There were emotional scenes in London on Saturday (July 12) as the Londonderry narrowly missed out on a podium finish having conquered Mother Nature’s toughest conditions during the Clipper Round the World Race.
Thousands of spectators lined the banks of the River Thames to welcome home 270 international amateur crew on 12 70-ft yachts as they formed a Parade of Sail which concluded with Tower Bridge lifting for the top three teams.
The Londonderry narrowly missed out on a podium finish after being beaten by third-placed OneDLL by just four points.
A total of 670 crew members from 42 different countries have battled hurricanes, survived a tornado, dealt with medical evacuations and the miraculous rescue of a crew member who went overboard in the Pacific.
The Londonderry went on to make international news back in March after Andrew Taylor went overboard in the Pacific Ocean for 90 minutes during Race 10 from Qingdao China, to San Francisco, USA.
“This has been an incredible experience and something that I will never forget,” said Londonderry skipper Sean McCarter.
“It’s unbelievable to be here in London. This last race was really important to us as a team as just three points separated us and OneDLL who went onto take third place. I couldn’t be prouder of the team and how they have performed.
“They all worked so hard. There was never a point that they just thought lets settle for what we have, they kept pushing harder and harder all the way.”
The normally reserved skipper continued to heap praise on his team after claiming an impressive fourth place in the ninth edition of the Clipper 2013-14 Race.
“As a team, it’s hard to ever top anything like our home port win into Derry-Londonderry but today has been spectacular. It’ll be strange leaving the team, but I know we will always be great friends and LegenDerry.”
Crew members range from doctors to lawyers, farmers, housewives, sports stars and students and are aged between 18 and 74. 40 per cent had never sailed before they participated.
Round the world crew member, Conor O’Byrne, an Officer of the Garda from Dublin, was overwhelmed by the rapturous reception.
He said: “It was my dream to sail around the world and today I joined that elite group of people. The race has been absolutely incredible and I am so proud to stand alongside this group of people who have made this last year truly unforgettable for me.”
Mayor of Londonderry, Brenda Stevenson, who was there to welcome in each of the 12 racing yachts to Foyle Marina during the Northern Irish stopover last month, was once again leading the celebrations in London today as she praised the team’s incredible performance.
“Today was a really proud moment for everyone of Derry-Londonderry. Just weeks ago we saw the team win their home port race into Derry-Londonderry and here we are at the race finish.”
The city is already planning what we can do for the next race, and how we can make it even bigger for the Clipper 2015-16 Race.
“Today the team just narrowly missed out on third place overall, but for us they’re winners.”
The race left the UK’s capital on September 1, 2013 and since then the teams have visited 16 ports in 11 countries and six continents during the 16-race series.
The circumnavigation sees people from all walks of life join together in the only race of its kind for amateur sailors.
Each team is led by one professional skipper.
The Clipper Race was created in 1996 by legendary British yachtsman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston to give people from all walks of life and ages the opportunity to experience ocean racing including the option to complete a full circumnavigation.
Sir Robin became the first person to sail solo, non-stop, around the world 45 years ago, when he completed the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race on 22 April 1969 aboard his 32ft ketch Suhaili.
At 75 the grandfather of five is still sailing competitively and will take on another transatlantic solo race this autumn in his open 60 yacht Grey Power.