Basking in the middle of the ocean with the sun blazing down and the wind at your face is the best feeling in the world for Niall Boyle, who has just returned from sailing in the first leg of the Clipper Round the World Race.
“It was a fantastic experience, really amazing, I never thought I would get the opportunity to experience anything like it in my life” he said following his return from a month-long sail from Southampton to Madeira and on to Rio De Janeiro on board the Derry Clipper.
The 23 year-old from the Waterside is one of five Derry City Council bursary winners chosen to take part in various stages of the race and act as ambassadors for their city ahead of the race’s visit to Derry next July. Although he returned less than a fortnight ago the young mechanic has already found a new job which continues the nautical theme of his life in the last few months - a post with Londonderry Port And Harbour Commission.
Since his return home Niall has been on a high recalling the highs and lows of being on the Derry~Londonderry Clipper yacht.
“Don’t get me wrong - it was a fantastic experience, the adventure of a lifetime, but it was hard going - we were working long hours in seriously hot temperatures and under a lot of pressure all of the time. But the atmosphere was great, the crew on board the Derry boat are fantastic and luckily we all got on really well together and worked well as a team.”
Sleep deprivation and extreme heat seem to have been the only downside for Niall. “I definitely found the hot weather hard to deal with. It was hard to work in those conditions but as we moved closer to Rio it seemed to get a lot cooler with a light breeze and I have been making sure to catch up on my sleep since I got back.”
Niall said while he missed family and friends back home he was well looked after on board the yacht. “We had plenty of nice food - we ate really well, lots of pasta, rice and cous cous and the odd bar of chocolate and freshly baked bread each day. Our beds were comfortable and the facilities really good - so it wasn’t bad at all.
Having limited ways of communicating with the outside world was also a good thing. “Rather than feeling cut off from everything I felt free - not having to worry about a mobile phone or emails or what was going on in the news was a good thing.”
Niall explained that the departure of one of the team members, Tim Hawkins, who broke his leg on board the vessel, was a big loss to the crew and the boat. “Tim is a great guy, he will miss the next two legs of the race as a result of his injury and the crew will really miss him as he has great strength and is a pivotal member of the crew. He is a morale booster and one of the lead engineers so the crew will be looking forward to having him back on board.”
Since his return, the KickStart to Work team at Derry City Council has helped him gain a long term employment placement with the port and harbour authority. “I am really grateful to everyone who has helped me on this journey. Everything seems to be going my way.”
Niall also intends to continue sailing, but only for pleasure. “It will be good to get on a yacht and do some relaxing sailing and not be under the pressure of being in a race,” he quipped.
Niall said the experience not only made him a more confident and self assured person but it has reinforced the importance of living life to the full and embracing opportunities that may come his way. “I would encourage any young person to go out there and see what opportunities are available. Never in a million years would I have imagined that I would be doing this. I was never interested in school that much - I did well enough but it wasn’t for me and I know there are so many people that feel the same way. My message to them is to try new things, and if there is something that you enjoy doing then go for it and follow your dreams.”
Niall was replaced on the Derry clipper by fellow city council bursary winner Shauna O’Neill who is taking part in the second leg of the global race, from Brazil to South Africa.