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Galway Bay Sailing Club Can Still Celebrate Pandemic-Plagued Golden Jubilee Year

16th December 2020
Summer evening sunshine greets the Galway Bay Sailing Club fleet as they welcome home the Transatlantic-voyaging ketch Danu (at centre) at Kilronan in the Aran Islands at the end of July 2020 Summer evening sunshine greets the Galway Bay Sailing Club fleet as they welcome home the Transatlantic-voyaging ketch Danu (at centre) at Kilronan in the Aran Islands at the end of July 2020 Photo: Vera Quinlan

Galway Bay Sailing Club, comfortably ensconced in their fine clubhouse at Renville New Harbour near Oranmore at the head of Galway Bay, can look back at many ups and downs during the fifty years of sailing development they've experienced from small beginnings in the city in 1970, until now they're one of the pre-eminent clubs on the West Coast in all areas of sailing.

Yet even the most sadistic theatrical director would scarcely have green-lighted a storyline in which – just as the final details for a year's long Golden Jubilee celebration in 2020 were being put into place by Commodore John Shorten and his committee – the Black Beast from the East, otherwise the Pandemic, crept into place to dominate everyone's lives and blast lovingly-crafted programmes into smithereens.

Work in progress? Galway Bay SC's very effective and hospitable  clubhouse at Rinvillle may have looked like "job finished" for this year's Golden Jubilee, but Commodore John Shorten and his Committee are fund-raising for further developmentsWork in progress? Galway Bay SC's very effective and hospitable clubhouse at Rinvillle may have looked like "job finished" for this year's Golden Jubilee, but Commodore John Shorten and his Committee are fund-raising for further developments

But they're a determined lot in Galway. And though initially, their main concern was that their ocean-voyaging heroes, the Quinlan-Owens family on the 43ft steel ketch Danu, should get safely home to Galway from lockdown confinement in the Caribbean, when Danu finally made port in Kilronan in the Aran Islands after a notably successful visit to the Azores during their return from the Americas, the sailors of Galway Bay were carving a season of sorts out of the times that are in it.

In fact, one of the club's most noted members, Aodhan FitzGerald - who has been both the holder (with Galwegian-by-adoption Yannick Lemonnier) of the two-handed Round Ireland Record for 14 years, while also winning the 2008 Round Ireland Race outright) has confided that the gentler pace of the permissible sailing of 2020 actually had its own special enjoyment, and the atmosphere around the club during summery evening training sessions acted as a welcome pressure-release valve for all who took part.

As for Danu's return, it so happened that a socially-distanced cruise-in-company to Inishbofin, co-ordinated by Cormac Mac Donncha (who organised last year's hugely successful Cruise-in-Company to Lorient in South Brittany) was getting under way with Kilronan the second stop as the August weekend approached, and by purest serendipity Danu got the welcome home she so richly deserved before her gallant crew had even entered the inner waters of Galway Bay.

Danu in the Caribbean last winter. Her escape from "pandemic prison" was celebrated with GBSC fellow-members in socially-distanced style in KilronanDanu in the Caribbean last winter. Her escape from "pandemic prison" was celebrated with GBSC fellow-members in socially-distanced style in Kilronan

Thus like other clubs, GBSC made the best of it afloat and ashore during 2020. But Golden Jubilees being something special, last Friday night they organised a combined Zoom session and socially-distanced clubhouse gathering to honour those who have contributed to Galway sailing for fifty years and more, and they did it so cleverly that they managed to drop a surprise Lifetime Achievement Award on Pierce Purcell totally out of the blue, as he thought he was there for something else altogether.

In a speech of appreciation of Pierce's unrivalled contribution – which pre-dates 1970 – fellow long-server Aonghus Concannon made it clear just how much GBSC and Galway Bay sailing and maritime life generally owe to Pierce Purcell's boundless enthusiasm and total generosity with his time. That said, those of us who know him rather doubt that "Lifetime Achievement" hits the target – "Successful Mid-Term Assessment" might be more appropriate……

Caught on the hop – Aonghus Concannon (left) looking properly pleased after his surprise announcement of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Pierce Purcell (right) had gone exactly according to plan Caught on the hop – Aonghus Concannon (left) looking properly pleased after his surprise announcement of the Lifetime Achievement Award to Pierce Purcell (right) had gone exactly according to plan

Other speakers (both in person and electronically) and awardees in a ceremony hosted by Andrew Drysdale with music by Lir O'Dowd included John Killeen the Chair of the Marine Institute, Galway Harbour Master Brian Sheridan, former Commodore and noted offshore racer Donal Morrissy, Pierce Purcell Jnr, Fergal Lyons, Dave Brennan, Pat Irwin, Conor Owens, Tom Foote, Vera Quinlan who received the premier cruising award, Pat Ryan and Yannick Lemonnier.

This unusual but successful ceremony was brought to a conclusion by Commodore Johnny Shorten, who in best Commodorial style congratulated the many recipients, and in talking of what the club has done and achieved in fifty years, neatly reminded everyone that no club ever thrives by standing still. He and his Officers and Committee have interesting plans for further development, and GBSC recently opened a GoFundMe page to help get the resources in place.

GBSC Commodore Johnny Shorten reminds the members that the best way to celebrate a club's Golden Jubilee is through worthwhile plans for the futureGBSC Commodore Johnny Shorten reminds the members that the best way to celebrate a club's Golden Jubilee is through worthwhile plans for the future

Isobella Irwin winning the Junior Female Sailor of the MidShipMan award at the Galway Bay Sailing Club presented by Johnny Shorten Commodore and Pat Irwin of Galway Bay Sailing ClubIsobella Irwin winning the Junior Female Sailor of the MidShipMan award at the Galway Bay Sailing Club presented by Johnny Shorten Commodore and Pat Irwin of Galway Bay Sailing Club

Rory Collins winner of the Junior Male Sailor awarded the MidShipMan award presented by Johnny Shorten Commodore and Pat Irwin Galway Bay Sailing ClubRory Collins winner of the Junior Male Sailor awarded the MidShipMan award presented by Johnny Shorten Commodore and Pat Irwin Galway Bay Sailing Club

Pat Ryan presented with the Michael Donohue Memorial Trophy for Volunteer of the year by Johnn Shorten Commodore and Captain Brian Sheridan Harbour Master Port of GalwayPat Ryan presented with the Michael Donohue Memorial Trophy for Volunteer of the year by Johnn Shorten Commodore and Captain Brian Sheridan Harbour Master at the Port of Galway

Vera Quinlan (Director of Cruising Irish Sailing Association) and Peter Owens (boat Danu) won the David Baynes Cruising Award for the best log. Presented by Johnn Shorten Commador Galway Bay Sailing Club 50th - Anniversary AwardsVera Quinlan (Director of Cruising Irish Sailing Association) and Peter Owens (boat Danu) won the David Baynes Cruising Award for the best log. Presented by Johnn Shorten Commador Galway Bay Sailing Club 50th - Anniversary Awards

Pierce Purcell Awarded the Lif1D0A0699 - Copy: Pierce Purcell -  Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Johnny Shorten Commador of the Galway Bay Sailing Club and Aonghus ConcannonPierce Purcell - Lifetime Achievement Award presented by Johnny Shorten Commador of the Galway Bay Sailing Club and Aonghus Concannon

Fergal Lyons presenting Cian and Rian Baynes of Joker, winners of the Oyster Festival Race Galway Bay Sailing ClubFergal Lyons presenting Cian and Rian Baynes of Joker, winners of the Oyster Festival Race Galway Bay Sailing Club

Fergal Lyons presenting Liam Burke, Tribal receiving the Spring Cup - Galway Bay Sailing Club 50th - Anniversary Awards night.Fergal Lyons presenting Liam Burke, Tribal receiving the Spring Cup - Galway Bay Sailing Club 50th - Anniversary Awards night. 

Published in Galway Harbour
WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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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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