How many boats do we need for the boat race?

Oscar Wilde once said to lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.

Now transfer that to the business of running the world’s biggest boat race in which you start out with eight and at last count last evening, you are left with four. Yes, four. That is the number of boats left in this year’s Volvo Ocean Race, the event on which hangs the hopes of Galway’s tourism season and the mortgages of many of Galway’s service providers.

So how many boats do we need to have a boat race? It reminds me of the foreman I had on a building site in Willesden in the 1980s, who when asked how many walkie-talkies he needed, scratched his head, thought about it for a minute, and said “sure, we’ll take two anyway.”

Having gone through one of the most arduous legs of the race, it seems that we are losing a boat every few weeks. With just 16 weeks until they arrive in Galway, it is hoped that there will be at least some boats left in this spectacular sporting event so that we won’t have one battered auld American boat limping in around Mutton Island, avoiding the swans to a muted round of applause from half a dozen hardy souls on the Prom.

Galway is depending on this race for a lot of reasons. It is hoped that it will rescue our tourist season, so it would be great if there was a bit of a competitive element left to it.

In this column this month last year, I doubted that the tanks in the docks would be removed or that the docks would resemble anything remotely attractive. In my stupidity, I just could not see how in the timescale we had, that our port would become more James Bond than Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. However, my fears were subsequently rubbished and assurances were given that when the boats (or boat ) are/is sailing into Galway, the docks will resemble something from Monaco. And I’m sure as you swing around there now, you can see that you could forgive yourself for thinking you are in the South of France. And that the tanks have neither been shaken nor stirred.

However the upside of all that is our heroes on the Green Dragon, (the Boys On Green ) are still there, hanging on like mad Paddies in a thunderstorm. When once a success in Irish watersport was that if none of the competitors drowned, now we are in fourth place (heck, it’s last, but it’s fourth ) and who knows with the boat being (like America ) Chinese-funded, we could benefit from a tidal wave of goodwill from Quindao in China and then from Boston where locals fear it will upstage the American boats.

And from then on it’s a clear headwind all the way to Galway. In 1963, President Kennedy said in Galway that “on a clear day you can see Boston and if you look closely enough, you can see the Dohertys and Flahertys and Ryans working on the docks.” Here’s hoping that in Boston, on a clear day you can see Galway, and if you look closely enough you will see the Wojciaks and the Usmanovs working away on the docks, tearing down the tanks, rolling out the red carpet and erecting enough canvas to make it look like the Ballinasloe horse fair. Sail on, lads, sail on. We’re waiting for ye.” May the wind at your backs forever be your own!

Declan Varley [email protected]


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