​Four people win bursaries aboard Derry~Londonderry~Doire

13 April 2015

The lives of four people from Derry-Londonderry are about to be transformed after being selected for the ‘Your Next Chapter’ bursary scheme which will see each of them sail a leg of the Clipper 2015-16 Race.

The successful candidates, who wereoriginally expecting to just undertake four weeks of crew training, discovered today from Derry City and Strabane District Council that they will also have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of joining the crew aboard Derry~Londonderry~Doire for one of the challenging legs in the tenth edition of the race.

“When I founded the Clipper Race, my aim was to make sailing accessible to everyone, and help people achieve something extraordinary,” said Clipper Race chairman Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, speaking about the adventure that lies ahead for the four winners.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to be part of the crew of one of the world’s most unique and challenging adventures, and represent Derry-Londonderry around the world. Not only will the Clipper Race provide an unforgettable life experience, it will also equip them with core life skills such as self-belief, determination, discipline, and excellent team and work ethics; all valuable to help them pursue their future career goals and life potential.”

The ‘Your Next Chapter’ bursary was open to people aged 18 and over, who are currently unemployed, participating in an employability programme, or in receipt of benefits, and living in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area. The winners have been named as Jilly St John, Keelin O’Kane, David Pollock and Conor Shortland.

The Mayor of Derry City and Strabane, Councillor Elisha McCallion, has congratulated the winners of the council sponsored bursary scheme: “This is an exciting adventure that will require our four winners to live at sea, endure the elements and master the ability to sail a yacht.

“They will meet people from across the world who have secured places on the Clipper 2015-16 Race. This will be a journey of self-discovery during which they will put themselves to the ultimate test physically, emotionally and mentally.”

‘Your Next Chapter’ follows the success of a previous bursary project organised by Derry City Council in partnership with the 2011-12 Clipper Round the World Race. Of the five finalists who were selected to sail a leg each of the race, four secured full-time employment through Derry City Council’s KickStart to Work Intermediary Labour Market Programme.

Keelin O’Kane, 19, from Claudy, got his NVQ in bricklaying when he left school and earlier this year the ‘KicksSart to Work’ programme helped him add to his employable skills by putting him through the Gas Safety Register safety course. Keelin has aspirations to be an actor one day.

Conor Shortland, 22, from Derry-Londonderry has been unable to find work since graduating with a degree in Business Information Technology but in order to develop skills to complement his education, he’s been on the Graduate Acceleration Programme run by Business in the Community.

Jilly St John, 32, also from the city, is a former national junior kick boxing champion who has been carving out a career as a singer/songwriter. Jilly has faced many personal battles in life but she believes this experience will make all the struggles worthwhile and sees this as an opportunity ‘to truly experience what it is to live’.

David Pollock, 31, from Altnagelvin, has participated in cross community projects in Belgium and Canada. He is a member of the local boxing gym and says he enjoys the discipline of the environment. David is looking forward to the interdependence and team work that is essential to life on board in the race, and believes it will help his chances of employment in the future.

They will all begin their intensive training next month in Gosport, Portsmouth Harbour. The Clipper Race starts on 30 August 2015 and will visit Derry-Londonderry next summer, marking the city’s third team entry and hosting of the international sporting competition.

“I’m pleased to welcome our ‘Your Next Chapter’ bursary winners Keelin, Conor, Jilly and David on board for the Clipper 2015-16 Race. I wish them all the best with their training and am looking forward to following their adventures,” added Sir Robin.

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