Sailing into Londonderry will be a very special moment for two Clipper Race crew on board the Swiss-sponsored entry, Switzerland as they return home for the first time in decades.
Richard Greer, 45, originally from Londonderry, now lives in France, and is looking forward to sailing up the River Foyle and experiencing the city’s famous hospitality.
The completion of the transatlantic voyage from New York into Northern Ireland will mark the first time he has returned home in over three decades.
“I haven’t been in Derry-Londonderry since I was a kid back in the 80s!” confessed Richard.
“A lot has changed since then and being a small part of something positive for Derry-Londonderry is very rewarding. I’ll feel very proud of my origins, proud to share them with my crew mates. To sail into a ‘new’ Derry-Londonderry will be very emotional!” he added.
Richard - who grew up in Knockloughrim, County Derry - left the city to study engineering in Salford before then backpacking around the world. He then took up a position within Occupational Safety with Kimberley Clark, producers of Huggies and Kleenex.
After 21 years with the same company and in search of a new adventure - and with zero sailing experience - Richard decided it was time to push himself out of his comfort zone and sign up to compete in Leg 4 and 8 of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race on board team Switzerland.
“I had literally no sailing experience whatsoever. It all stemmed from a dream I had about a poster I saw on the London Underground and the rest is history.
“I’m often asked what the biggest highlight so far has been, and I’d have to say competing in the famous Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race (part of Leg 4) and winning our first race from Hobart to Brisbane. However, I’m not sure if anything could beat sailing into Derry-Londonderry as part of this huge adventure.”
Keeping Richard company during the 2,850 mile Atlantic crossing is fellow crew member Samantha Tosh, 42, also originally from Limavady, County Londonderry. She currently lives in Brighton where she works as an engineer. She joined Switzerland in New York for Leg 8.
“I chose Leg 8 as it is the homecoming leg into Derry-Londonderry. Not many of my friends of family have had much exposure to sailing and it is something quite different and exciting for them to get involved in too.
“I think the biggest challenge for me will be the fact that it is the last leg and the round the world crew are already quite established and to see how the new crew fit in to that, it’s all about teamwork.
“I’m really excited about returning to my home city and sailing up the River Foyle and am eager to see everyone there celebrating the race with me.”
The Clipper Race fleet is expected to arrive in Derry-Londonderry from 21 June. The LegenDerry Maritime Festival - which features The Beach Boys and the Red Arrows - runs until the fleet’s departure on 29 June.