Picture Special - A Clipper homecoming to remember

There were emotional scenes at the weekend as the city welcomed home the crew of the Derry-Londonderry Clipper who arrived to a rapturous reception on Sunday morning.

They were joined yesterday by the crew of the Qingdao yacht who completed the impressive ten yacht line-up now berthed along the city’s new pontoon.

The Derry~Londonderry Clipper Yacht arrives at the finish line four miles off the Donegal coast. PIcture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 1.7.11

The Derry~Londonderry Clipper Yacht arrives at the finish line four miles off the Donegal coast. PIcture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 1.7.11

The 68-foot cutters will remain in the city until Saturday when they will once again set off to complete the final two stages of their 40,000 mile round-the-world adventure.

And, while the visiting crews enjoy some much-missed home comforts, the Clipper Homecoming Festival is in full swing with thousands of visitors swarming the Derry quayside.

From 10am each day, a jam-packed programme of water-based and quayside activities have been organised with a strong family friendly ethos for all to enjoy.

From today, boat enthusiasts can board the impressive Clipper vessels and get a lesson in round the world sailing from the crews. Visitors can see for themselves the challenging conditions the crews have had to endure throughout their epic journey and hear at first-hand some of the accounts of their amazing high seas adventures.

John Harkin, a round the world crew member of the Derry-Londonderry clipper, described his feelings at returning home after nearly a year at sea.

“It’s just been so overwhelming. This is by far the best reception we have had during this race.

£Thousands of people have come out today to welcome us home; we feel like rock stars!”

Mark Light, the skipper of the Derry-Londonderry yacht, voiced his elation at arriving in Derry: “We had a really tough race. The Atlantic was never going to be an easy crossing but when tropical storm ‘Chris’ developed we had even more to contend with.

“We had a few minor injuries, some seasickness, but everyone pulled together as a team and made it work.

“It’s extremely overwhelming arriving in Derry-Londonderry after looking forward to coming here for so long.”

John Harkin was joined by his daughter Jodie in New York for the last leg of the Clipper Race. He described the tough Atlantic Ocean crossing: “It was a really, really tough race. This is my third ocean crossing and it was a relentless battle day after day.

“We had a lot of new crew join us in New York, everyone worked so hard I couldn’t fault anyone for their effort. Obviously we would have liked to have got a better result, but for me it’s about completing a journey, and here I am.”

The penultimate race, an 800-mile sprint from Derry to Den Helder in the Netherlands, will start on Saturday, 7 July.

For further details about the Clipper homecoming festival, visit www.derrycity.gov.uk/clipper