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Irish Flying Fifteen National Champion Chris Doorly is back on the water early this season but before he takes up his usual role at the sharp end of a National Yacht Club keelboat he can be found, as shown in our exclusive photograph above, with a ladies crew from St Michael's Rowing Club in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Doorly is training for the Celtic Challenge Irish Sea Rowing event which takes place from Arklow to Aberystwyth, Wales this coming Friday.

This test of endurance is 150km and can take 24 hours depending on weather. The club have a mens and womens crew consisting of three teams four who will operate a relay system.

The club are raising funds for both the RNLI and the upkeep of the local clubhouse which featured recently on Afloat.ie

Published in Coastal Rowing

#celticchallenge – During the May bank holiday weekend (2nd-5th May), 12 men and women from of St Michael's Rowing Club, Dun Laoghaire and volunteers from Irish Charity GOAL participated in the biennial rowing race across the Irish Sea known as 'the Celtic Challenge'. What started as a relatively calm sea turned into a tough crossing for the 12 brave men and women and they had to dig deep into their reserves to get over the finishing line, crossing the 150km course in 25hrs, 9 mins, 1 second. The relay race is billed as the longest 'true' rowing race in the world and is listed as such in the Guinness Book of Records.

Due to a good weather system, all the signs had a race start for the Saturday morning. However, the weather deteriorated and the race was given the thumbs up for 2 starts; 3pm and 5pm – on Friday 2nd May – much to the surprise of all participants. St. Michael's Rowing Club were the only crew to enter a traditional east coast skiff, a quarter ton wooden clinker style boat, whilst all other teams opted for the more modern fibreglass, Celtic Longboats. The Celtic Longboats would be much quicker especially in calmer conditions and were soon well on their way.

The format of the race is a relay. Each team has 3 crews of 4 rowers that rotate their time on the oar, resting and refuelling on an accompanying support boat. Generally 'one hour on, two hours off' is the rule of thumb, but conditions, strategies, injuries, and sickness may dictate otherwise. The first 14 hours were fairly calm and certainly much calmer than the conditions met in the previous Celtic Challenge in which more than half of the fleet retired. The choppy and somewhat tricky Arklow Bank was relatively calm too and this time we were past it in under, 2 hours.

As the sun set and darkness grew, the crew knuckled down to what would be seen as a fairly straight forward race across the Irish Sea. Their support yacht, the Emilija and the crew of the rib, the Wizard continued to work tirelessly to ensure the safety of the teams during the changeovers. Both crewed by quite remarkable and extreme professionals, who gave freely of their time to the cause and to whom the club is eternally grateful.

However, as the night went on cloud replaced the clear starry night and visibility became really difficult. We knew the weather was about to take a turn for the worse. Winds rose to around 12 knots which would not usually be seen as a real threat, but the tides and chop made for difficult rowing conditions. Swells along with small, but frequent waves ended any hope for a sub 20 hour finish – a feat that we were well on course for.

Sickness and dehydration were clearly having an effect as 1 hour stints turned out shorter distances. As the daylight came, it was clear the race was going to be another long one. The conditions meant teams hadn't travelled the distance they expected and knew they had to dig deep and work very closely as a unit to ensure spirits were kept high. The changeovers continued and the hours flew by, the crew could see land, and somewhere in the distance was Aberystwyth.

With the sight of the rolling Welsh hills upon the horizon, this gave everybody a massive lift. The rough sea had started to get calmer and this saw us lift average speeds from 2 to over 4 knots and we started to chalk off the nautical miles at an increasing pace. 2-3 miles off Aberystwyth and with the site of the Welsh seaside town in the distance, we were met by a pod of dolphins to welcome us to Wales. About 8-9 bottlenose dolphins started to leap out of the water and were playing games under the bow of the support boat. A fantastic sight that will never be forgotten!

The final changeover was made at around 5.30pm on Saturday, and the pier could be clearly seen with cheering voices being carried on the wind. Fireworks met the crew as they rowed over the finish line. On the slip after the finish, the organisers and other crews were clearly impressed with the 15-year old 'St. Michael' and her brave crew. At the awards ceremony the following day, St. Michael's retained the prestigious 'Spirit of the Celtic Challenge' trophy, which is given to the team which displays the greatest amount of endeavour when completing the course. This was a very proud moment for all the team as well as their friends, family, and all their club mates back home in Dun Laoghaire.

Second time Celtic Challenger and club captain, Nicola Fitzgerald said, "apart from me and 1 other, this crew had only been rowing for a little over 12 months. 5 of the crew representing GOAL had never rowed in an open skiff up until 12 weeks ago! What an achievement for a special bunch of people. They should be proud of themselves".

Camaraderie between the Welsh, Irish and English clubs and teams involved is huge and for the first time ever, the 21 entrants made it across the finishing line. Congratulations are also due to the other Irish teams who crossed the finish line with Wicklow Men's finishing second overall and the first Irish team to cross the line, Arklow Ladies taking the first Ladies Team prize, getting in under 20 hours, Foyle winning the first Mixed crew and strong performances from Ferrycarrig, and Dublin's Airport Fire & Police crews.

St. Michael's teamed up with Irish charity GOAL to participate in the Celtic Challenge to actively seek funds for a support project in the Philippines and a new skiff for St. Michael's Rowing Club.

Published in Coastal Rowing

#celticchallenge – Less than two weeks away from the start of the Celtic Rowing Challenge and a couple of strong contenders for suport boats for a Dun Laoghaire bid on the Irish–Wales race have fallen through.

As Afloat reported earlier, over the May bank holiday weekend (2nd-5th May), St Michael's Rowing Club have teamed up with GOAL to send two crews across the Irish Sea to participate in the biennial 'Celtic Challenge'. The race sets off from Arklow, Co. Wicklow with the finishing line in Aberystwyth, Wales. At 150km, this relay race is billed as the longest 'true' rowing race in the world. Both teams are taking on this challenge to raise funds in aid of the people of the Philippines and a much needed skiff for St. Michael's Rowing Club, Dun Laoghaire.

We urgently need help in finding a support boat for the challenge. The support vessel must not be less than 10m in length. If you have a yacht, licensed angling or dive boat, pleasure cruiser and would be willing to come along for what will be a memorable journey, please get in touch.

"We're stuck at this point and will not be going anywhere unless we get a support boat and fast"  Gareth Whittington of St. Michaels told Afloat.ie

If you can help please contact Gareth Whittington on 086 044 7241 or email [email protected]

Published in Coastal Rowing

#Rowing - St Michael's Rowing Club in Dun Laoghaire has posted the above video giving an oar's eye view of one of their regular evening coastal rowing training sessions.

As the description says, the three-and-a-half-minute clip was shot with a miniature GoPro camera attached to the end of an oar which "caught they action from warm-up to interval training to clubhouse".

It's certainly a unique perspective - though maybe not suitable for anyone prone to motion sickness!

Published in Coastal Rowing

#COASTAL ROWING – During the May bank holiday weekend (4th-6th May), 12 men and women of St Michael's Rowing Club, Dun Laoghaire, participated in the biennial rowing race across the Irish Sea known as 'the Celtic Challenge'. It turned out to be what is widely regarded as the toughest crossing in the race's 19 year history, with just 12 of the 23 teams entered crossing the finish line unaided. St. Michael's finished 12th in the longest time ever taken for the 150km course – 27hrs, 18 mins, 21 seconds. The relay race is billed as the longest 'true' rowing race in the world and is listed as such in the Guinness Book of Records.

The run up to the event was challenging in itself with the team working tirelessly to secure a replacement support boat due to damage to the mast of the yacht that had already been confirmed. With just two days to departure, all the pieces of the puzzle were in place.

Pushing Hard with the Rib Keeping a Watchful Eye

Pushing hard with a safey RIB keeping a watchful eye

Due to poor weather conditions, the race was postponed a number of times and eventually set off from Arklow, Co. Wicklow on Saturday 5th May at 4pm. Very soon after the start, the team from Bray Rowing Club who were rowing the only other traditional east coast skiff in the race had pulled out due to damage to their support boat, meaning that St. Michael's were the only wooden boat left in the race.

Over the Line in Aberystwyth

Over the line in Aberystwyth

The format of the race is a relay. Each team has 3 crews of 4 rowers that rotate their time on the oar, resting and refuelling on an accompanying support boat. Generally 'one hour on, two hours off' is the rule of thumb, but conditions, strategies, injuries, and sickness may dictate otherwise. The first 6 hours were the toughest and most challenging physically, as the northeast wind and swells created extremely challenging conditions for the participating rowers. The start was choppy and the Arklow Bank lived up to its reputation of being an extremely tough obstacle, but St. Michaels' quarter-ton clinker built skiff was well suited to the conditions. The solid wood oars used are three times heavier than carbon fibre equivalents used by all other teams, requiring strength and a particular technique even in normal conditions.

Exhausted Bit Delighted

Exhausted but delighted

As the sun set, the crew knuckled down to what would be a tough, night-time row with changes of crew every hour. Their support yacht, the Helcia and the crew of the rib, the Wizard worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of the teams during the changeovers, both crewed by quite remarkable and extreme professionals, who gave freely of their time to the cause and to whom the club is eternally grateful. Working in two to three metre swells made rowing tough, and required 100% concentration and complete focus.

As the sun rose, it was clear the race was going to be a long one. Extreme conditions overnight meant teams hadn't travelled the distance they expected and knew they had to dig deep and work very closely as a unit to ensure spirits were kept high. As the changeovers continued and the hours flew by, the crew could see land, and somewhere in the distance was Aberystwyth. At this point, news of the night's retirements began to filter through on the VHF radio, with tales of other teams forced to pull out or turn back due to reasons including mechanical failure of support boats, sea sickness, damaged boats, lost rudders, and so on.

The final changeover was made at around 6.30pm on Sunday, and the pier could be clearly seen with cheering voices being carried on the wind. On the slip after the finish, the organisers and other crews were clearly impressed with the 30-year old 'Eileen' and her brave crew. At the awards ceremony the following day, St. Michael's became the first Irish team to be awarded the prestigious 'Spirit of the Celtic Challenge' trophy, which is given to the team which displays the greatest amount of endeavour when completing the course. This was a very proud moment for all the team as well as their friends, family, and all their clubmates back home in Dun Laoghaire.

First time Celtic Challenger was Wales born Gareth Whittington, now living in Dun Laoghaire told us, "I was told you never know what to expect as each Celtic Challenge is different because of the changing weather conditions, but I cannot and will not ever forget the way we pulled together as a team to ensure we got to Aberystwyth, an remarkable achievement".

Camaraderie between the Welsh and Irish clubs and teams involved is huge, but the team's thoughts that weekend were with the teams that did not make it, particularly their fellow Irish teams from Bray Rowing Club, Team Marie Keating, Ferrycarrig Rowing Club, and Airport Police and Fire Service Rowing Club. Congratulations are also due to the other Irish teams who crossed the finish line, Courtown, Foyle, and Arklow Rowing Clubs, the latter two of which won their respective categories.

Spirit of The Celtic Challenge Award

Spirit of the Celtic Challenge Award

St. Michael's participated in the Celtic Challenge to actively seek sponsorship, in a drive to raise funds towards new clubhouse facilities in Dun Laoghaire Harbour. Currently, the club lacks space to store their three wooden boats, space for indoor training, and is without changing facilities for the men, women and children who row for the club. It is hoped that the money raised can be put towards achieving this long-standing goal and keep the club's traditions and the tradition of the Celtic Challenge alive.

St. Michaels 2012 CC Crew

St. Michael's 2012 Celtic Challenge crew

Published in Coastal Rowing
Over 1000 rowers to compete in Rowing Ireland's first National Head of the River race this weekend

Over one thousand rowers from clubs across the country, including crews from Northern Ireland, will gather at O'Brien's Bridge in Co. Clare for Rowing Ireland's first National Head of the River race of 2011 this weekend.

St Michael's Rowing Club, Limerick is hosting this weekend's competition, which is the first event of the 2011 rowing season, and is a national two blade event, that is, single sculls and coxless pairs.

The Head chairman Robert LeGear, said today, "We're delighted with the massive entry so early in the season. It's a sure sign of the interest and growth in club rowing.  All we need now is fair weather for the event."

He added, "One hundred and twenty two boats will compete in the morning's Men's pairs and Women's single sculls, which get underway at 11.00 am. In the afternoon, one hundred and sixty six boats will compete in the Men's singles and Women's pairs which start at 2.00 pm.

The O'Brien's Bridge course is a favorite with rowers because of the calm stretch of water it offers.  St Michaels have been running their own head of the river race here for over twenty eight years.

National Head of the River races are time trials with senior boats going off first and then working down through all the grades to under-fifteens. The race caters for men and women in singles and pairs at all levels, under 15, 16, 18, Novice, Intermediate and Senior.

Other boat categories will be on offer throughout the day in a rolling head time trial competition which gets underway at 9 am and runs until 4 pm.

The main National Head races take place at 11.00 am and 2 pm.

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Published in Rowing