Londonderry Clipper dodges missiles and leads voyage back home

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The Derry-Londonderry-Doire is leading the charge back to its home port this morning having rounded the disputed island of Rockall in the North Atlantic and diverted from St Kilda to avoid being blown up in a scheduled Royal Navy missile test near the Outer Hebridean island.

The local Clipper is among three front runners currently half-way between Rockall and Rathlin, the final revised mark in the transatlantic homeward leg of the round-the-world voyage before party-time in Londonderry.

Last week the Clipper race organisers announced that the yachts were flying across the North Atlantic so quickly that the local council and the race organisers wouldn’t have the infrastructure ready on time for their earlier-than-expected arrival.

They said the race would be extended around Rockall and St Kilda to give us more time to get ready.

However, on Sunday, the race organisers announced another change of plan for a rather unusual reason.

It announced that due to planned missile firing tests by the Navy the mark at St Kilda was removed and a new one inserted at Rathlin Island.

The final finish line will remain the same but the fleet will cross it from east to west.

Race Director Justin Taylor said: “This will have the effect of shortening the course a little but with the dying breeze and lower boat speeds the fleet should still start to cross the finish line late on 5 July, with the first teams arriving in Derry-Londonderry on July 6.”

Nearly, all the yachts have rounded Tory island - Visit Seattle is currently (10.30am) off the coast of Gweedore and will pass the mark on Tuesday morning (July 5) - but the Derry-Londonderry-Doire is the front-runner of three yachts already clipping along towards Rathlin and is expected to reach the finishing line of Stroove by this time tomorrow.

“We have now passed Tory Island and have started our upwind leg. What a wild beautiful place it looked, another island on the ‘to visit list’, but will it ever happen?” Da Nang - Viet Nam Skipper Wendy Tuck, said on passing the remote Donegal island.

ClipperTelemed+ Skipper Matt Mitchell, currently second in the LegenDerry Finale said: “So we have finally made it around Tory Island after putting in quite a few gybes as the wind backed more westerly. We were quite close to the island which loomed impressively out of the dark. It would have been quite a sight during the day I’m sure.”

The Derry-Londonderry-Doire is expected to arrive here on Wednesday, July 6, between 8am and 10am.

The Clipper yachts will continue to arrive in the city on Wednesday and through Sunday.