Tag Archives: clipper ships

High up on Watson’s Bay with a blue sea below and a bluer sky above, Sydney did what only Sydney can do – offering  a panoramic view of the start of the 2013 Sydney to Hobart yacht race.

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Below,  the white bright sails glimmered in the water, the two maxi yachts with their black sails already battling it out. But I was rooting for the clipper ship the London Derry Doire, sponsored by Derry City.


There are 12 clipper ships on a round the world race with this leg of it taking in the Hobart race.

The previous day, in the bar of the Crusing Club of Australia, in Rushcutters Bay, I chatted with some of the crew including Michelle Porter who had had to lifted off by the South African coastguard when she’s suffered a broken arm during a knockdown in the Indian Ocean. ” But I’m like a magnet,” she told me,” I’m always drawn back ot the boat.”

The knockdown ( it only takes a second or so for the mast to come back up again) left two others of the crew dangling by their harnesses. Funny now, not then. There’s always the memory of the terrible year when a storm claimed the lives of six sailors.

This year, the weather forecast isn’t great: down by the Bass Straits, they’re expecting winds gusting at 60 knots and waves 12 metres high – all part of the expected storm later today.

The big boats will have their storm sails up – made not for raciong but for surviving – while the clippers will plough onwards. As ocean-going yachts, this is what they’re built for.

” We even have our own sewing machine on board specially adapted for asymetrical sails,” Conor O Byrne tells me as we chatted pre race in the floating pontoon by the boat. Conor, now a garda siochana, used to work for the RNLI in Dublin.

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Like all such ventures, there are superstitions attached to sailing. Because the boat is mainly Irish, I’d expected the crew logo to be green but no: ” No,” says Nick Blewer, a financial consultant from Cheltenham, ” green is the colour of land – not a good thing when you’re sailing.”

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As the fleet came out through the heads, the tiny motorised convoy of well wishers buzzed to and fro among the yachts until they turned back to the safety of Sydney Harbour leaving the racing yachts to carry on alone, ready for whatever the seas and winds might throw at them.

When I woke in the middle of the night, I thought of the crew of the Derry. At 1am, they’d be getting ready for their third watch….


Stop press: 24 hours into the race, the Derry is holding her own on the top 6.  Derry  Abu!



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Rushcutters Bay, Sydney


   12 clipper ships creaking in the wind, tethered to shore till the off at 1pm Thursday, St Stephen’s Day. That’s 1pm Eastern Australia Standard Time. They’re all battling in the 2013/14 round the world race and Thursday is leg six of it.From Sydney they head south to Hobart, capital of Tasmania. Then back up to Brisbane, over to Singapore, on to China, across to San Francisco,through the Panama Canal and north to NYC, across the Atlantic to Derry ( expected June 21 2014 in case you want to put it in your diary) on to the Nederlands and home to London from where they started.


Right now, the clipper ships are at rest in Sydney’s Rushcutters Bay, flags flapping in the wind, the crew  having an on board safety check and then planning how they’re going to spend Christmas Day  their last on land before the off in St Stephens Day.

 The Derry (let’s call her that for short)  is sponsored by Derry City and here’s a picture of the deck:




   Each ship has a story to tell. On board the Quigdao is the first woman from China to take part  in the race.  She lives close to Quigdao which is the port in China where the clipper ships will dock before heading on to San Francisco.



  The Old Poultney is sponsored by the scotch of the same name and the distillery is determined to brand their whiskey as the mariners’ whiskey.  There’s a boat celebrating Mandela and one from Jamaica. The chef from the Opera House is on another boat and the oldest competitor is 86. And  of course there’s the stalwart Doire.


 More on this in the next blog….




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Whiskey and chocolate? You’ve got to be joking.

Hard to think of a guided walk that takes in a whiskey tasting session and finishes with a taste of seductively delicious chocolate – and all in the name of science.

This being Dublin’s Science Festival (till July 15) and what with all the carryon with the Hadron Collider – you can tell I’m not a scientist – our walk focused on Dublin inventions and inventors and though it lasted two whole hours was over before you knew where you were.

We set off from the quad in Dublin’s Trinity College from where many of the city’s inventors came. First up was Charles Parson whose steam turbine, invented in 1884, enabled ships to go faster and without the need to carry so much coal.  No more clipper ships after that so. Well, let’s say fewer. Off again past Trinity’s cricket pitch where a game was in progress giving a lovely feel to the summer’s day. Next stop, in Kildare Street, was to gaze in awe at a letter box. No, seriously. And then to ponder on the ingenious Henry Archer, an Irish printer, who devised the perforated sheet of stamps. Think of it – all those little holes which finally allowed people to tear off a stamp with ease. Before that, you had to use a scissors. I have to chip in here because once, needing to sell theatre tickets of the homemade variety, we hit on the ploy of running the sheets under a sewing machine so that the needle created the perforations. Eat your heart out, Henry Archer.

Then there’s the plaque on the wall just by Buswells Hotel, telling us about the Quaker Ann Jellico who set up the first technical institute for women. Round the corner, in Dawson Street, is the Royal Irish Academy  where the idea of copyright is enshrined. The story is a long one concerning a battle over ownership of a copy of a precious manuscript. “To every cow its calf, to every book its copy” was the verdict much cherished by writers worldwide. You can see what the RIA believes is the original manuscript, dating back to 531 AD. Better than the Book of Kells: you don’t have to queue.

I’m  not going to give any more away because that would just spoil the walk. Well, oh alright. There’s the humane hangman, the stethoscope, the hypodermic needle and the continuous still, perfect for making poteen.

These guided walks come in every variety including “Blood and Guts” and “Earthquakes and Elephants”. There were 20 people on the one I did so booking is essential at ingeniousireland.ie

If you can’t do the guided walk, you can do it on your own, with an audio guide. Check out the ingeniousireland.ie site for everything you need to know.


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