Published Friday, 29 June 2012
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A four-day maritime festival is underway to celebrate as fleets of yachts competing in the longest race around the world sail into the 2013 City of Culture.
The leading 'Gold Coast' Australian yacht was the first to dock in Derry on Friday morning, winning race 13 from Halifax.
The Australian entry made its way from the finish line at Greencastle, Co Donegal, through Lough Foyle before arriving in Derry where hundreds of spectators awaited them for a hero's welcome after claiming their 11th victory.
Upon arrival, Tasmanian skipper, Richard Hewson said: "The worst part for us as a team was the lack of sleep and we didn't see sunshine for about two weeks.
"It was all worth it though as we had head winds behind us the whole way up here and before we knew it we were in Northern Ireland being welcomed by a flotilla of ships. Incredible!"
"As tropical storm 'Chris' developed, the tough conditions really tried to batter the fleet, but I saw it as an opportunity for us to take advantage of the strong winds and head to the south.
"Once we managed that, we put the kite up and we were flying along ahead of the rest of the fleet, especially those who chose to go to the north."
The Derry/Londonderry yacht is in ninth place and is expected to arrive on Sunday.
The Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race has covered 40,000 miles from its start in Southampton on the south coast of the UK on 31 July 2011.
The race has 500 competitors on ten identical 68-foot yachts across the world, after this they will sail on to Holland. The race concludes on 22 July in Southampton.
SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan described a "stunning sight" to see the first clipper yachts.
"Not only does this event celebrate all that is good about international boat-building, for Derry it marks the start of an exciting week of celebrating all that Derry has to offer the world," he said.
"Watching the boats utilise the Foyle - one of our most prized, but underused, assets, is fantastic, but the benefit to our local economy from this truly international maritime festival will be a big boost.
"Boats are arriving from all over the world and tourists are coming from all over too - to see the clippers, to enjoy the free concerts in Ebrington next week and also, elsewhere in town, to enjoy the rich variety of music coming to us via the North Atlantic Fiddle Convention which, it can rightly be said, is another string to Derry's bow."