Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland’s Clipper entry takes the lead

By Brendan McDaid

Northern Ireland’s Clipper entry was last night leading the pack for the first time since the klaxon sounded on the round the world race last year.

The Derry-Londonderry yacht was beset by problems and bad luck since it set out last July. But this week saw it sail past nine rivals to lead the race.

With several other boats hot on its heels there was no time for resting on their laurels for the 50-strong crew.

Visit Finland was just 16 nautical miles behind the Derry boat as they raced across the equator towards Singapore.

Elated skipper Mark Light logged: “After a fantastic last 24 hours of racing the crew of Derry-Londonderry are delighted to have moved up into first position. We have been reaching under our heavyweight spinnaker for the last day and have recorded some great mileage.

“Our average speed over the last 12 hours has been over 11 knots and we have managed to claw ourselves just ahead of Qingdao on the leader board.”

He added: “With approximately 1,100 miles to go to the Basilian gate, it is becoming a match race between all 10 Clipper 68s as we all start to converge onto the same headings and before long we will all be affected by the same weather.”

Derry’s rival Qingdao found itself in the doldrums in recent days, which saw it concede speed and the lead.

Skipper Ian Conchie says: “When we cleared the Solomon Sea we had no choice but to head north as there was a huge wind hole above Papua New Guinea, but by the time Derry-Londonderry and Visit Finland got there it was gone, which has allowed them to use the south Equatorial current.”

The fleet is due to arrive to a spectacular welcome at the marina in Keppel, Singapore on January 28, after mustering on Batam island in Indonesia.

The fleet races to Derry this summer on one of the final legs of the 40,000-mile marathon. Yesterday it was 400 miles off the coast of Papau New Guinea 1,000 miles from their next port.

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