Clippers to head for disputed Rockall to give Londonderry time to get ready for the party

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The Londonderry leg of the Clipper Round the World yacht race has had to be extended because the yachts are flying across the North Atlantic so quickly the local council and the race organisers won’t have the infrastructure ready on time for their earlier-than-expected arrival.

The yachts, of which the Derry-Londonderry-Doire is one of the front runners, will now have to change tack and head north once they hit Tory island, rounding Rockall and then St Kilda before returning south to Londonderry for a big party.

According to the organisers: “The Clipper Race fleet has made fast progress in Race 12 ‘The LegenDerry Finale’ and has broken through the North Atlantic High (NAH) much quicker than anticipated following the experience of previous editions. This would result in a much earlier than estimated arrival in Derry-Londonderry.

“After extensive consultation between the Clipper Race Office and the Derry City and Strabane District Council, the earliest we can bring forward the required infrastructure is Wednesday, July 6.

“Therefore the Race Committee has agreed to adding an extension to the course of approximately 500 nautical miles from Tory Island (six miles off the north-west coast of Ireland), heading north-west around Rockall, east to Saint Kilda and then back to the original finish line off Shrove near Greencastle.

“Due to Tory Island being so close to the original route the current tactics crossing the North Atlantic will remain unchanged, and should not disadvantage any of the teams.

“This will result in the arrival window in Derry-Londonderry opening a day earlier, with the earliest arrivals on the Foyle being from July 6, and continuing through to July 8, subject to the prevailing weather condition.”

Bob Beggs, Skipper of Qingdao, says he’s looking forward to visiting Rockall, which is claimed by the United Kingdom because it is closer to the Hebridean island of St Kilda than Tory, although this claim is not recognised by Dublin.

He said: “The race continues with good progress being made towards the finish line, unfortunately the pace is too quick. And the race has been extended to ensure that we don’t arrive in Derry-Londonderry before the party starts.

“An extra 500 nautical miles has been added to the race in the form of a loop to take in the islands of Rockall and St Kilda. As a veteran of the two-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race, I have rounded St Kilda many times, but Rockall has always remained aloof so finally I will get to see the latest rock to be claimed for the British Isles by former SAS soldier Tom McClean (I believe).

“He slept on the rock flying the Union Flag for several weeks to claim it for the UK back in the eighties.

“The other great milestone that I will miss today is that it is my wife Carole’s 21st birthday, the twentieth such birthday she has had since we met, and due to being nearly always at sea I an often sending birthday wishes from afar. So Carole have a great day. I will join you for some belated celebrations in just two weeks. Can’t wait.”