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Clipper Crew Diary

No coasting for Niall as weather rears up

Clipper Diary 7 – Niall Boyle

Niall Boyle’s stint on Derry-Londonderry may be coming to a close but that hasn’t meant any easing off of the work load as the yacht encountered some rough weather on Monday.

As Niall has discovered, it’s best not to tempt fate as far as the weather gods are concerned:

“We had to deal with some rough weather yesterday and I think I might have put the jinx on the boat. I was sending information through to Shauna O’Neill who will be replacing me in the Clipper Bursary winner’s spot and happened to mention that I have only had to use my foulies twice. It seems that in doing so I might have jinxed myself and the rest of the crew.

“The next morning we were on shift enjoying the sunrise and heat in our shorts and t-shirts only to find ourselves running into several squalls and having to do some rather quick sail changes to cope with the sudden increase in wind. The heavy rain combined with the work on the bow ensured that anywhere the rain missed the breaking waves filled in. It was still hot though, so there was no point in going and getting changed, just a quick run back to the cockpit to empty the water from my boots and pockets.

“With the wind building and dropping severely all day from 10 knots up to 30 without warning, we were kept busy with changing from the Yankee 1 to Yankee 2 and back, raising and dropping the stay sail and putting in reefs,” he said.

Riding out the storms might have been energy sapping experience, but for Niall it was also an exhilarating one and a reminder that though Derry-Londonerry has dropped down the race order, she’s still in a contest:

“It was huge fun with the crew well and truly pumped and speeding our way through each evolution. The rain was driving so hard at times that I had to keep my pink sun glasses on just so I could keep my eyes open in the snake pit to work. We worked just as a proper racing team should, no-one complained and everyone got stuck in. There may have been a few raised voices to prompt others but the message was soon got across, we were at the back of the pack but we were still in race mode! We have also been told that we were the fastest boat in the fleet for a while in the last few days. As the song goes "We get knocked down but we get up again."

Frustration at ill winds but morale high on Derry-Londonderry

Clipper Diary 6

As the conclusion of the first leg of Clipper 11-12 approaches, it’s been a frustrating week for Derry-Londonderry which has slipped down the race standings in the run-in towards Rio but morale remains high as the crew continue revel in the experience of this global event.

Skipper Mark Light, has bemoaned his yacht’s misfortune in terms of the wind but is experienced enough to know that it’s all part of round the world racing.

"Still we wait for a change in wind direction to send us towards Rio - at the moment it is a choice between the Amazon on one tack and Namibia on the other. This doesn't seem fair to have good steady winds but completely in the wrong direction at the same time as watching other boats ahead sail off in a different breeze towards Rio. But then, if this Clipper Race was easy it quite simply wouldn't exist, so onward we push until the wind decides to show us her hand," he said Still, the crew of the Derry-Londonderry are full of positivity and John Harkin says he’s enjoying the responsibility of having been appointed one of the watch leaders on the Derry boat and is full of praise for the capabilities of his boat mates.

“It has been a great privilege and honour to have been appointed one of the watch leaders. I was also given the roles of Boat Preparation Manager and Stopover Manager in Madeira. In these capacities I have had the opportunity to make an assessment of the skills that the Derry-Londonderry crew posses to enable us to maintain the boat. I have discovered that we have a great deal of expertise, not only for racing the boat hard, but repairing the inevitable breakages and damages that occur during a long ocean race.

“Tim is our Boat Engineer and has great natural ability. He is able to keep the generator, water maker, and everything mechanical on the boat in working order. Niall has established himself as Tim's chief assistant and has gained great respect from the crew for his willingness to tackle even the dirtiest jobs in order to keep the boat in good working order. All in all we have an amazing team and although we have had a few setbacks over the last few days, our ability as a crew to be knocked down and get up again will, I believe, get us to a few podium positions over the course of this race,” he said.

For Michelle McCann one of the highlights so far has been a visit from a school of dolphins welcome company for Derry-Londonderry’s crew amid the emptiness of the open ocean:

“Since we left Madeira we have not had any sight of land or much else for that matter, except for flying fish which we see a lot of. One night we saw the lights of a ship very far away. We could see the ship for a while then it passed into the night. One day there were some whales nearby. I was off watch at the time and by the time I heard the shout ‘whales’, got up, dressed and on deck, they were gone. However, I did get the chance to enjoy our visit from a group of dolphins. We could see them in the distance jumping playfully then they gradually came closer and stayed with us for about an hour. There were about twenty or thirty of them. “They were smaller than bottle nosed dolphins but they looked a bit too big for porpoises. They seemed to be curious about us and five of them in particular stayed with us for a lot longer than the others. It was good to be reminded of who we share this ocean with and it made my day to see them. I wonder if it has made their day to see us too.”

From dolphin watching to loo repairs for Niall!

Clipper Diary 5 – Niall Boyle

With his stint on the Derry-Londonderry Clipper yacht nearing its end Clipper Bursary winner Niall Boyle has experienced a week of contrast. From the exhilaration of watching a pod of dolphins splashing around the yacht to the rather less exotic task of unblocking a toilet and attempting to repair the on-board plumbing.

With the conclusion of the first leg in Rio approaching fast Niall has really round his sea legs and is enjoying every moment even if there have been a few spills.
“Even though the winds have been light this week they still cause the boat to heel over (lean over to one side). On deck it’s fairly comfortable although when you continue below deck the fun begins. We have had quite a few comedy moments yesterday with a number of the crew falling and even taking out other crew members on their way down! No one’s been hurt and it has provided a good laugh for those in the vicinity and will continue to do so as some have been caught by our specially mounted wipe-out camera.”

With the progress south the temperature has started to rise so unlike home overheating is an issue and Niall’s been thankful for the air conditioning on Derry-Londonderry:

“The temperature continued to increase as we drew nearer to the equator and it was becoming difficult to sleep in the ghetto. Myself and Ben Turner set about testing the first of our fans, it certainly made a difference. Ben then set about putting in a proper system whilst I was on mother watch. With the two fans now installed and the hatch adjusted to stay open just a little, there is now a circulation of air allowing fresh air to flow into the ghetto and keep the area cool.I am are particularly lucky as the two fans are mounted either side of my bunk,” notes Niall.

One of the high points of the week came when a pod of dolphins decided to swim alongside the yacht and investigate goings-on on Derry-Londonderry.

“On Wednesday morning on the 8-2 watch we were treated to a bit of a spectacle when around 30 small dolphins swimming alongside the boat for around 15 minutes. It’s amazing to see the curiosity of these animals as they slowly come closer and closer with such grace and agility to take a look at what is going on.
“It really is strange to stop and think 'I'm in the middle of the Atlantic ocean on a 68 foot racing yacht with 18 people I did not know only weeks ago, watching a pod of dolphins jumping up out of the water. And possibly the strangest thing about this whole situation is that it feels perfectly normal.’” explained Niall.

As exotic as that image seems the 22-year-old sailing novice was quickly brought back to earth by the task of helping to repair a blocked toilet.

“Our Dolphin watching was interrupted by a none too savoury job. I was drafted into the heads as the port head had blocked – again! Tim and I decided to strip the unit back and replace with new parts – not a job for anyone with a weak stomach! It seems to be working well now.”

Unfortunately that wasn’t the end of the boat’s plumbing issues.

“Lev our submarine commander was emptying the water from the bilges with the aqua-vac, a rather disturbing noise and burning smell began to arise from our faithful friend. We feared the aqua-vac had died. It was brought up on deck opened up and laid to rest in the hope that the heat of the sun would be of some benefit to it.

“For those who don't know, the aqua-vac is indispensable as it is used to empty bilges, shower trays and even the toilets with ease. This means we don't have to use the leaky slow sweat-inducing stirrup pump and bucket method.

So with our jobs for the day done, myself and Tim's attention was drawn back to the vac in question. Always curious, it was not enough for us to know that it simply was not working or could not be repaired. So, filled with confidence we decided to rip into the heart of the beast much to the amusement of the crowd on watch. Before long we had the deck covered with tools and aqua-vac internals, and not necessarily the type of tools you would associate with fault finding in a vacuum that you intended to repair and reassemble; hammers, chisels, a vice, a drill and even a blow torch. We did however diagnose the problem and if boredom encourages us we may dig it out again tomorrow and attempt to make a new bearing for the motor out of an old chopping board.

“So, with Rio fast approaching that's all for now. Hope all is well back in lovely Derry where I’m sure air-conditioning is not required to assist sleep.”


Niall’s message back home as he sails close to Equator

Clipper Diary 4 – Niall Boyle

Clipper At SeaDerry City Council’s Clipper race bursary winner Niall Boyle checked in with the gang back home to report on how life is on board the Derry Londonderry yacht as it sails on the first leg of its Round the World race.

27 year old Niall, who hails from Altnagelvin, is one of five lucky people who were chosen to represent the city on board the vessel as it participates in the Clipper Round the World Race. Niall is competing in the first leg of the race which departed from Southampton at the end of July and recently berthed at Madeira before heading back to sea for the final part of the leg ending up in Rio de Janeiro early next month.

“Well, after a excellent start from Madeira taking us across the line in 2nd position its was a quick run to the first marker with head sails up before we put up the spinnaker up, it was a very close start with all boats remaining in close quarters, making it very exciting and a spectacle to see. Although very quickly we noticed two boats getting stuck in wind hole which we then ourselves done our best to avoid, we did initially overtake the two boats but were caught out ourselves eventually.

“We ran well for a while then and had begun to settle into the race and realise that this was our home until at least the 2nd of September. We had the spinnaker up and were finally downwind sailing and during one of starboard watch's (my watch) night shifts we were flying and trying to out-do each other with the speed, we had topped out at around 17.4 kts when the halyard snapped and sent the whole sail crashing into the water and dragging alongside the boat, which took a lot of time to recover.This was the beginning of our serious of disasters as I am sure you know about already from our blogs.

Niall recalls a few stressful days and incidents on board the vessel but stresses that spirits remain high and the team are united in working together.

“A few bad days followed but forever the optimists we soldier on, we are now going for broke and have went for a new tactic so don't be worrying about us staying at the back of the pack, there's still another 2500 miles to go and the dreaded doldrums which could change everyone's race.

“As for me, I am having a ball I have now settled into the watch systems quite well and the night shifts are becoming easier, The heat however is not. The further south we travel and the closer we get to the equator the hotter it gets, I think it’s around the 30's now, which as you can imagine I am not used to. I got my first dose of sunburn yesterday for the first time in 18 years, which is nice lol.”

“The crew are a very talented and diverse bunch and very easy to get along with, we have a few characters which I will not be forgetting in a hurry including Tim the head engineer, Baz the Bosun and Dooley,  our resident mast man amongst others. I seem to have landed myself a different role possibly because those who have the skills to do it don't want to hash. I have been called names like Head of Heads or Headmaster amongst other things. This is because I have been spending a lot of time servicing and maintaining the heads (the toilets) which is not the nicest area on board , but I am happy to contribute my skills to the team.”

 “I will continue to update more regularly now but that's it for me as I’m off to bed before my next watch begins.”

As we leave Niall to catch up on some well deserved rest – he needs it if he is the man in charge of keeping the loos in check! For those of you wishing to follow the team’s progress visit the Clipper website or follow them on Facebook– and Twitter Derry Clipper



Rest over – time to get back to sea and Rio here we come!

Clipper Diary 3 – Kevin Dooley

After a few days rest and relaxation and a chance to talk to family members and friends, the team are back on board the Derry Londonderry vessel from Madeira to Rio de Janeiro. Spirits are high after their successful fourth place win and the team is en-route to their first leg destination at Rio de Janeiro.

Crew member Kevin Dooley recalls his early morning call on board the vessel as they set off from Madeira and gives a full account of his day’s watch on board Derry Londonderry on 14 August. “Wake up sunshine, we are on mother watch – was the call from my watch made Lizzie Williams. I have just time to quickly draw a smiley face with permanent marker on a sleeping mate and make my way to the galley to prepare breakfast! Its scones, cereal/fruit and teas all round, for one watch its time for bed and for the other it’s the start of another day’s racing. The mood in the galley is good as we head towards lunch full of confidence that we can plate up for 16 hungry sailors with ease. Its pasta pesto with sausages from a local market in Madeira for lunch followed by a beef curry for tea and it all goes swimmingly!.

“Sailing downwind in relatively calm seas lends itself well to a stress free galley – it also helps when your partner is always smiling. Later that night news comes through about the ‘rigging challenges’ on the other boats to which our skipper responds ‘lets not let that happen on our boat….”

“10.00pm and the end is in sight, just finish this mountain of washing up and its off for a well deserved sleep… or so we thought. Stretch – crash – bang- wallop – followed by a few expletieves and bodies start shifting around frantically above on deck. In one swift movement the skipper is up the companionway and appears on deck – genie like.

“The skinnaker halyard has snapped and the spinnaker dropped like Tom Daly into the sea. The skipper calls “All hands on Deck”. Its amazing how quickly one can put on a life jacket when the proverbial hits the fan! The spinnaker pole is brought forward and we turn the boat head to wind. There is now a flurry of hands hauling in our spinnaker, the speed of which David Haye would be proud of! Luckily here is only very slight damage to our kite and its packed away ready for use while our Yankee 2 is poled out and we are underway again. We thank the off-watch for getting on deck so quickly and helping out. It was our first ‘real’ incident on board and the skipper commended us on how well we all worked together. In a close race like this every boat will go through these challenges, its how you deal with them which will be a major factor in deciding the podium places – lets hope we are there or thereabouts.”

To follow the Derry Londonderry teams progress has they sail across the world visit or follow us on Facebook at Derry Londonderry Clipper or on Twitter Derry Clipper.


Team arrive in Madeira for a beer and to stock up on bananas!

Clipper Diary 2 – Martin Counsell

The Derry Londonderry team were in jubilant form as they arrived in Madeira . The team secured a fantastic fourth place in the first stage of the first leg of the Round the World Clipper Race. The team received a hero’s welcome and were delighted to be back on dry land and get some time to relax and unwind before departing later in the week to Rio de Janeiro.

Derry Londonderry team crew member Martin Counsell, who had been feeling unwell, used the time in Madeira to rest and recoup. “A bout of misbehaving gut eventually got the better of me after five days so I spent last night (11 August) in a Funchal hospital having fluids and several side dishes! I was given the thumbs up this morning so I took a taxi ride back along the beautiful south coast of Madeira to the boat and a warm welcome back from the rest of the crew. The team spirit is alive and well on Derry Londonderry!”

He said spirits were high on board the yacht and everyone has a good sense of humour. He joked that one issue that is causing some disquiet on the vessel is over who is eating all the bananas??  “The bananas have been restocked  – with five each for the race! “Various strategies are being considered for the monitoring of the intake of bananas – a nominated banana officer? Bananas numbered in accordance with bunk allocation? We have been warned by victualler Michelle that it is easy to forget eating bananas so we must make sure that we appreciate and remember every banana, and if necessary take a note when we eat one! Will keep you updated on that one!!”

Martin said that while they had some time to rest and relax, there was still plenty of work to be done ahead of their departure later that week.

“Straight into a meeting and debriefing about how to improve on the last race, fourth place has now become our minimum standard so we are looking for ways to improve. As I’m writing, the last minute jobs are being done, not only on Derry Londonderry but on all the boats around. Excitement is building for the  moment when we slip lines, set sails and begin the next race – the jockeying on the start line for the good start, the beat to the first mark and the rapid hoisting of the heavyweight kite for a long downwind sail to the south with the prospect of Doldrums and the crossing of the Equator as highlights before the push on to Rio. And the next round of beer, or, even more enticing – some champagne with a podium finish?”

Spirits high as team en-route to Madeira 

Crew Diary 1

Keeping in touch with our Clipper Crew is an email away with regular personal crew diaries being issued to help provide an insight into life onboard. Our most recent diary update is from the crew ahead of the completion of the Madeira leg when the team secured fourth place in the first stage of the first leg!

Shrove mother and teacher Michelle McCann, who is taking part in the entire Round the World race challenge, explained in her account the anticipation of arriving in Madeira.

“I was on watch from 0400 to 0800 this morning (08 August) then off to bed before my next watch at 1400. Today’s conditions for sailing are perfect, it is warm and the sea is quiet, there is a nice breeze and life is good. I am really enjoying my trip so far. There have been some difficult times when conditions have been tough but exciting. I have realized I am on board this boat with some very hard working and courageous crew members. I have some definite heroes already and I am very lucky that I am sailing with them.

“We are all looking forward to arriving in Madeira and getting a shower and fresh clothes. Its funny how important the simple things in life have become!”

For team member Graham Terry one of the things he was most looking forward to on arrival at Madeira was a beer! While it wasn’t winners champagne that the team would be sipping he was very conscious of the fact that the team were battling for a top spot in the last 1400 miles of the race.

“The crew are glued to the AIS display checking position updates, an addictive habit akin to watching football scores on teletext. We’ve covered over 260nm in the last 24 hours (09 August) and had a fantastic night surfing waves under spinnaker in the moonlight, until at 8am our guy snapped causing an emergency spinnaker drop and the loss of speed as we recovered. A reminder of how close disaster can be when pushing hard! If this is a taste of what is to come in the next 11 months then count me in.”


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