Clipper Yacht Race hailed a success as 200,000 visit city

Derry-Londonderry The crew of the Derry-Londonderry clipper

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The maritime festival celebrating the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race has come to an exciting finish in the north-west as the crews left for the last two legs of the competition.

It is estimated that about 200,000 people will have visited Queen's Quay in Londonderry.

It is a colourful spectacle as they sit bobbing gently on the marina with the ten Clipper yachts moored on the huge new Foyle Port jetty several yards away.

All week families have thronged the waterfront. They have been going on guided tours of the clipper yachts and experiencing, at first hand, the cramped conditions. Youngsters have marvelled at the tales of near disaster and beautiful sunsets on the ocean wave.

The Clipper race is 40,000 miles in length and is the world's longest yacht race. It is made up of 15 races and visits 13 separate countries.

So far it has taken crews to Rio de Janeiro, South Africa, China, Australia, and West Coast USA. Local crews on the Derry-Londonderry boat were given a big welcome home last Sunday despite the wet weather.

'It has been amazing'

The founder and chairman of the Clipper Round the World yacht race is Sir Robin Knox-Johnston. He is the first man to sail solo, non-stop around the world.

Picture: Martin McKeown The crew line up for a photograph before swapping their sea legs for land legs

"I think Derry has been one of the most successful stop overs ever and I think the reason for that is that the whole city seems to have become involved in the event," he said.

"The crews are having an absolute ball here. Now there's two aspects to that. It's great for our crews to come here and visit Northern Ireland and see what it's like and visit the hinterland as well.

"It's also great for Derry itself because it has given everyone a common cause, something they can all identify with. It's saying to the world: 'This is the new Londonderry... this is the new Northern Ireland, this is the new Ireland come and have a look because it's a great place'."

The veteran yachtsman said that the city will also benefit from the positive wider international coverage the race receives.

"Its not just the 42 different nationalities who're involved in this race who're taking this message away, what a great city this is, there's also the film that's been made about it which will go out in 50 countries which will publicise what's here.

"All these things add up don't they? They all help to promote the new image of Derry Londonderry and I think that's a great benefit to the city."

In terms of spend it is estimated that the city will benefit to the tune of £7m.

'Good for the city'

Caroline Miller and a business partner recently opened a new coffee house along Queens Quay. She has no doubt about the impact of Clipper on her business.

Thirteen days at sea since Halifax, Nova Scotia, and one mighty tired crew Thirteen days at sea since Halifax, Nova Scotia, and one mighty tired crew

"It has been amazing. We haven't stopped since last Thursday. It has been truly fantastic. I think now that people know that Derry can do it. The waterfront there is fantastic. People now do come in. We can do it.

"The girls haven't stopped as they've been working since half past five in the morning until 10 o'clock every night and they are working flat out, it's been brilliant."

Linda Neill from the City Hotel said the impact on their business had been very positive, too.

"We've had people from the Clipper staying with us and these type of events are crucial to our business. We've benefited from a number of recent big events including the Olympic Torch arrival and the golf in Portrush. It's all very good for the city."

But has the substantial financial outlay on Clipper been money well spent.

It cost just under £1.9m and the Town Clerk and Chief Executive of Derry City Council, Sharon O'Connor, said citizens have been telling her about their personal pride in the event.

"I think the citizens would regard it as an outstanding success. In terms of the city council's aspirations it's to put Derry and the city generally in a different place and give it a different character, I think it's very successful in those terms."

"Our original budget was under £1.9m within that we have grants and other support from other sources.

"That would have been the top line figure that it would have cost the council. We made a commitment within our City of Culture programme, this was part of the bid process, and it was intended to be very much part of the run up to 2013.

"So it has to be a big spectacle because 2013 is going to be a big year."

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