Among those crew sailing home to Derry-Londonderry after a long wait for the Atlantic Homecoming Leg to start from New York is 40 year old Danny Bryce. Having dedicated his career to helping vulnerable young people in the city, Danny was nominated for the ‘Voice of the Community’ bursary scheme by one of his colleagues and subsequently won the chance to sail a leg of the Clipper 2015-16 Race.

Having joined his Derry~Londonderry~Doire crew mates in New York, Danny is now tracing the routes of his ancestors as he sails back to Northern Ireland.

“My great grandfather John McGuinness was born in New York, his family had emigrated to Brooklyn at the end of the famine. When his Father died of Yellow Fever his Mother managed to scrape the money together to make the ocean crossing back again from New York to Derry. John McGuinness later became a sea captain, so that North Atlantic route is very significant in my family history.

“His son Hugh McGuinness was my grandfather, and Hugh’s brother Charlie stowed away from Derry’s quay on a ship at 15 years old. Charles ‘Nomad’ McGuinness, as he was known, had a colourful life as an adventurer and writer, and he was later a skipper on Byrd’s expedition to the South Pole. Coincidently he skippered the ship named ‘City of New York’.”

Danny (pictured above meeting Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Hilary McClintock in New York), believes that his extensive work with young people and having to deal with difficult and often delicate situations will help him to integrate well into the Derry~Londonderry~Doire team given the close living quarters on board and wide variety of backgrounds the crew come from.

“When I was on my training over in Gosport I was definitely in my element, I think it was the perfect environment for me to use a lot of the skills I’ve learned in my youth work. I’m a bit of an emotional barometer which is great when I’m working in a group. I find that I can gauge what the mood is with people and I deliberately help to raise the morale. I’m lucky because with Extern I work with a highly motivated and vocational team of youth workers who constantly give 110% in their work with young people and their families. So I know what a good team looks like.

“Personally working with people so closely on a day to day basis I think the Clipper Race experience will offer a great opportunity to learn more about overcoming adversity as part of a team, and the psychology and logistics of living and working in such a restricted environment for such a prolonged period.

Danny will sail into his home city in time for the Foyle Maritime Festival which is centred around the Clipper Race stopover. One of the highlights of the stopover will be the public Prize Giving event at the Guildhall on 13 July, at which another Derry City and Strabane District Council bursary candidate will be performing.

Jilly St John, a singer/song writer also from Derry, completed Leg 7 of the Clipper Race and upon arrival in New York passed the baton on to Danny. Having never sailed before or even been outside of Ireland, Jilly found the journey from Seattle to New York via Panama tough at times, but ultimately worth the challenge.

“It’s definitely had its ups and downs but the highs far outweighed the challenges I faced like living in such close quarters to people and lack of personal space. But the views were unbelievable, the sunsets and being so close to dolphins was special. Although I have never really got to travel, I’ve always felt that is part of who I really am so stopping off in Costa Rica, transiting through the Panama Canal and then seeing the New York skyline as we sailed in here at night was all unbelievable.”

Having recovered from anorexia, taking part in the race was the next step for Jilly in rebuilding her confidence and testing herself with new skills.

“This time two years ago I would never have been able to consider doing something like this. Going through Tropical Storm Colin was physically challenging and now I would consider myself quite strong. But it makes me want to be better, be fitter, be stronger and now look ahead to the next challenge.”

Jilly’s band Wyldling has previously performed at Radio 1’s One Big Weekend in Derry-Londonderry and now they are going to be the warm up act at prize-giving, much to her excitement.

“I’m really looking forward to the Foyle Maritime Festival which is the surrounding glory for the Clipper Race homecoming. Everyone at the Clipper Race says it’s one of the best stopovers in the world and I’m going to get to play for all my crew mates. I want to show people the personal side of the city for me and I know that all the crew will be treated like heroes when they arrive into the city.”

While Jilly has now returned home, Danny’s journey has only just begun with the LegenDerry Finale to his home port. Three days after leaving New York, Danny is already settling into life on board with his crew.

In his first on board blog, Danny says: “The work on board is extremely physical and the watch system takes a lot of getting used to, it's knackering but apparently the first few days are the worst. Shouts of "I know you fancy me but don't look at me, look at the spinnaker" can be heard from our watch leader Rob Ryan as he drives us on toward the home port. So far we've lightning storms, squalls and spotted a small whale and a very large sun fish.

“I am honoured to be part of this team and every day is full of new experiences friendships and learning.”

The fleet is making fast progress towards Derry-Londonderry where the estimated arrival window is 7 – 11 July. Thousands of people are expected to line the streets as the teams sail up the River Foyle where the Music City Festival is set to coincide with the Foyle Maritime Festival.

To find out more about what is happening during the stopover click here.

For more information on the Foyle Maritime Festival events and how you can get involved click here.

Keep up to date with Danny’s journey and all of our crew by reading the crew diaries on each team page.

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