There's so much more to yawl racing than meets the eye! That's the verdict of people here generally as the annual Cruinniu Badoiri Acla continues to thrill the local population and visitors alike. This weekend past was no exception for great yawl racing despite “feast to famine” weather conditions which ranged from raging storm to midge friendly calm. Saturday's race in Tonragee (which translates as “back to the wind” ) was cancelled due to too much wind.
Last Sunday morning started with the midges but a light breeze coaxed the yawls out on the water for the first of the two races to be held that day. Michael the Shore in the Yellow Rose was to prove once again that he is fit to take on and beat all comers no matter what the weather conditions. The canny old fox himself Padraic Eoin Patten from Saula once again had to settle for second place to the Yellow Rose in the West Mayo Fishermen's Co-op Race. Michael the Shore from Bunnacurry used his expertise and knowledge of local conditions including geography to outfox even the great Padraic Eoin himself to claim yet another victory for the Yellow Rose. As that great country and western song "The Gambler" says, it’s knowing when to deal your hand of cards a certain way that will ensure success. Finding a shorter route to the finishing line when that route is highly tide-dependent is a high-risk strategy, but can be critical to being first to the finishing line. No one is more familiar with the shallows than Michael the Shore so his gamble paid off when he took a (highly-tide dependent ) shortcut! Equally fascinating was the battle for the next placing where superb sailor and yawlman Tom Calvey from Inishbiggle "cooked" the mighty Sean Patten from Belfarsad in San Telmo to come in third with his boat The Mairtin Taidgh. This was no mean achievement as Sean Belfarsad and crew in San Telmo are top-class sailors and are hard beat at any time. This was the very likeable Tom Calvey's first outing this year and proved what a fine sailor he is. In fairness this was very close but there was no doubting on the photos that Inishbiggle Tom was well ahead. Next was able Kevin Cowley and crew in the Mayoman, ahead of the Naoimh Breandain, the Brid Aine, and finally Beagnach Neamh. It was great to see John Dara and Crew competing again on Sunday after their demise a week earlier when their yawl Beagnach Neamh sank. The Lon Dubh also sank on the same day but did not appear because Damian and crew failed to retreive their rudder once the boat was refloated the next day. We await the return of this fine double-ender.
But in case there was any doubting Sean Belfarsad's fine yawl pedigree or ability to sink the opposition, no matter how formidable, all bets were truly settled in the later race when Sean and crew in San Telmo had sweet revenge! The Michael John O'Malley Memorial Cup is held in memory of the great Michael John from Inishbiggle and proved to be one of the great races of the season. Reminiscent of the Sunday before, competent skipper Kevin Cowley and crew established an impressive lead from the start and led the pack for almost the entire race. No one would have bet against the Mayoman winning the race, so well were they performing and with such a great lead.
But then the wind seemed to die. It was not to be the able Kevin Cowley's day as a flotilla of three boats the Yellow Rose, the Naoimh Cait and the Brid Aine, seemed to pick up the first wind as all boats were running on the home stretch. They charged forward in a line to come abreast of the Mayoman, producing a truly magnificent vista for the multitude watching on Achill Sound Quay. The excitement reached fever pitch as the wiley Sean Patten and crew in San Telmo stole a march on the other yawls on the outside flank to run clear to the finishing line ahead of the pack. A truly great victory by Sean and sweet revenge for the earlier result!
But the excitement was not over yet as the outstanding Saula yawlman Tommy Davitt and crew in the Brid Aine surged ahead of the pack to take second place. The watching crowd roared in appreciation of such high drama. The Yellow Rose had to settle for third place on this occasion followed by the Mayoman in fourth place. Next came Padraic Eoin in the Naoimh Cait, followed by Beagnach Neamh, the Mairtin Taidg, and the Naoimh Breandain. It was a proud Mrs Bridget O'Malley from Inishbiggle who presented the fine cup in memory of her late son Michael John to Sean Belfarsad and crew, together with her grandson young Patrick O'Malley and other members of the O'Malley clan. Everyone is appreciative of Mrs O'Malleys lifetime of service to the people of Inishbiggle as (now retired ) postmistress of Inishbiggle Post Office. Yawl chairman Dr. Jerry Cowley paid tribute to Joey Henry and Thomas Calvey, Jr, from Inishbiggle for providing the safety boats on the day. He also thanked the sponsors and all responsible for ensuring such a great weekend of yawl racing. He reminded everyone that the last yawl races of the season will take place this weekend with the Bernard Masterson Memorial Cup taking place on Saturday at 4pm at Tonragee, and the Achill Sound Hotel Cup this Sunday at 5pm in Achill Sound.