Derry duo set to complete 'LegenDerry' Clipper race

Conall Morrison and Roseann McGlinchey Image copyright Clipper Round the World
Image caption Conall Morrison and Roseann McGlinchey are due back in Londonderry this month after being at sea for almost a year

A skipper and marketing officer are due back home in Londonderry after 11 months at sea.

Conall Morrison, 35, and 24-year-old Roseann McGlinchey have been sailing across the Atlantic from New York as part of The Clipper Round the World race.

They are expected to arrive in the River Foyle in the coming days, just in time for the Foyle Maritime Festival.

The first boats are due home from midnight on Sunday.

Held along the city's riverside, the award-winning festival provides a week's worth of festivities for the Clipper race crew, and this year will see the locals celebrating two of their own.

The duo set off from the Big Apple on their penultimate race on 26 June.

It is the twelfth race of 13, ahead of the final stretch which will see them head for the finish line in Liverpool, where the race began in August 2017.

Smooth sailing?

Mr Morrison, the skipper of the HotelPlanner.com yacht, is excited to be heading home.

"To be crossing the Atlantic to get home - 3,000 miles of a clipper race on the back of sailing around the world - is just the dream," he told BBC News NI.

"Of course I've got nerves ahead of this race, but we've completed 11 others at this point, so at least I know what to do in terms of starting off the race."

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Media captionYacht race Derry duo make return

The 40,000 mile round trip has not all been smooth sailing, with Ms McGlinchey describing the Pacific Ocean leg of the race as "horrendous".

"I've been super excited about this race," she said.

"It's my homecoming race, so I finally get to go home and see all of my family after 11 months at sea, so it's the race I've been looking forward to all year.

"I haven't seen anybody at all, so this will be the first time that I'll have met anyone from home since I left and I'm absolutely ready to explode with excitement.

"I've especially missed my dog, who's really cute."

Mr Morrison is just as excited to be reunited with his loved ones.

"I've got my mum and dad waiting on me and my son, my little boy," he said.

"I haven't seem him since we left Liverpool.

"A lot of friends, I think, will be out and about because the whole Maritime Festival is on, so a lot of people will be on the water, and I'll be keen to see them all."

What is the Clipper race?

Image copyright Clipper Round the World
Image caption The Atlantic homecoming leg is about 23 days long - depending on the weather

The race is a 40,000 nautical mile test of endurance for those with no previous sailing experience, as they tackle routes across seas all over the globe.

It is divided into eight legs and 13 individual races. Participants can choose to complete the full year-long circumnavigation, or select separate legs.

It is the only race in the world where the organisers supply a fleet of 11 identical 70-foot racing yachts called clippers, each with a qualified skipper to safely guide the inexperienced crew from the port to their next destination.

Mr Morrison has a full boat for this race, with four new joiners who have chosen to complete this single leg - six from previous parts of the challenge, "and the round-the-worlders".

Image copyright Clipper Round the World
Image caption The crew of the HotelPlanner.com were in good spirits as they set sail from New York

"It's a big team, but those who have been on our yacht since the start are experienced at bringing people on, and our HotelPlanner.com strap-line is: 'Bringing people together.'

"So we like to push that message when we can, and we make a big effort when we get joiners in to get them working on the boat early, we'll take them out for a meal and stuff just so we can try and get everybody settled in.

"And of course there is a routine on the boat as well."

There is a rigorous training course in which participants are suited and booted in order to complete the challenge, which is usually the domain of seasoned pros.

But this event, which has been running for 11 years and is the brainchild of sailing legend Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, has allowed ordinary people the chance to take on a challenge that sees taxi drivers team up with vicars.

Image copyright Clipper Round the World
Image caption Conall began sailing at the age of 11, when a family friend bought a boat

At this point in the overall race, team HotelPlanner.com are in 10th place out of 11, but currently eighth in the LegenDerry phase of the race: For Mr Morrison and Ms McGlinchey, the thought of sleeping in their own beds is spurring them on.

"It hasn't kind of sunk in yet, I feel like I'm still back in Australia and not heading home," said Ms McGlinchey.

"The achievement that we've all had so far is just way beyond anything that I ever thought that I'd complete in my life.

"To actually get this far and have made it is amazing - it's just this last bit now."

Thousands are expected to cheer on the pair during the last day of the Foyle Maritime Festival, as the yachts take part in the Parade of Sail before preparing for their final race from Greencastle in County Donegal to Liverpool.

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