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Thursday 2 October 2014

Kerryman sets sail for final leg of Clipper race

Published 30/06/2014 | 02:30

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The Red Arrows perform over the Clipper Yachts at the start line in Greencastle, Co Donegal, as they continue their round the world yacht race. Photo: Martin McKeown
The Red Arrows perform over the Clipper Yachts at the start line in Greencastle, Co Donegal, as they continue their round the world yacht race. Photo: Martin McKeown

He has no boating experience but one Kerryman has signed up to set sail as part of an around-the-world yacht race. Niall Healy (47), from Baraduff in Co Kerry, is taking part in the final leg of the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race from New York to London.

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He has no previous sailing experience, and all of the 12 racing crews contain some people who may have never set foot on a boat before.

However, having won the New York to Derry stint of the race last week, Niall, his skipper and 19 other crew members left Derry yesterday for Amsterdam. And from there, they will continue on to London to complete the race, with ambitions of a top three finish in the overall classification.

It cost Niall €10,000 to enter his leg of the race, but he says the experience has been thoroughly worthwhile.

“You can be somebody working in a normal job in life and be able to compete in this fantastic adventure and that really captured my imagination,” said Niall.

The race consists of 12 identical 70ft yachts with a fully qualified skipper.

Niall says that being at sea in such a confined environment makes him appreciate his home comforts.

“One of the first things that I did was I used a flushing toilet instead of having to use one with a pump, I got a haircut and I had a hot bath,” said Niall of their arrival into Derry.

The dangers of the race are not lost on the Kerry native. He recalled watching an earlier leg of the race and seeing a crew member fall overboard and realising the challenge that lay ahead of him.

“It was very scary because he was in the water for so long. He was in the water for about an hour and a half. It was a serious eye-opener for me and it made me realise that I had to up my fitness regime,” said Niall.

Despite these challenges, Niall said that sailing across the Atlantic was not as bad as he had feared, with the crews handed ideal sailing conditions.

“Instead of being wrapped up in thermal gear I was slapping on the factor 50 to protect my typically fair Irish skin,” said Niall.

It is due to arrive in Amsterdam on Friday before finishing in London on July 12, almost 10 months after it started.

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