Published: Wednesday, 06 July 2016

With 175 nautical miles remaining in the LegenDerry Finale, Derry~Londonderry~Doireis leading the race to its home port, but with only 7.5nm between the front three teams as they head for the final waypoint round Rathlin Island, a close finish looks guaranteed with everything still to play for in this thrilling final stage.

Clipper Team Derrylondonderrydoire Close To Home Port Victory 2

(Photos: Clipper Race)

The leaders all rounded Rockall together, within metres of each other, a remarkable feat after more than 3200nm of racing across the Atlantic Ocean. LMAX Exchange Skipper Olivier Cardin, currently 3nm behind Derry~Londonderry~Doire in second place, explains some of the cat and mouse racing over the last 24 hours.

“We saw Derry~Londonderry~Doire yesterday in the sunset and lost him during the night. Thought he was on the left but not sure. This morning ClipperTelemed+ came back from the right and crossed 3.5nm ahead. We played some shifts and took the lead. Under control we kept going to Rockall with ClipperTelemed+ 400 metres behind. We didn't know where Derry~Londonderry~Doire was. A sail appeared 10nm before Rockall and he was on the left! Same bearing before crossing... it will be a close finish! And in fact we crossed two boat lengths behind, four miles off Rockall, with ClipperTelemed+ still 400m behind us.”

Clipper Team Derrylondonderrydoire Close To Home Port Victory 1

“Rockall was impressive and a much bigger rock than I imagined,” adds Derry~Londonderry~Doire Skipper Daniel Smith. “We skirted the side of the exclusion zone before hoisting our spinnaker and setting off downwind towards Rathlin Island. We hope that the wind holds. Currently we are just in first and with a bit of a blow we'll be able to open up the gap and have enough power to negotiate the Traffic Separation Scheme and strong tides at Rathlin Island.” 

Not giving up the fight, with such a short distance between ClipperTelemed+ and the two yachts in front, Skipper Matt Mitchell knows that his team are still in the running for a back-to-back win after their success into New York in Race 11. 

“It's a race against time now as light airs are forecast for about 24 hours’ time before swinging around to the south which could give us another bout of headwinds,” says Mitchell. “It's a bit of a drag race between the top three at the moment and there's not too much in it really. Safe to say we are looking pretty safe for an arrival July 6.”

Further back in the fleet, the other teams are also gripped by the battle for podium places. “Although we have no chance of catching the front of the fleet it certainly is making compelling viewing,” says 12th placed IchorCoal Skipper Rich Gould. “The forecast for the lead boats looks to be throwing down one last challenge, this coupled with the fact that the proximity to the coast will mean that tide (and lots of it!) becomes a large factor, could mean that there might be a big reshuffle of the fleet before the line is crossed.”

Clipper Team Derrylondonderrydoire Close To Home Port Victory

With just days to go until the final ocean crossing of the Clipper 2015-16 Race is completed, Qingdao Skipper Bob Beggs, who won the Clipper 2000-2001 Race reflects on the remarkable race the fleet has had from New York.  

“For the many leggers in the fleet this will be probably their first and possibly the last ocean crossing they complete. They discovered the Atlantic in one of her calmest moods,” says Beggs. “As a veteran of 17 crossings, this has been the fastest crossing I have made and the first in which I crossed without putting a reef in the mainsail. But with three or so days to still to run the race is far from over and the Atlantic may still have a trick up her sleeve before we arrive for the ‘LegenDerry’ Derry-Londonderry reception.”

The final preparations for the fleet arrivals are in full swing in Derry-Londonderry where a host of events have been put on. Foyle Maritime Festival will host the stopover of the Clipper Race 2015-16 as the teams near the end of their Round the World Journey July 9-17.