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CLIPPER RACE FINALE CEREMONY IN DOUBT; Delay puts city plans in turmoil.

Byline: By NICKCOLIGAN

PLANS for a spectacular finale to the Clipper round-the-world yacht race in Liverpool are in turmoil today.

Tens of thousands of visitors were expected to attend a ceremony to mark the event's conclusion on July 1.

But Clipper organisers have confirmed the race will now finish at least a month later, after a seven-week delay in the Philippines.

It means culture officials in Liverpool are in the dark about when they should rearrange the finishing ceremony.

Although race organisers predict an early August finish, the Culture Company is concerned the conclusion could be set back further.

It does not want to rearrange the flagship event until the race's future is clear.

A Culture Company spokesman said: "We are involved in discussions with Clipper Ventures on a range of issues."

The race is due to restart in two weeks after an enforced seven-week break for safety work on the fleet.

Organisers are hoping to save time by axing planned stops in Japan and the Caribbean.

But culture bosses will want firm assurances on the finishing date before rearranging the city's biggest waterfront attraction this year.

Mersey River Festival will not take place this summer, but elements have been incorporated into the Clipper homecoming.

City centre hotels today said they had not yet felt the impact of the postponement of the homecoming event.

A spokesman for the Radisson SAS said: "We have not experienced any cancellations."

The fleet, including the Liverpool 08 clipper, departed from Singapore on January 27, on the way to Qingdao, China.

But the 10 identical vessels were diverted 100 miles off course to the Philippines on February 5 because of keel problems.

Crews were flown home while a safety team of 90 people worked around the clock.

The yachts are crewed by novice sailors alongside professionals.

nick.coligan@liverpool.com

CAPTION(S):

SAFETY ALERT: Liverpool 08 clipper is laid up in dock for a safety check like all vessels in the trace
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Mar 10, 2006
Words:327
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