A special parade of sail from Galway takes place tomorrow (Friday ) reviving a tradition with twin city Lorient.
Some 15 boats will set sail from Galway Harbour at 11.45am en route to France in a bid to strengthen maritime ties between the two port cities which were twinned some 40 years ago.
The Galway boats will join another 15 yachts in a flotilla heading to the west coast of Brittany on a 'cruise in company'.
Well-known Galway sailors Enda O'Coineen, Cormac MacDonncha, and John Killeen, the man responsible for bringing the Volvo Ocean Race to the city, are behind this initiative to revive the tradition started in the 1980s.
Now many other west of Ireland sailors have signed up, including Jarlath Cunnane from Westport and Michael Brogan from Kinvara, while the venture is being headed by Jean Gab Samzun on the French side, and Johnny Shorten, vice commodore of Galway Bay Sailing Club, the organising club for the event.
The 30 boats mostly hail from the Wild Atlantic Way and have been joined by three boats which sailed over from Lorient last week. The route from Galway will include three stopovers - the first leg to Kinsale being the longest at some 219nm. The next is on to the Scilly Isles, 45kms southwest of the Cornish Peninsula, and the last leg will see the local French flotilla join the Irish group at Ile de Groix to sail the final nine nautical miles together to Lorient, weather permitting, on July 20.
This trip is particularly significant as one of the boats will travel with a signed flag from the Galway Sea Rescue that will be given to the Groix Island Sea Rescue to honour the three French men who died recently in Sables d’Olonne in Vendée, as well as letter of condolences from Galway harbour master Brian Sheridan.
Recently Corinthians Rugby Club U16s travelled to Lorient, and it is planned that a group of Lorient sailors will visit Galway in July 2020.
Similar to Galway, Lorient is renowned for its atmosphere, music, culture and people, and on arrival Catherine Gagneux, the French Honorary Consul and acting president of the Galway Lorient committee in Galway, will welcome the 30 boats along with the Lorient City Council's delegation.
Several meetings have been arranged to further social, economic and cultural projects, and to plan the celebrations for the 45 years years of association between the two cities which will take place in Lorient in September 2020.
Strong emphasis is being put in place in France and especially Brittany to promote and revive twinning and confederate regions as 98 Irish towns, cities and villages are currently twinned with towns in Brittany.
Local sponsors have come on board, including Thermo King, The Harbour Hotel and the Galway City Council, to help to bring this event to life.
A formal gathering of skippers and crew and 'Grande Fete de Departure' will take place this evening (Thursday ) in the Harbour Hotel with representatives from the French Consulate, Galway City Council and other dignitaries in attendance. A special presentation of a perpetual trophy by Phyllis Molloy (widow of the late Bobby, former commodore of GBSC ) to Gerry Moran for his lifetime achievements in sailing will also be made at the event.
Galwegians can follow on Twitter @GalwayLorient, @SistersVillesIRL and #staytunedstaytwinned.