A little bit of Galway arrives for Irish Day

With just 180 days until the Volvo Ocean Race hits Galway, DECLAN VARLEY brings you a weekly brief of what’s happening in sailing’s Everest.

Yesterday the near century old Galway hooker Nora Bheag, (Little Nora in English ), was finally taken out of her container in perfect condition in Abu Dhabi. She arrived safely after an historic voyage that set out from Galway more than eight weeks ago.

Little Nora, which also means Little Light in Arabic, is in Abu Dhabi as part of a cultural exchange programme between Abu Dhabi and Galway, both hosts of the Volvo Ocean Race 2011- 2012. This is a joint initiative involving the Irish Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Emirates Heritage Club, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and Tourism Ireland.

Her owner, Cóilín Hernon along with his family, crew Mike and Sue Fahy and Galway Hooker Association founder Padraic de Bhaldraithe carefully unloaded Nora Bheag from the container with the assistance of the Emirates Heritage Club and Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority.

She was launched from the slipway in the Volvo Ocean Race team base area into the Arabian Gulf. Once successfully rigged she made her way under sail towards the Emirates Heritage Club, her new home club while in Abu Dhabi. This short trip was the first time a Galway hooker has sailed these waters.

She’ll also be moored in the Volvo Ocean Race village where preparations are under way for the Irish Day festivities tomorrow in the Abu Dhabi race village. Guests will be welcomed out on board to experience sailing on her.

The return exchange will see six Abu Dhabi dhow’s travel to Galway to race against a fleet of Galway hookers. The exhibition challenge will take place in Galway Bay during the finale celebrations of the Volvo Ocean Race and Global Village 2012 in July this year.

With both cities hosting a stopover for the grueling 39,000 mile round the world “Everest of Sailing’ in 2012, the initiative celebrates common ties between the two. It is hoped that this type of promotion will generate a significant number of new tourist visitors and attract businesses from the Middle East to Ireland.

Enda O’Coineen, Chairman of Let’s Do It Global – the not for profit foundation responsible for bringing the Volvo Ocean Race back to Ireland said he was delighted at how the cultural exchange was unfolding, “The working Arab dhow is very symbolic of Arab culture and their history through trade is highly respected.

“Mixed in with the very modern aspects of Abu Dhabi the dhow is sacred as a link with the past”, said Enda, “Likewise the Galway Hooker was the workboat of the West of Ireland and has similar attributes. We are really looking forward to hosting the Dhows in Galway in July.”

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