Historic race continues to attract Galway sailors

Competitors in Europe's oldest and longest inland sailing race, the Galway to Cong, managed to sample every challenge the weather could offer when they took to the water recently.

A wide range of boats endured a variety of conditions - wind light airs at the start and finish, a fast downwind stretch with spinnakers flying in the upper lake, and a long beat into the wind in narrow channels during the afternoon.

Since 1882 sailors have raced the length of Lough Corrib. The origin of the wager which precipitated the first races is shrouded in myth and lore, but the early races were hotly contested and a great social occasion. A test of stamina as well as skill, competitors completed a round trip of some 60 nautical miles from Galway to Ashford Castle and back again. It was raced annually until 1914 and the outbreak of World War I.

Revived in its current format - sailing in one direction from Lisloughrey to Galway, in 1972 - the event has again become a highlight in the Galway maritime calendar.

This year the sailing and boating clubs of Galway came together and moved the race to earlier in the summer. Light airs from Lisloughrey pier made for a slow departure, but the breeze freshened up in time for an upwind start in the wide expanse of the upper lake. Initially the Hobie Tiger of Tim and Cormac Breen made the early running and pulled away from the chasing pack. As the morning wore on, the wind came around to the south west and sailors took the opportunity to get the kites flying and the pace picked up substantially.

First across the finish line at Corrib Village and overall race winners on adjusted time were Yannick and Seán Lemonnier from Galway Bay Sailing Club. Second were Neil Mangan and Simon Griffin from Blessington, with Johnny Murphy from Galway City Sailing Club in third. The prize for the best junior boatwent to Rob Talbot from GCSC and Rian De Bairéad from Cumann Seotóireachta an Spidéil who came in fourth, while best senior went to Colm McIntyre and Mícheál Ó Fatharta of GCSC.

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