Gerard is on the Ha Long Bay, Vietnam boat, which is currently coming in at second place after arriving in Seattle on Sunday.
He said: “The first time the Clipper came to Derry, it was all very exciting. I wanted to sign up then but I had my own business so I wasn’t able to leave that for six months. I retired in 2019 so I signed up in 2018 and took my chances. In February 2020, I went to the Philippines to join my boat for the trip. We arrived into port, where there was a big yacht club filled of people and music and food and then we headed off on our race. We came first in that race but when we arrived back to the port five days later, the place was closed off completely with armed police on the pontoons and we weren’t even allowed off the boats. On the Tuesday, March 17, the race was postponed and I came home on the Thursday. We came back out then two years later and continued the race.
“When I came here first, everyone on my boat were strangers. To bring 15 strangers together and see how we’ve bonded and look after each other, it’s an amazing experience. We all depend on each other at all times and the sense of community is great. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.
“I’m really looking forward to Derry. The people who have done it before say there’s no welcome like the welcome you get in Derry. We got a great welcome here in Seattle but when you imagine that there will be a few thousand people at home waiving us in, it’ll be an amazing experience.
“The Panama Canal is the next highlight then we’ll have New York and Derry will be the pinnacle.”
Gerard and his team on the Ha Long Bay boat will be sailing into Derry on July 20 - 24 during the Foyle Maritime Festival.