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Cong-Galway Race Date Set for Ireland's Oldest Inland Yacht Race

29th July 2020
Cong-Galway Race Date Set for Ireland's Oldest Inland Yacht Race

Ireland’s oldest inland sailing race will take place on August 22nd, with up to 30 sailboats taking part in the Cong-Galway Race. Ashford Castle has been announced as the 2020 race sponsor, a partnership which is made even more special through a shared connection with the famous Guinness family.

A wonderful day out for sailing enthusiasts and spectators, fans of the time-honoured boat race can line up along the Quincentennial Bridge in Galway, and watch as the racing boats are forced to capsize quickly and expertly in a bid to get their masts past the bridge’s obstruction as they near the finish line.

Sailing enthusiasts from around the country will join members from the Corrib Rowing and Yachting Club, Cumainn Seoltóireacht an Spidéil, Galway City Sailing Club and Galway Bay Sailing Club to battle it out for the title of King or Queen of Cong.

The race, which takes place over a distance of 30 nautical miles and is Europe’s longest inland race, will start in the picturesque shadow of Ashford Castle at the northern end of Lough Corrib and will follow the old steamer route from Lisloughrey pier to the city of Galway.

Traditionally taking place in June, the Cong-Galway Race will be the first competitive sailing event since the COVID-19 restrictions and interest and entry are expected to be significant.

The Prize

The winner, which will be determined based on the Portsmouth handicap scheme, will be presented with the CRYC Trophy, a treasured possession of the Corrib Rowing and Yachting Club. Both the helm and crew will also win an overnight stay on the Ashford Estate. The Helm will be awarded a one-night stay at the iconic 5-star Ashford Castle on Lough Corrib, while the crew member will receive a luxury night away at The Lodge at Ashford at Lisloughrey pier. Both prizes will be presented on the day by Ashford Estate’s General Manager, Niall Rochford.

Speaking about the sponsorship, Ashford Estate’s Niall Rochford said: “The Cong-Galway Race is steeped in history and is deeply connected to Ashford’s own story, with the castle acting as a backdrop for the race since its inception. As such, Ashford Estate’s sponsorship of this long-standing boat race is a natural fit. As a boating enthusiast myself, I am very much looking forward to presenting this year’s top team with the winning silverware and welcoming the respective winners to the beautiful Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford.”

The History of The Cong-Galway Race

Ashford Castle’s long and honoured history is intrinsically linked to the age-old sailing race. The Castle was bought by Sir Benjamin Guinness in 1852, 30 years before the inaugural boat race. Sir Benjamin’s grandson, Arthur Ernest Guinness was an active member of the Royal Galway Yacht Club – the very club which co-founded the Cong-Galway Race in 1882.

The original Cong-Galway Race started at the Royal Galway Yachting Club in Galway City and travelled to Ashford Castle in Cong before returning to Galway City, a race distance of 61.5 nautical miles.

The Cong-Galway Race was a huge social event in Galway until 1914. It never recovered after the First World War and was last held in its old format in 1931. The race was later revived in 1972. Now half the original length, the race starts at Lisloughrey pier, near Ashford Castle, and ends just past the Quincentennial Bridge in Galway City.

The first boat over the finish line will be presented with this year’s prize at a reception held at Corrib Rowing and Yachting Club.

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Galway Port & Harbour

Galway Bay is a large bay on the west coast of Ireland, between County Galway in the province of Connacht to the north and the Burren in County Clare in the province of Munster to the south. Galway city and port is located on the northeast side of the bay. The bay is about 50 kilometres (31 miles) long and from 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) to 30 kilometres (19 miles) in breadth.

The Aran Islands are to the west across the entrance and there are numerous small islands within the bay.

Galway Port FAQs

Galway was founded in the 13th century by the de Burgo family, and became an important seaport with sailing ships bearing wine imports and exports of fish, hides and wool.

Not as old as previously thought. Galway bay was once a series of lagoons, known as Loch Lurgan, plied by people in log canoes. Ancient tree stumps exposed by storms in 2010 have been dated back about 7,500 years.

It is about 660,000 tonnes as it is a tidal port.

Capt Brian Sheridan, who succeeded his late father, Capt Frank Sheridan

The dock gates open approximately two hours before high water and close at high water subject to ship movements on each tide.

The typical ship sizes are in the region of 4,000 to 6,000 tonnes

Turbines for about 14 wind projects have been imported in recent years, but the tonnage of these cargoes is light. A European industry report calculates that each turbine generates €10 million in locally generated revenue during construction and logistics/transport.

Yes, Iceland has selected Galway as European landing location for international telecommunications cables. Farice, a company wholly owned by the Icelandic Government, currently owns and operates two submarine cables linking Iceland to Northern Europe.

It is "very much a live project", Harbourmaster Capt Sheridan says, and the Port of Galway board is "awaiting the outcome of a Bord Pleanála determination", he says.

90% of the scrap steel is exported to Spain with the balance being shipped to Portugal. Since the pandemic, scrap steel is shipped to the Liverpool where it is either transhipped to larger ships bound for China.

It might look like silage, but in fact, its bales domestic and municipal waste, exported to Denmark where the waste is incinerated, and the heat is used in district heating of homes and schools. It is called RDF or Refuse Derived Fuel and has been exported out of Galway since 2013.

The new ferry is arriving at Galway Bay onboard the cargo ship SVENJA. The vessel is currently on passage to Belem, Brazil before making her way across the Atlantic to Galway.

Two Volvo round world races have selected Galway for the prestigious yacht race route. Some 10,000 people welcomed the boats in during its first stopover in 2009, when a festival was marked by stunning weather. It was also selected for the race finish in 2012. The Volvo has changed its name and is now known as the "Ocean Race". Capt Sheridan says that once port expansion and the re-urbanisation of the docklands is complete, the port will welcome the "ocean race, Clipper race, Tall Ships race, Small Ships Regatta and maybe the America's Cup right into the city centre...".

The pandemic was the reason why Seafest did not go ahead in Cork in 2020. Galway will welcome Seafest back after it calls to Waterford and Limerick, thus having been to all the Port cities.

© Afloat 2020

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