Light to lead Derry on high seas

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For elite yachtsman Mark Light his appointment as skipper of of Derry’s entry in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race is still sinking in.

The experienced sailor is one of the ten elite yachtsmen who will lead teams in the global event.

Speaking to the ‘Journal’ after the announcement this week, the Gloucestershire native said he was thrilled to have been chosen to take charge of Northern Ireland’s only entry in the race.

The 39 year-old said: “I am absolutely delighted to have got the job. It didn’t sink in initially when I got the phone call but then the emails started coming through and it’s now all very real. It’s amazing – a great feeling.”

The ‘Derry-Londonderry’ entry will form a centrepiece of the campaign leading up to the city’s celebrations as UK City of Culture 2013.

“When I got the job I had in mind that I would like to skipper the Irish entry so it’s great to have been appointed to lead the Derry-Londonderry team. I think Northern Ireland’s a fantastic place and it’s great that our stopover is one of the last of the race so we have it as a great motivator all the way around.”

The Derry yacht is one of ten internationally-sponsored entries in Clipper 11-12. They include Singapore, Chinese entry, Qingdao, and De Lage Landen which will race under the Dutch flag. The Clipper Race is the only global ocean race open to everyone, regardless of background and sailing ability and is the longest in the world. Almost 500 people from 40 nationalities and more than 250 different professions will step outside their comfort zone to race a stripped down, 68-foot yacht 40,000 miles around the world.

“I believe the whole concept of the Clipper Race is brilliant. Making ocean sailing accessible to anybody and providing the challenge and platform on which to literally change people’s lives is very special.”

Mark now lives on the Isle of Wight and hopes to celebrate his 40th birthday racing the Derry yacht to victory somewhere in the Southern Ocean.

Introduced to sailing in his late 20s, he learned to sail dinghies on a lake.

Once bitten by the sailing bug he took the plunge, left his job as a mechanical and production engineer and studied full time for the sailing qualifications that would allow him to turn his passion into a career.

Now an experienced senior instructor with many ocean crossings to his name, he is most looking forward to racing across the Pacific Ocean and arriving in his team’s home port, Derry at the end of the final transatlantic stage. “Sailing down the River Foyle into the heart of the City of Culture to a fabulous reception is going to be unbeatable.”

The Clipper Race celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. It was established in 1996 by legendary yachtsman, Sir Robin Knox-Johnston who, in 1969, became the first man to sail solo and non-stop around the world.