Sean McCarter: From local sailor to local hero

23 September 2014

“From the moment I met the crew I knew we had a great bunch of people,” smiles Sean McCarter, skipper of Derry~Londonderry~Doire.

Sean and his team narrowly missed out on a podium finish in the last edition, so you’d forgive the likable Irishman for perhaps feeling a little disappointed.

But as he explains to us at Race HQ, his team achieved far more in their eleven-month challenge then could ever be measured in points alone.

“As soon as we met we set out our goals and what we wanted to achieve, and at the back of our minds that was what we were working towards,” explains Sean, looking back on the day over 18 months later.

After growing up in Derry-Londonderry and having learnt to sail on Lough Swilly in County Donegal, Ireland at the tender age of five, 36 year-old Sean was the obvious choice to lead the Northern Irish team.

“You know it’s important that you never ask the crew to do anything that you wouldn’t do yourself.

“I was always very conscience to never ask a crew member to do something that I wasn’t prepared to do myself. It was really refreshing to see so much enthusiasm from the team. A lot of my crew are as professional as any professional sailors I have ever worked with.”

For the man from Donegal, the Clipper Race would see him achieve a lifelong dream after winning Race 6 of the 16 race series - the legendary Rolex Sydney Hobart Yacht Race.

“Sailing down the Derwent River in Hobart, knowing that we had won our class in the Rolex Sydney Hobart Race was an unforgettable moment.

“It’s a race that everyone knows and is one of the three iconic offshore races in the world, so that was huge for us. The feeling of being the first boat in and tying up was incredible – it was really amazing and incredibly special.”

However the celebrations wouldn’t finish there. Having already won the heart of his city he grew up in, Sean still had one last trick up his sleeve. After leaving New York, for Race 14 and homeward bound he and his team achieved what so many before had tried and failed – winning into the team’s homeport.

“Winning our homeport race into Derry-Londonderry was incredible.

“The support and crowds were just massive, and I think it was that point it dawned on me what we had achieved. From the moment I joined the race I was told how incredible the Derry-Londonderry stopover was, and it certainly didn’t disappoint.

“I think it meant as much to the city as it did to us as a team – It was a magical time.”

The search for the next skippers to lead the 12-strong fleet around the globe in the 2015-16 edition of the race is already underway. Sean had these words of advice for any professional sailors interested in taking on the unique challenge:

“Be organised. Talk to past skippers and soak up as much advice as you can - some of it you’ll use and some you won’t. That’s what I did and it really helped with my preparation.

“I’d also say make sure you lead by example and ensure that the team is happy and having fun, because if you approach each race thinking all I want to do is win. Well you might win the race, but generally the team might not enjoy themselves. It’s important to get everyone signed into the same idea and objectives.”

If you are up for the challenge of skippering a race team round the world apply here.

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