Round the World with Clodagh

Photos courtesy Clipper Ventures PLC.

Photos courtesy Clipper Ventures PLC.

If you have ever dreamt about whether or not it would be possible to sail around the world, Ringsend native Clodagh Whelan (pictured bottom right) is well placed to give you a first-hand account, as she recently competed in the Clipper Round the World Boat Race 2013-2014.

Continuing the proud tradition of Ringsend seafarers, Clodagh recounted to NewsFour how she took on some of the toughest sailing conditions on the planet, including two hurricanes, a man overboard incident, and experienced a boat knockdown after leaving Capetown.

The Clipper is a race run every two years comprising of 12 70ft racing yachts of equal specifications, “where taxi drivers rub shoulders with chief executives”, according to the race organisers. There are eight legs, and crew can sign up for a selected few legs or really go for it and sign up for the complete around the world package.

The principle is that anyone can apply, even if they have never stepped on a boat before, as the participants receive three weeks of intensive training before being allocated to a racing yacht with a professional skipper.

Being new to boats was not the case for Clodagh, however, as she had many years of sailing under her belt, including having completed the Round Ireland and Dun Laoghaire to Dingle races.

Clodagh started with thoughts of sailing to the Azores in 1999. “It would take me 10 years to finally get there, to make that dream a reality,” Clodagh told NewsFour. “I began with the Toppers (11ft sailing dinghies) in the Grand Canal Basin and took it on from there.” She then got further into sailing through the Poolbeg Boat and Yacht Club.

When Clodagh completed her trip to the Azores, new challenges arose in her mind, and this is where her attention turned to the exciting adventure of the Clipper Round the World Race. She completed her training and was allocated to the Derry-Londonderry-Doire race yacht, sponsored by Derry City Council. Clodagh participated in the Capetown to Albany (Australia) leg and the New York to Derry leg, which also included races on to Holland and back to London.

In a crew of 20 people at any one time, Clodagh experienced a great camaraderie amongst the toughest of seas, as well as the joy of taking part in the experience of a lifetime. She also had to undergo cramped living and sleeping conditions, as well as unusual sleeping requirements due to watch duties.
The Derry-Londonderry-Doire yacht was skippered by Buncrana man Sean McArthur, so the crew were extra motivated to make a mark on the New York to Derry route.

Their first difficulty was a high pressure system that forced them north, leading to crew members on iceberg watch at times. Despite this, the Derry-Londonderry-Doire made the skipper and crew’s dream, to arrive home as the winner of the New York to Derry race, come true. They arrived into Derry City to a hero’s welcome. Victory was very sweet for the crew, and the city who had sponsored the yacht.

Clodagh’s focus is now highly involved in helping newcomers to feel welcome and supported. She encourages all to try and give sailing a go for themselves at the Poolbeg Boat and Yacht Club, where anyone can come down on Wednesdays at 6pm (from May to August) and Sunday mornings, when club members go out for a race, and several newcomers can be given a taste on a yacht heading out to Dublin Bay.
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Clipper - Clodagh on the Southern Ocean
By Ferg Hayden