Following an action-packed ten day stopover in Derry-Londonderry, the Clipper Race crew has departed the Foyle Marina for their penultimate challenge - Race 13: The Den Helder Northern Seas Challenge, to The Netherlands.

The fleet’s departure concludes the Foyle Maritime Festival 2016 during which time the crew experienced the very best of Northern Irish hospitality, a characteristic that has made this one of the most anticipated stopovers of the entire race circuit. Before the teams slipped lines Mission Performance crew member Aaron Lomas said: “This has absolutely been the best stopover of my race experience which began in Airlie Beach in January. From the moment we arrived to the time of leaving, we have felt the profound kindness of the people of Derry-Londonderry and it really has made our experience extra special.”

The entire crew assembled on the dockside for a photo with Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Hilary McClintock before boarding their yachts, as thousands of well-wishers lined the banks of the River Foyle.

Pawel Kepa from Poland who has visited every country on the Clipper 2015-16 Race route as a crew member on PSP Logistics says: “I absolutely loved the stopover here, the people were so welcoming. We had over a week here so time to party, rest and get the boat ready. So far, I’ve noticed that the smaller cities like Derry-Londonderry really put on the best stopovers. Places like New York are cool on their own but people don’t know much about what we are doing whereas here we can sense how special it is to the city. I’d never been to Northern Ireland before but I will definitely come back to explore some more, it’s beautiful and I still have so much to see.”

The teams slipped lines at two minutes intervals starting with ClipperTelemed+ and concluding with the home team Derry~Londonderry~Doire. Alison Boeree, who has competed in six of the eight legs of the race on board Derry~Londonderry~Doire said: “We have all had the best ever time here. Nothing else compares. When we walk around the city wearing our team kit, everyone would say hi and talk to us. We were made to feel very welcome, it was such a fantastic feeling.”

During the Parade of Sail the Colmcille Pipe Band serenaded the fleet from the pontoon at Foyle Marina and as Derry~Londonderry~Doire completed its final lap of honour a confetti cannon was fired while an opera singer sang Andrea Bocelli's "Time to say goodbye".

Speaking after the event the Mayor said the festival had been a major success for the region.

“It was a sad moment as we waved farewell to the Clipper Race fleet today after an eventful week of celebration. We have welcomed visitors from all over the world and it has been fantastic to see the city profiled in such a positive way on a global platform. Once again we’ve demonstrated our ability to stage an international event generating substantial revenue for the local economy, and enhancing the region’s profile as an exciting and unique visitor destination.

“I’ve been told that the crew have really enjoyed their warm welcome and have been overwhelmed by the hospitality shown by local businesses and the people here. We have the opportunity now to build on the successes of the past few years in hosting events such as the Foyle Maritime Festival, and to explore our options in terms of utilising our many wonderful resources such as the River Foyle as part of a long-term tourism strategy for the future," the Mayor continued.

“I want to thank Council, Clipper Ventures, our citizens and visitors for making this such a special celebration for the city. Good luck to Daniel and all the Derry~Londonderry~Doire team in the final stages of the race – you have the support and best wishes of the entire district behind you.”

This stopover was the third time that Derry-Londonderry has been a Host Port and Team Sponsor in the Clipper Race and Sir Robin Knox-Johnston herladed this year the best yet.

“You can see what the race means to the people of Derry-Londonderry because thousands have lined the banks of the River Foyle to see the fleet off today and there was a huge cheer for every team as they left the marina. It’s just enormous and this stopover has got better every time we have come here. This has definitely been the best, it’s been fantastic! Frankly, you can’t help but enjoy it.

Following the departure ceremony, the fleet began making its way to Greencastle, County Donegal where the 770 nautical mile sprint will officially start at 1800 local time (1700 UTC). Commenting on the competition for places with two races remaining, Sir Robin added: “I am going to be glued to the Race Viewer from now until Den Helder because it’s a short race and all the teams are vying for position. At 770 nautical miles it’s longer than the Fastnet but for our crew this is a sprint.

"There is so much at stake here they are going to be fighting all the way. For the teams this is a very exciting time because with two races left there are still many positions to be decided in the overall leaderboard and from a spectator’s point of view this race is going to be brilliant.”

The fleet is expected to arrive in Den Helder between 22-23 July.

Click here to read the Race 13: Northern Seas Challenge preview.

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