The man who founded the Clipper Yacht race has said he would love to see it return to the city after crews received a welcome fit for heroes during their stay in the city.
Sir Robin Knox Johnston (77) was speaking just prior to thousands descending on the quayside to witness the ‘Parade of Sail’ farewell to the fleet on Sunday.
“It’s been yet another great visit,” he told the ‘Journal.’ “This is our third visit to the city and in a way we have come to know what to expect. It is a great reception, very warm, people are friendly and from the crew’s perspective they have our word that it is going to be good and when they get here they realise we weren’t lying to them.”
Sir Robin said Derry stands out on its own compared with other regions participating in the 40,000 mile trip around the world. “We have a very active council and they use this very effectively,” he said, adding that whether Derry again fields a boat and acts as a host port will be for the local council to decide.
He added: “They are responsible people; they will do a complete assessment; cost against benefit and that’s their job; that’s what they have to do, and we will sit back and wait to see what happens.
“All I can say from a Clipper perspective is, we love coming here and if the city says we can come again we would say ‘yes’.”
Speaking about some of the benefits for Derry’s participation to date, he said: “The 300 odd people on those boats are going to go away and say ‘you want to go to Derry-Londonderry’. They will have a very positive image to take away. There are 43 nationalities, a lot of them are business people and its on their map now, it wasn’t before.
“Obviously we would love to see people coming here and getting businesses going and providing employment. That would be the perfect result for everyone. We would love to see if from the Clipper’s perspective, the city needs it and they are our friends; the city would love it. We work very closely with the city and co-operate very closely on promoting the city. In New York the city was sold very well and you never know what is going to come from that. That could be two years down the line. All we know is you’ve got to let people see you are there and that is what Clipper does.”
On a personal level, Sir Robin says that these days time pressures mean he doesn’t get out sailing as much as he’d like. However the Portsmouth native, who has been rebuilding the boat he famously sailed round the world in by himself non-stop in 1969, is not tempted to join a Clipper crew.
“The reason I don’t is, if the boat won and I was on it, they might say I influenced the result. One thing I’m certain of, if I was on it and it didn’t win, they’d say I was no good!” he laughed.
He said that his greatest pleasure lies in witnessing how the Clipper challenge changes people’s lives, particularly those who join through the bursary scheme which originated in South Africa, and which has been adopted in Derry.
“They build up confidence, self-belief. That gives me more satisfaction than anything.”