Fingers crossed the wind holds as it can be a bit disconcerting being so close to land without any wind to steer with.”

Progress has been good on board Nasdaq, which has also been reaping the benefits of the early easterly route and is now in fifth place. Skipper Rob Graham explains: “Although our ‘eat your sprouts first’ tactic of heading east early worked out well, Nasdaq had seemed to struggle a little for boat speed compared to the boats around it.

“Speed has picked up now and we’re now making better progress towards the Windward Passage between Haiti and Jamaica, in a drag race with Garmin which is close beside us.”

The fleet has now split into two clear groups, with eight teams to the north — 30nm separating PSP from Qingdao and Conall Morrison’s HotelPlanner.com in a battle for seventh place — and three teams hunting the pack to the south, more than 100nm behind the leader.

The southerly teams have had a frustrating 24 hours for different reasons. On board Dare To Lead, skipper Dale Smyth explains: “We just struggle to match height and speed on other boats. We continue to work on sail shape, helming and weight distribution but unfortunately find ourselves trailing. Anyway, still a long way to go.”

For Liverpool 2018, fickle wind angles and current has held back progress and on board Visit Seattle, spirits remain high despite the hold backs as skipper Nikki Henderson comments: “Well, things just didn't work out in our favour in the last 24 hours. Not to worry though - we still have a way to go.”

Looking ahead, there is no respite to be had in the coming 24 hours, with Clipper Race meteorologist Simon Rowell observing that the breeze is largely flowing from the north, the sea state will likely become shorter and messier than the fleet has had up until now. Rowell also notes a tropical wave upwind of the fleet that may bring some squalls in the teams’ path.

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The Half Ton Class was created by the Offshore Racing Council for boats within the racing band not exceeding 22'-0". The ORC decided that the rule should "....permit the development of seaworthy offshore racing yachts...The Council will endeavour to protect the majority of the existing IOR fleet from rapid obsolescence caused by ....developments which produce increased performance without corresponding changes in ratings..."

When first introduced the IOR rule was perfectly adequate for rating boats in existence at that time. However yacht designers naturally examined the rule to seize upon any advantage they could find, the most noticeable of which has been a reduction in displacement and a return to fractional rigs.

After 1993, when the IOR Mk.III rule reached it termination due to lack of people building new boats, the rule was replaced by the CHS (Channel) Handicap system which in turn developed into the IRC system now used.

The IRC handicap system operates by a secret formula which tries to develop boats which are 'Cruising type' of relatively heavy boats with good internal accommodation. It tends to penalise boats with excessive stability or excessive sail area.

Competitions

The most significant events for the Half Ton Class has been the annual Half Ton Cup which was sailed under the IOR rules until 1993. More recently this has been replaced with the Half Ton Classics Cup. The venue of the event moved from continent to continent with over-representation on French or British ports. In later years the event is held biennially. Initially, it was proposed to hold events in Ireland, Britain and France by rotation. However, it was the Belgians who took the ball and ran with it. The Class is now managed from Belgium. 

At A Glance – Half Ton Classics Cup Winners

  • 2017 – Kinsale – Swuzzlebubble – Phil Plumtree – Farr 1977
  • 2016 – Falmouth – Swuzzlebubble – Greg Peck – Farr 1977
  • 2015 – Nieuwport – Checkmate XV – David Cullen – Humphreys 1985
  • 2014 – St Quay Portrieux – Swuzzlebubble – Peter Morton – Farr 1977
  • 2013 – Boulogne – Checkmate XV – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1985
  • 2011 – Cowes – Chimp – Michael Kershaw – Berret 1978
  • 2009 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978
  • 2007 – Dun Laoghaire – Henri-Lloyd Harmony – Nigel Biggs – Humphreys 1980~
  • 2005 – Dinard – Gingko – Patrick Lobrichon – Mauric 1968
  • 2003 – Nieuwpoort – Général Tapioca – Philippe Pilate – Berret 1978

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