A cat and mouse game over 40 miles between Derry-Londonderry and De Lage Landen went right down to the wire as the Northern Ireland team crossed the finish line at Tauranga just two minutes ahead of the Dutch entry at the end of the 3,800-mile clipper race from Geraldton, Western Australia.
With just three miles to go, and Derry-Londonderry hobbled by a rip in their mainsail, De Lage Landen was in the lead and looked to have it in the bag until they hit a wind hole and ground to a halt.
Flying just two headsails, Derry-Londonderry held on to the wind, crossing behind their rivals and pulling ahead of them until they, too, were stopped in their tracks.
The crews tried everything in their repertoire to find some momentum and it was De Lage Landen whose sails filled first, powering away from the team representing the City of Culture 2013.
However, an error at the finish line meant they had to go back on their tracks to complete the course and it was enough to allow the jubilant Derry-Londonderry crew to sneak past them and claim fourth place.
Mark Light, skipper of the Derry clipper, was thrilled. “It was an amazing finish, I didn’t think we’d get it in the end but I think we definitely deserved something out of this race and the finish was brilliant – I loved it,” he said as he and the crew arrived in Tauranga Bridge Marina, the fleet’s base for the next ten days.
“To get fourth is brilliant.”
Race 6 to Gold Coast, Australia, starts on Sunday 4 December.