Derry awaits as clippers approach

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Less than 700 miles from the coast, the Clipper fleet is battling ex-tropical storm ‘Chris’ as it heads for Derry.

Ten days into Race 13, the Derry ‘Homecoming’ leg of the round the world challenge, the fleet is busy studying weather files and contemplating tactics in a bid to find the fastest route to the finish line in Northern Ireland.

But safety is also key, admits Derry~Londonderry skipper Mark Light: “The ocean has no respect for us or our boat; she does not differentiate between amateur or professional, young or old, sailor or landlubber.”

Clipper Race Director, Jonathan Bailey said yetserday: “Over the weekend the Clipper Race fleet has been navigating its way around ex-tropical storm ‘Chris’ which has given headwinds to many of the yachts and slowing progress rather than the more traditional downwind conditions associated with this leg of the race.

“Some of the yachts have stayed north of the eye of the tropical storm but several have managed to get below the eye into stronger winds from a more favourable direction. This tactical decision to go south of the eye has opened up some interesting scenarios as the fleet approach the Irish coast, so the next few days will be very interesting.”

The ten-day Clipper Homecoming Festival, organised by Derry City Council, will begin this Friday - when the yachts are expected to arrive in the Foyle - until Sunday, July 8.

The Maritime Festival will welcome the clipper fleet - which started out from Southampton in July last year - and feature a series of events including two free concerts showcasing a range of local and international acts. Ten pubs will each host one of the countries involved to celebrate the visit of the world’s longest race and Clipper sponsors Diageo will have exclusive pouring rights to the event including its home grown global brands Guinness, Harp, Bushmills and Baileys. Barney McCann, Diageo NI, said the city will be a “great host for the wide international audience”.