There are very few 33-year-olds who can say they have circumnavigated the globe in a small boat, but skipper of the Derry-Londonderry-Doire boat Daniel Smith is poised to become one of them.
And not only has the Scottish sailor been successful in ensuring Derry’s entry in the race has been consistently among the leaders of the pack in the race around the world, he has also been tasked with steering an international crew of people who were strangers prior to taking part.
Daniel, who hails from Largs in the west coast of Scotland, said the experience has been life-changing.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ yesterday after a well-earned weekend of rest and catching up with family and friends who have made the 100 mile trip to Derry to see him, he said:
“The journey across the Atlantic was a windy sail, with lots of spinnaker flying, lots of hard work but exciting sailing.
“There were mixed conditions. We had an area in the middle, with the north Atlantic high pressure system, quite light winds, but after that it was quite windy.
“The crew got on very well on this leg, particularly when you consider there were 24 people living in a very tight space.”
In fact, the team worked together so well they arrived off the coast of Ireland in first place, but a last minute change in the race route, taking them on a detour around Rathlin and Tory Island, changed everything as winds slackened and the Derry crew were overtaken.
“We got in a bit early and we were getting on quite well but we ended up second to LMax Exchange,” Daniel says. “That was a bit of a bitter pill to swallow but coming second is a good result and we got points from the Ocean Sprint.”
The skipper and his crew said they have been delighted with the warm welcome they have received in Derry since they docked last Wednesday.
“It was phenomenal. As soon as we crossed the finish line there was a boat which dropped off bacon rolls and we have our own flotilla which followed us up the River Foyle. If felt like half the city was out to welcome us.
“We have had a weekend off catching up with sleep getting nice food and a drink of Guinness.
“The city really has taken the whole thing on board and the team have been taking in tours of the Walled City and going to the pubs.
“I think in other bigger cities it is not quite so personal, whereas everybody in Derry knows about Clipper and they have given us a very warm and homely welcome. It’s been great and I’m looking forward now to the Prize Giving on Wednesday night and the Maritime Festival looks like it’s going to be busy.”
And Daniel said he would encourage anyone with an interest to give serious consideration to taking on the Clipper Round the World Challenge.
“It’s hard work and very challenging but working as part of a team is very rewarding. Doing it with Clipper they spend a lot of time training up the crew at the beginning so somebody who is a complete novice can try it out and anybody can do it. That makes it very accessible.”
And now the Derry crew and their 11 competitors are getting ready to do it all again as this Sunday they will depart for Den Helder in the Netherlands followed by a sprint back to London and the finish line.
Daniel is hoping the Derry boat, which is currently nine points behind LE Max, can make up ground and pip them at the post to take first prize.
“You are always in with a chance. Nine points is quite a lot to make up but with yacht racing it’s not over till it’s over. Anything can happen.”