Yachts parade ends Clipper fest

The boats assemble at the start line in Greencastle to begin the next leg of the race. (1007PG104)
The boats assemble at the start line in Greencastle to begin the next leg of the race. (1007PG104)
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The round-the-world sailing festival in Derry has ended with 10 competing yachts holding a farewell parade.

Thousands of people attended the week-long Clipper Homecoming Festival.

The racing clippers did a farewell lap of the Lough, from the Foyle Bridge to the Peace Bridge, to the applause of thousands of well-wishers, ceremonial canon and the 1812 Overture, before heading out to Greencastle in Co Donegal.

The next lap of the race takes the international crews to Den Helder in the Netherlands, before the final run back to Southampton, one year and 40,000 miles after the world’s toughest ocean races began.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: “It has been the most amazing week in the history of the city. Not only has it been a very highly prestigious event, but it has shown the people of the city what is possible.

“We have learnt important lessons and now we have the experience and the potential to host more international events of this type. It’s important to seize these opportunities for the city and to improve the lifestyles of its people. It’s going to be a very exciting City of Culture in 2013.”

Among competitors were the crew of the home yacht, Derry-Londonderry, who received a hero’s homecoming on returning to the city after braving high seas, freezing winds and debilitating seasickness in the run from New York via Nova Scotia.

Cheering them on was Sharon O’Connor, chief executive of Derry City Council, who said the city had been totally transformed by the festival, with the target of 100,000 visitors being far surpassed.

“The place has been totally jam-packed,” she said. “It will be a while before we can confirm a final figure, but we are talking hundreds of thousands. Clipper has been of real benefit to the city itself, while the shops, restaurants, hotels and other businesses have been doing a great trade.

“The festival has brought people here who would never have been here in other circumstances and the crews have been saying this is the best place they have been. I believe that sentiment is genuine. What we wanted to do, and what we have been hugely successful in achieving, is to bring our story to the international stage.”