Next weekend, the Irish Maritime Festival in Drogheda Port welcomes the French Navy for the very first time. On Friday, as part of the Parade of Sail (noon on Friday 15th June), three French Sonar Towing Ships will join the Tall Ships, Tug Boats and yachts as they sail up the Boyne. On Saturday and Sunday, festival goers will have a chance to board the vessels and explore.
The 3 Minesweepers, M770 Antares, M771 Altair and M772 Aldebaran were commissioned in 1993. They were ordered to replace the last of the oceanic minesweepers and act as sonar tugs. Built in the Socarenam shipyard in Boulange-sur-Mer, they are similar in shape and size to trawlers. These strong and powerful vessels act as sonar towing ships.
Their role in the French Navy is to provide surveillance for French vessels accessing the Atlantic ports, especially Brest where the Oceanic Strategic Force are positioned. The purpose of their work is to detect and destroy mines in the water that could detonate, damaging vessels and harming crew. They do this by sonar surveillance of the seabed using the DUBM44 sonar system.
They also play a pivotal role in the training of navigation students and engage in public security missions including sea-rescue and wrecks reconnaissance.
Each one is 28m long and nearly 8m wide. They travel at a maximum speed of 11knots and have an engine capable of 3,500 miles, powered by a Baudoin 800 horsepower engine. They travel with 25 crew on board each one.
The names Altair, Antares and Aldebaran are derived from stars in the sky, which have always acted as important markers for maritime navigators. Each of these are the brightest stars in their respective constellations, Aquila, Scorpius and Taurus.
Visitors to the Irish Maritime Festival can visit Altair, Antares and Aldebaran (and the other visiting ships) on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th June between 12.30-4.30pm. Festival gates open at 11.00am each day and early arrival is recommended to allow sufficient time to visit all the vessels.
The Irish Maritime Festival at Drogheda Port is a family friendly two-day celebration of all things maritime and includes Tall Ships, tugboats, yachts and a maritime education zone. Watch the Water Wags racing up and down the river. Cheer on the 250 participants in The Boyne Swim. Kick back with chilled out tunes on the 2 live music stages and enjoy the delighted of the Boyne Valley in the food zone. For more visit: www.maritimefestival.ie
The Irish Maritime Festival takes place on Saturday 16th and Sunday 17th June and is hosted by Louth County Council in conjunction with Drogheda Port Company. The Festival is sponsored by Virgin Media and supported by Flogas, Glanbia and Fáilte Ireland.
More on the Drogheda Maritime Festival website here