THE week-long FOYLE Maritime Festival in Derry hit its peak on Friday night as the ‘Voyages’ showpiece attracted record breaking crowds to the event.
According to Derry City and Strabane District Council, tens of thousands of people lined up along the quayside to gaze out at illuminated tall ships, animated light shows, aerial performances and an explosive finale as fireworks shot into the night sky, reflecting on the River Foyle.
The Voyages showcase was the highlight of the nine day festival, which ends on Sunday when the Clipper Round the World yacht race fleet leaves the city’s marina, to embark on their final race to Liverpool.
Almost 200,000 people will have visited by the time the festival comes to a close on Sunday, July 22.
Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, councillor John Boyle, hailed everyone involved: “I would like to congratulate the council’s festival and events team on pulling off yet another night to remember and all the statutory agencies who worked so well together to manage an event of this scale.
“Last night’s event took the celebrations to a new level with the captivating parade of light on the Foyle preceding the stunning fireworks display.
“There has been a packed programme of events all week and it has been fantastic to see so many local people and visitors in our city out enjoying the festivities.”
Between the coinciding arrival of the clipper fleet, and thousands more arriving in the city for the Foyle Cup, it has been a rather busy week for the area – and there has been no shortage of things to do.
With the quayside full to the brim with market stalls, the hunger-inducing scent of burgers and seafood dishes lingering in the air, and pop-up bars serving crisp local pints, the festival is already reaping the rewards.
The mayor explained to BBC News NI earlier on in the week that for every pound invested by the council, they are seeing £2.20 coming back into the economy.
Event co-ordinator, Helena Hasson, said: “The Foyle Maritime Festival has been superb, thousands have turned out already.
“Everyone has been coming out to see the Clipper yachts and enjoy the huge number of events taking place along the river including our hugely successful Flavours of the Foyle and the Irish navy boat tours.”
The festival comes to a close on Sunday afternoon, with the final event consisting of waving off the Clipper fleet at the Parade of Sail.
The skippers and their crew make their way out of the marina towards Greencastle in County Donegal, before setting off on the final leg of the year-long race around the world, which ends where it started back in Liverpool.
Derry duo, Conall Morrison and Roseann McGlinchey, received a warm welcome home when their boat berthed in the marina on 10 July, after being at sea for the past 11 months.
The quayside is expected to be equally bustling again on Sunday afternoon, as their supporters are expected to cheer them on in a bid to win their final race.