Brave Sharon Doherty sails homeward on Clipper yacht

Quigley's Point Clipper crew member Sharon Doherty.
Quigley's Point Clipper crew member Sharon Doherty.

A Quigley’s point woman, who battled breast cancer to join the Clipper crew, has told the ‘Journal’ her homecoming will be emotional.

For Sharon, the homecoming will be especially triumphant, as her Clipper race journey suffered a cruel setback last year. The 37-year-old had finished her level three training and was due to join the Derry/Londonderry crew in Cape Town last October to sail to Albany, Western Australia. But, two months before she was due to depart, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

While the teacher’s dream of taking part in the race was put on hold, it was not dashed.

Just five months later, she received the “exciting news” there was a place for her on the homecoming leg of the race.

Sharon jumped at the chance and is now sailing towards home.

Speaking to the ‘Journal,’ Sharon told how the excitement was “building” among the crew members, who are hoping to win the race.

She added that when was growing up along the shores of Lough Foyle, she “always loved the sea.”

When the Clipper 2011-2012 Round the World Yacht Race came to Derry, a spark was ignited which would lead her to an experience of a lifetime.

She said: “I watched as all the yachts arrived and was amazed at how friendly the crew were, waving and smiling from the decks of the yachts, despite having had a rough crossing. I saw around the Derry-Londonderry boat and it was then that I thought - I could do this!”

Sharon sent off an application form, but when it arrived she was concerned she couldn’t afford to take part. But, she couldn’t get the idea out of her head. She applied and “started saving the pennies.”

She told the ‘Journal’ how the excitement and anticipation were “incredible” as she undertook her levels one and two training in Gosport, followed by the level three.

Then, “very unexpectedly” at the end of August, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She said: “It certainly wasn’t what I had planned! Strangely however I was very calm about it all. My priorities completely changed and I just had to get better. I had a mastectomy and then just concentrated on getting strong again. I was disappointed that I wasn’t getting to sail the Southern Ocean and I just hoped I would be able to join the race at some stage.”

She was “delighted” when she was told there was a place on Jamaica Get All Right for the homecoming leg.

She said: “Not only was I going to sail out into the Atlantic past the Statue of Liberty and cross an ocean, I was going to be sailing home. Such an amazing end to a very unexpected but interesting few months.My family and friends were all delighted for me and it’s going to be brilliant and probably a little emotional waving to them as we sail up Lough Foyle,” she said.

“I have met all of my crew members now and there are such a great bunch of people. I am really looking forward to the whole experience, to the challenges it will undoubtedly bring and to the camaraderie that develops when teams work together for a common goal - namely to win the race to Derry-Londonderry! And have a lot of fun in the process.