Watch - Maritime Festival: emotional Derry man on Clipper race looks forward to coming home

Derry man Gerard Doherty has told how delighted he is at reaching New York in the Clipper race - because it means his next voyage will be to his home town, his friends and family.

The local man has enjoyed a tremendous experience, and has previously spoken about how the clipper survived a major storm and being hit by lightning.

But in his recorded message on a video published courtesy of Clipper Race, he tells how much he has missed home and how he is looking forward to sailing up the River Foyle.

Excitement here is mounting ahead of the return of the Clipper race and the Maritime festival.

Gerard Doherty

Tens of thousands of people will be in Derry this July as the world’s toughest ocean endurance race arrives in the city to coincide with the return of the internationally acclaimed Foyle Maritime Festival.

It’s the fifth time the city has been a Host Port Partner for the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race, but this year will be extra special with over 150,000 people expected to descend on Derry for the celebrations.

The five-day extravaganza, from July 20-24, will see the riverfront once against transformed into a bustling international marina with maritime markets and a celebration of the very best food and drink the North West has to offer.

With a jam-packed programme, the free-to-attend festival, will include live art and animation installations, virtual reality experiences, acrobats, animated performers and an array of water sports such as kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding which will give participants a unique view of the city from the River Foyle.


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The Clipper Race is a huge attraction in Derry

There will also be live music performances taking place on the Festival Village stage along with riverside family activities including workshops, funfair attractions, the Foyle Bubble Challenge, boat tours and street theatre. In addition, a number of majestic Tall Ships will anchor in the Foyle, with some visiting Northern Ireland for the first time.

This year’s festival reaches its pinnacle on the evening of Friday July 22 with a magical evening of music, dance and theatre culminating in mesmerising Parade of Light on the River Foyle against the backdrop of an awe-inspiring pyrotechnic display.

Officially this year’s Clipper race is the 2019/20 edition after it was halted at the halfway stage when the pandemic struck. The fleet was anchored in the Philippines as crews returned to their homes but now the 40,000nm circumnavigation has resumed with Derry the penultimate stop, with the largest showstopping celebrations, before the final sprint for the finishing line in London.


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After leaving New York and crossing the North Atlantic, these stunning yachts will arrive in the Foyle from July 14.

As the crews arrive in the River Foyle it will be a homecoming for one of them as Derry native Gerard Doherty has been racing with the Ha Long Bay, Vietnam team.

Festival and Events Manager, Jacqueline Whoriskey said excitement is growing in the city and across the North West for the return of the Clipper race fleet and the Foyle Maritime Festival.

She said: “Ask the Clipper crews and they will tell you this is one of their favourite ports to stop in and that is largely down to the warm welcome they receive from the thousands of people who line the riverside for their arrival.”


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The LegenDerry Streetfood Festival will begin welcoming ships from July 15-17. McFarland Way in the city will be transformed into a truly unique dining location to showcase the very best local street food and craft drink with live DJ sets getting the party started.

The festival will celebrate Derry’s local food and drink heritage as well as introduce flavours from around the world, something the city’s merchants of yesteryear did as they returned from voyages to all corners of the earth.

A central focus of this year’s Maritime Festival is the plight of the world’s oceans and seas and there will be educational elements revealing the damage which is being inflicted by mankind and the steps we can take to be more environmentally friendly.

The theme of the festival is ‘What Lies Beneath’ and it will be a celebration of the beauty and splendour of our seas, oceans and waterways and the ecosystems of life they support.


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Visitors will also be encouraged to pledge a commitment to being more eco-friendly in their daily lives so the festival can have a lasting positive impact on the environment.

Lowering the curtain on this year’s festival will be the Parade of Sail on Sunday July 24, as the Clipper fleet takes to the sea to embark on the final leg of their mammoth journey and head for the finishing line in London.

Odhran Dunne, Visit Derry continued: “There is a real vibrancy about the city and the festival is a wonderful platform to showcase to the world just what a special place this is. Derry is the perfect gateway to the North West with beaches, rugged coastlines and beautiful countryside to discover within the region.

“When people visit for the Maritime Festival, they find the city has so much to offer and is also surrounded by amazing places to visit and explore beyond the Walled City, where the Wild Atlantic Way meets the Causeway Coastal Route.”


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For more information on the Foyle Maritime Festival visit or to plan your trip and more, visit

The Foyle Maritime Festival is organised and funded by Derry City and Strabane District Council with support from Tourism NI, Foyle Port, Loughs Agency and Diageo.