A SAILOR who boarded his first dinghy at Whiterock when he was just 12 years-old has skippered a crew to victory on the other side of the world in his first global seafaring adventure.

Philip Quinn, who grew up in Newtownards and now lives in Crossgar, led a team to first place on his debut in the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race.

Speaking to the Chronicle while on a welcome stopover in Vietnam, Philip, who is 57, told how he, his crew and team of the ‘Quindao’, were crowned winners of Race 7 of the global event, which involves 14 races in total.

With seven still to go, the win last week was secured after a ‘nail biting’ finish of a fleet of vessels which had raced over 4000 nautical miles from Airlie Beach in Australia to HaLong Bay in Vietnam.

The win follows Philip’s departure from Northern Ireland on January 12, on an adventure which will keep the retired policeman riding the high seas until July 29 when he is due to return home. 

The Clipper Round the World Yacht Race is a sailing event which trains people from all walks of life to race across the world’s oceans in what the organisers describe as ‘a true test of mental and physical fortitude’.

A large proportion of Clipper Race crew have no sailing experience but are able to try out firstly through interviews, then if a person is deemed suitable, they can undertake specialist, intensive four-stage training courses that are required to race.

Crews then go on to race alongside people from various backgrounds and nationalities, making it a truly unique challenge. People can sign up to race on just one or on multiple legs, or sign up for the entire 40,000nm circumnavigation – over an arduous 11 months. 

Philip, is among those seasoned sailors who was selected to lead the Qingdao team of non-professional sailors on the second half of the global route.

That route sees the fleet race from Australia to Asia, before crossing the North Pacific, to the USA, around the coast of the US and through the Panama Canal and then back across the Atlantic Ocean to the UK.

Philip stepped in to lead the team after the former Qingdao skipper had to leave the race due to injury. 

He recounted his journey from pre-teen sailor to his current mammoth undertaking.

“I was a swimmer and I actually swam for Bangor but there one friend at the club who offered me a go on his dinghy, when I was 12,  and that was it, I’ve been sailing ever since.”

A former pupil at Regent House Grammar School, Philip then began sailing regularly, and during the subsequent decades he began to enter and win races and is now a regular at both Strangford Lough Yacht Club at Whiterock and East Down Yacht Club near Killinchy.

Philip was able to indulge his love of aquatic pursuits during his 31 years in the police, partaking in police games across Europe on several occasions.

It was upon his retirement however, that he was able to devote more time to his passion, with his supportive wife Michelle backing him all the way.

Michelle will be coming along to China in a few weeks to watch her husband and his crew arrive at Qingdao in China – which gave its name to the vessel, being their sponsors – to witness the spectacle of their triumphant return at the city’s Olympic sailing centre.

He said his grown children, his son Christopher and daughter Victoria haven’t followed their father in his passion, but they’ve been following it during the race ‘and all their friends have started to follow it too’.

Reflecting on his international expedition at sea, Philip explained how he and his crew managed to clinch victory by just the slimmest of margins: “The team established a strong position in the fleet throughout the race, and managed to maintain a frontrunning position for the latter part of the race.

“In the final days it really was anyone’s for the taking and came down to the wire with two other yachts, Zhuhai and UNICEF, jostling for the podium places, but it was Qingdao that took the top spot, marking the team’s first time on the podium during this race edition.”

And revealing how nail biting it was, he continued: “What a finish! We crossed the finish line, just, pushed to the very last metres by the Zhuhai and UNICEF teams. It was a very nervous night not knowing where everyone was but knowing that they were coming to get us.

“It was such a fight right to the very end. We have been hunted down for days, and we’ve had boats after us for what felt like the whole time. Luckily, we were at the front, but it was so close at the end, there were just minutes separating us. We couldn’t see anyone, and then out of the mist came Zhuhai, we thought they were about 30 miles behind! So, we had to put in a lot of extra work just to hold them off.

“Right down to the very last moments it really could have been anyone’s race. We are all ecstatic at being able to pull it off and take the win over some great competition.”

Jubilant at the finish, Philip paid tribute to his fellow competitors, saying the Zhuhai crew ‘played a blinder’.

“I’m so happy for the Qingdao team, they deserve it, they’ve worked so hard and put in so much effort.”

With seven legs under his belt so far, Philip hasn’t encountered any particularly harrowing times, with waves reaching peaks at about four metres high, he estimated.

However, on one of his upcoming trips, across the north Pacific Ocean to Seattle on the west coast of the United States, things are known to have a tendency to get quite a bit more challenging.

“It’s all been relatively under control so far but in the North Pacific, on the way to Seattle, it can be quite a bit more difficult with over 100 knots of wind and what you call a ’phenomenal sea state’, which means waves of over 18 metres. It’s not a given, but it can happen,” he revealed.

As Philip hopes for calm waters on the next phases of the race, anyone wishing to follow him and the rest of the international racing fleet can catch all the action at; on Facebook on; and on Instagram: