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Tense race for finish line... and a smile that says 'hey kids, daddy's home at last'

By Donna Deeney

Published 07/07/2016

The crew of LMAX Exchange celebrate after crossing the finish line first, beating the Derry-Londonderry-Doire clipper
The crew of LMAX Exchange celebrate after crossing the finish line first, beating the Derry-Londonderry-Doire clipper
The Derry-Londonderry-Doire clipper
Danny Bryce lights the flare as he returns to his hometown
Danny Bryce reunited with his wife Leeanne and daughters Aine and Aoife

Hundreds of spectators braved the weather to see the impressive sight of a flotilla of yachts sailing up the River Foyle yesterday.

Their arrival of the first of the 12 participating boats marked the latest stopover of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

A little behind schedule, but ecstatic at winning the transatlantic leg, the crew of the LMAX Exchange were buoyed by their welcome to the city.

But unsurprisingly the loudest shouts were for the crew from the Derry-Londonderry-Doire yacht, who were sadly pipped at the post into second place.

It was a nail-biting end to the 3,624-nautical mile race, with LMAX Exchange overtaking the home team in the final stages of the leg around Rathlin Island.

They crossed the line just 33 minutes ahead of the Derry crew after 16 days of racing across the Atlantic Ocean from New York.

Over a 24-hour period, the 12 boats and 700 crew members will arrive in Derry, where they have just over a week to recover and get ready for the next leg of the famous round-the-world race.

The LMAX Exchange has won six legs, putting it in first place.

David Smith, the skipper of the Derry yacht, holds second place with two more legs to go.

Speaking from on board Derry-Londonderry-Doire, he said: "This race was tough for the team, with us being in the lead for the majority of the race and being pipped to the post.

"But I can't fault my team for the dedication and the effort that they have put in.

"We may have come second, but have received the most points in the race because of our Ocean Sprint win, so we are ready for the Derry-Londonderry welcome."

Perhaps the most anxious member of the crew to step on to dry land was local man Danny Bryce, who joined in New York as the Derry and Strabane Council bursary winner. He now has 10 days at home with wife, Leeanne, and daughters Aine (7) and Aoife (3) before he goes back on deck to complete the final two legs.

He said: "I am honoured to be part of this team and every day is full of new experiences, friendships and learning.

"The crew of Derry-Londonderry-Doire have demonstrated to me why they have been so successful during the their race, because their enthusiasm, motivation and skill is evident from the minute you meet them."

Wife Leeanne added: "It has been tough with Danny gone, and we have all missed him, but this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him and I am delighted he had the chance.

"We have him now for around 10 days before he has to leave again so we will make the most of every second of that."

The yachts arrived slightly ahead of schedule and just before the city's maritime festival kicks off on Saturday.

The Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Hilary McClintock, led the winning crew from the marina.

Among them was Dominique Hausser, who has been on the LMAX Exchange since the start. He said: "I have heard how friendly the people are and how good the beer is, so I am really looking forward to these next days."

His team sponsor is LMAX Exchange, a financial technology innovator for global foreign exchanges owned by David Mercer from Bangor, Co Down.

He said: "As a proud Ulsterman, I'd like to join the city of Derry in welcoming all these inspiring sailors to our beautiful country."

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