Clipper Around the Word Yacht Race: From local sailor to local hero-Sean McCarter

Clipper Derry boat skipper Sean McCarter.
Clipper Derry boat skipper Sean McCarter.
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Having narrowly missed out on a podium finish in the latest edition of the Clipper Race, you’d

forgive the skipper of Derry~Londonderry~Doire for feeling disappointed. However, as the

Northern Irish sailor, Sean McCarter explains - his team achieved far more in their 11 month global

challenge then could ever be measured in points alone.

“From the moment I met the crew I knew we had a great bunch of people. As soon as we met we

set out our goals and what we wanted to achieve, and at the back of our minds that was what we

were working towards,” explained Sean.

Having grown up in Derry-Londonderry and having learnt to sail on Lough Swilly in County Donegal,

Ireland at the tender age of 5-years-old, 36-year-old Sean McCarter was the first choice to lead the

Northern Irish team around the globe. Having sailed around the world once before, Sean knew the

team needed to agree on their goals immediately if they were to be successful:

“As a team we decided straight away how competitive we wanted to be. They knew I wasn’t just out

for a cruise and likewise - we always talked before each race to discuss how we were going to

approach it. In the beginning we did a lot of work to ensure everyone was trained up and confident

as soon as possible.”

With the added pressure of guiding 24 non-professional sailors around the globe, Sean took his role

as the only professional sailor on board seriously, always leading by example:

“You know it’s important that you never ask the crew to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself. I

was always very conscience to never ask a crew member to do something that I wasn’t prepared to

do myself. It was really refreshing to see so much enthusiasm from the team. A lot of my crew are as

professional as any professional sailors I have ever worked with.”

The team’s focus and determination began to pay off winning Race 6 of the 16 race global series -

the prestigious Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race. For Sean this meant achieving a lifelong dream:

“Sailing down the Derwent River in Hobart, Tasmania knowing that we had won our class in the

Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race was an unforgettable moment. It’s a race that everyone knows and

is one of the three iconic offshore races in the world, so that was huge for us. The feeling of being

the first boat in and tying up was incredible – it was really amazing and incredibly special.”

Having already won the heart of his city he grew up in, Sean still had one last trick up his sleeve.

After leaving New York, for Race 14 and homeward bound he and his team achieved what so many

before had tried and failed – winning their 2,850 mile transatlantic homeport race from New York,

USA to Derry-Londonderry, Northern Ireland:

“Winning our homeport race into Derry-Londonderry was incredible. It all started at around 06:00

am in the morning when family and friends, and motoring up the river right up into the River Foyle.

The support and crowds were just massive, and I think it was that point it dawned on me what we

had achieved. From the moment I joined the race I was told how incredible the Derry-Londonderry stopover was, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. I think it meant as much to the city as it did to us as

a team – It was a magical time.”

With the search already underway to find the next ‘dynamic dozen’ to lead the 12-strong fleet

around the globe, Sean had these words of advice for any professional sailors interested in taking on

the unique challenge:

“Be organised. Talk to past skippers and soak up as much advice as you can - some of it you’ll use

and some you won’t. That’s what I did and it really helped with my preparation.

“I’d also say make sure you lead by example and ensure that the team is happy and having fun,

because if you approach each race thinking all I want to do is win. Well you might win the race, but

generally the team might not enjoy themselves. It’s important to get everyone signed into the same

idea and objectives.”