Galway must feel like it has just given a child up for adoption. All that Volvo Ocean Race fuss, partying and being the centre of attention, and now *zip* it's all gone. Just like that. Bye bye.
Still, though, what a fortnight, and what a response from those people for whom the show was put on.
How about this for a ringing endorsement of Ireland's welcome from Puma skipper Ken Read:
I think I want to move to Ireland.
It is always sunny (at least when we were there). The golf is amazing. The people couldn't be nicer. You can get a pint of beer just about anywhere you turn. All we did was win races when we were there. And people wanted us to sign autographs and take photos with them all hours of the day. Hmmmm. What's not to like about all of that?
The "Lets do it Galway" group set up a program that could become the model for Volvo stops in the future
Of course, as Ken is American, this is to be expected, but his comments were far from isolated, and were wholly justified. Galway, a town at the centre of a gaping hole in Ireland's marine resources (there are no marina berths on the west coast north of Kilrush) put on an incredible show, sucking in people boats from all along the west coast, and with some people driving across the country towing others. One boat drove from Bantry up to Galway in the middle of the night to welcome the boats in, then drove back once all were docked safely. Another motored out to the Fastnet at midnight to say a final farewell to the Green Dragon as they sailed past en route to Sweden - in 25 knots of wind.
It was immense, and it blindsided most of us, who never expected it to be, so congratulations to the 'Let's Do It Galway' team, who really pulled a rabbit out of the hat. A month before the event, people expressed doubts that the village would even be ready, with oil tanks being removed and everything seeming slapdash. The same team was behind the Green Dragon, a boat missing a tonned in the keel, rendering it effectively a division one boat racing in the premiership. But they stored up some magic of their own, coming into Galway third, and sprinkling pixie dust everywhere. A week into the stopover, the teams reckoned it was the best 'wet area' that they had seen since Alicante. The boats were moored in the centre of town, with Ericsson 3 close enough to the stage that you could throw knickers at the band from the stern at high tide. Night after night, the harbour was thronged, with the crescendo coming at the weekend of the in-port racing. The Red Arrows, the in-port race, the 400,000 visitors (less than half that were expected), the sunshine and the partying. It was out of control, and Galway reaped the rewards. Politicians flocked and shook hands. It made the Galway Races seem like a little horsey get-together.
The question Ireland should be asking now, having put on the greatest show in sailing in 2009, is when can we do it again? Sitting at the tail end of the leg from Boston showed that Galway is perfectly placed to welcome a big transatlantic race. Think of the number of Irish-American owned big boats sitting on marinas along the East Coast of the US, many of them dying for an excuse to race across to the motherland. All we need do is tempt them.
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