Northern Ireland

Godspeed as Derry-Londonderry clipper yacht launched

Derry-Londonderry clipper
Image caption Mayor of Derry Colm Eastwood welcomes the Derry-Londonderry clipper on its inaugural visit to the city.

The boat for the Derry-Londonderry team in the clipper round-the-world yacht race has been officially launched.

The 68ft vessel was blessed by church leaders in Londonderry on Sunday during its inaugural visit to the city.

The 40,000 mile race is the world's longest ocean race and starts from the south coast of England on 31 July.

Derry will be an official host port in July 2012, the first time Northern Ireland has welcomed the ten strong clipper race fleet.

Skipper Mark Light and more than 30 crew were on board the Derry-Londonderry clipper which visited the Foyle Days Maritime Festival on Saturday and Sunday.

He said they are looking forward to being "ambassadors" for the city.

"It's massively important. I've got Irish family so for me this is the boat I wanted in the race," he said.

Crew member Lizzy Hague said it was exciting to be part of the team.

"I used to watch the professionals doing this on television in the Volvo ocean yacht race. To go where they've all gone on the same seas and on the same big waves is an amazing opportunity," she said.

The mayor of Derry Colm Eastwood sprayed champagne over the yacht's bow during its official launch on Friday.

Around the World

"This will be a boat that will travel around the world spreading the good news about Derry not only as a place to come and visit as a cultural centre but also as a place to come and invest," he said.

"When they all arrive back in Derry on the homecoming leg we will see hundreds of thousands of people coming to this city to celebrate this event.

"The legacy of that will be a far greater emphasis on the marine side of things and the infrastructure will be put in place to enjoy the river for years to come."

The clipper race was set up by Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the first man to sail solo, non-stop around the world.

It was designed to give ordinary people with no sailing experience a taste of adventure.

Clipper race director Jonathan Bailey said Derry now joins Singapore, New York, Cape Town and Rio de Janeiro on the clipper race map.

"In July next year the team will return here after travelling 40,000 miles around the globe, taking the name of Derry-Londonderry to millions of people and businesses around the world," he said.

"It is a unique opportunity to showcase what your city and Northern Ireland has to offer on a global stage and will increase tourism and trade in the region."

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