14 year old to start Clipper RTW race

Action hots up in Liverpool for Sunday's departure

Friday October 25th 2002, Author: Loretta Spridgeon, Location: Transoceanic
A 14-year-old charity fundraiser has received the "surprise of her life" - by being chosen to start Clipper 2002, the longest round the world yacht race.

Francesca D'arcy, 14, who was inspired by the wife of the late Roy Castle to start fundraising for charities, will help start the Clipper 2002 race in Liverpool on Sunday, October 27.

Francesca, unknowingly nominated by classmate Leane Kinsella, will receive a host of prizes as well as the honour to signal the 2pm start of the 35,000 mile race.

A pupil at St Edwards College, the West Derby teenager has quietly raised more than £20,000 for cancer charities in less than five years and is currently trying to raise a further £6,000 for a special mattress for patients at the Marie Curie Hospice.

Leanne, 14, had written in to the city council saying: "Fran has unselfishly raised money for charitable causes since junior school. She solely organises yearly charity events and is tirelessly raising thousands of pounds for those less fortunate than herself. Fran deserves something in recognition of all her achievements."

On hearing she had been chosen out of more than 100 nominations, Francesca replied: "I'm shocked. I'd never given it a thought I'd be nominated for anything like this. I don't fundraise to be recognised. I just try to do it without any fuss. This is overwhelming. I can't believe Leanne kept that a secret!"

The pair will be meeting tomorrow (Friday, October 25) at 11am at the Albert Dock to receive their prizes and instructions for the big day. Francesca has nominated her mum Teresa to enjoy the VIP treatment.

Besides triggering the countdown to the 35,000-mile race in front of thousands of people the trio will also be made VIP's for the day, meeting clipper crew members and celebrities.

The Clipper 2002 race will begin at 2pm on the River Mersey, marking the first time the international event will begin outside the south coast. After 11 months of racing the fleet will finish back in Liverpool in September 2003.

Councillor Warren Bradley, Executive Member for Leisure and Culture, said: "It was not easy choosing a winner for this competition. There were a lot of people who deserved this prize and some of the stories were very heartbreaking. But the reason we chose Francesca is because the Clipper Race has been all about giving people amazing opportunities and that is exactly what Francesca has been doing.

"We've also tried to engage young people in this event as much as possible and teach them about the world. In a way Francesca has set an example that can teach us all some fundamentals about life."

Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, race organiser, expressed his delight upon learning the winner's identity. He said, "I know Liverpool City Council have worked very hard to engage the local community in the Clipper 2002 race and this is particularly evident here in Albert Dock where we, the skippers and crews, have all received an especially warm welcome.

"This is another tremendous opportunity for local involvement and I wish our lucky competition winner Francesca a wonderful time this Sunday."

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