The 40-year-old dad of two is now making the final preparations before joining the Derry-Doire crew on June 20th, as the 12 Clipper Race teams make their way from New York to Derry for the ‘LegenDerry Finale’ of one of the most famous sailing challenges in the world.
The race will keep them at sea for almost three weeks in the most gruelling conditions before a rapturous reception here in the city during the Foyle Maritime Festival.
As part of Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Clipper Race ‘Voice of the Community’ Bursary Scheme, Danny was nominated to take part in the race by local woman Helena Coyle for his contribution to youth work in Derry.
He’s been devoted to working with young people since the age of 17, leading now to his role as a manager of local youth charity Extern.
But the unique challenge of the Clipper Race offered Danny the chance to test himself on a new level and use his skills in a completely different environment, as he explained.
“I’ve been involved in youth work for 23 years now and my work with Extern involves providing support for young people and families who need it most, equipping them with the tools to assist in their everyday lives.
“This ranges from linking them up with the appropriate support services within their own community areas to providing respite and advice for both parents and children at challenging times in their lives.
“The Extern team have all been so supportive and there’s great excitement about the trip – I think they really acknowledge what a challenge it will be and what can be gained from the experience.
“Personally working with people so closely on a day to day basis I think the Clipper Race experience will offer a great opportunity to learn more about overcoming adversity as part of a team, and the psychology and logistics of living and working in such a restricted environment for such a prolonged period.
“When I was on my training over in Gosport I was definitely in my element, I think it was the perfect environment for me to use a lot of the skills I’ve learned in my youth work.
“I’m a bit of an emotional barometer which is great when I’m working in a group. I find that I can gauge what the mood is with people and I deliberately help to raise the morale. I’m lucky because with Extern I work with a highly motivated and vocational team of youth workers who constantly give 110% in their work with young people and their families. So I know what a good team looks like.
“The whole experience is very developmental and you will ultimately learn a lot about yourself as you go through it.”
But there may be a bit more to Danny’s affinity with sailing, as his family tree reveals a historic connection to high sea adventure – and particularly the Derry-New York route – stretching back over a century.
“My great grandfather John McGuinness was born in New York, his family had emigrated to an area called Brookland at the end of the famine. When his father died of Yellow Fever his mother managed to scrape the money together to make the ocean crossing back again from New York to Derry. John McGuinness later became a sea captain, so that North Atlantic route is very significant in my family history.
“His son Hugh McGuinness was my grandfather, and Hugh’s brother Charlie stowed away from Derry’s quay on a ship at 15-years-old. Charles ‘Nomad’ McGuinness, as he was known, had a colourful life as an adventurer and writer, and he was later a skipper on Byrd’s expedition to the South Pole. Coincidently he skippered the ship named ‘City of New York’.”
As his departure fast approaches, Danny has also been getting some advice from sailing veterans in the Lough Swilly Yacht Club, as well as some top tips from former crew members.
“I know it will be physically challenging but I’ve been reading up on sailing and trying to draw on the experiences of the Yacht Club. I’ve also been trying to get a bit fitter as the real challenge is the physicality of the work, and being able to pull your weight during long shifts.
“The members of the Lough Swilly Yacht Club have been a great help in terms of offering practical advice which will really come in handy on a day to day basis on board.”
Despite the expected challenges, there will be plenty to look forward to on this race across the Atlantic which starts the eighth and final leg of the Clipper Race, as it will see Danny return to his home port where a hero’s welcome awaits as part of the Foyle Maritime Festival.
“Everyone has been so supportive, but I know that the most difficult thing for me will be leaving my family behind. So the fact that I will be coming back into Derry for a homecoming welcome is a real bonus.
“I have two beautiful daughters aged seven and three, so they have been really great encouraging me, and I’ve been focusing on making preparations for them while I’m away.
“But it will be an emotional homecoming knowing that they will be waiting for me here on the quayside.”
This final leg will require the teams to take on three races while covering a distance of over 4,800 miles.
After a week-long celebration at home Danny will then get back on board Derry~Doire to race to Den Helder in the Netherlands where the fleet will assemble before the final sprint finish into London on spectacular Parade of Sail up the River Thames on 30 July.
Derry~Doire is currently second in the Overall Race Standings and has won three of the ten individual races in the Clipper Race so far.
For images and videos of the Clipper Race please register on the media portal:http://mediaportal.clipperroundtheworld.com/auth/login
To find out more about the Foyle Maritime Festival, July 09 – 17, and the Clipper Bursary candidates visit:www.foylemaritimefestival.comTags: