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Garda prepares for 11-month yacht race

A DUBLIN garda is preparing for an epic 11-month long round-the- world yacht race.

Conor O'Byrne (38), a garda based at Mountjoy Prison, is following a lifelong ambition by competing in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

The 40,000-mile race, the longest in the world, will take in 13 countries, including South Africa, Australia, China, USA, Panama, the UK and Ireland.

"I'm a keen sailor and love all things to do with the sea," he told the Garda Review.

He also aims to raise money along the way for a fledgling Irish charity, the Irish Underwater Search and Recovery Unit.

"My ambition of sailing around the world came from reading a book called A Voyage For Madmen, which is based on the first single, non-stop circumnavigation of the world, which was won by Robin Knox-Johnson, the founder of the Clipper Round the World Race," Conor O'Byrne said.

"The experiences of the participants who took part are what I wanted to experience myself.

"My reason for undertaking the race and being such a long time away from home and sailing in some of the world's most punishing seas, is to hopefully build on my character and to learn more about myself and other people in the most extreme conditions," he said.

"I like to be pushed beyond my comfort zone."

He believes his work as a garda will mean he is well prepared to cope psychologically with the tough conditions of the race.

"When I met with the Clipper team in Derry they were more interested in my character than my yachtmaster offshore certificate, as they believe sailing can be taught but dealing with 19 other people when you're cold, wet, hungry smelly and just want to go home is the real challenge."

He added: "You will have four hours on and four hours off so your sleep is very limited and in rough conditions you won't really get to sleep," he said.

The race costs €50,000 to take part and he is currently seeking a major sponsor.

He hopes his participation in the race will raise awareness of the IUSRU, www.iusru.ie, a non profit making organisation which is solely funded by volutnary donations and does not receive any Government support.