Lorient in Brittany was the first city to sign up as a twin to the proud citizens of Galway as far back as 1975. It was a statement of friendship and a commitment to exchange cultural experiences between the people of both historic ports of the Atlantic coast, and it has lasted the test of the last five decades.
Both cities have long and proud maritime histories. They also have very strong cultural ties as they share vibrant Celtic roots, and Celtic culture continues to be very evident in both cites through the everyday use of Gaeilge, Breton, traditional music, dance and the arts.
Co-incidentally, both cities are also the western outposts of their respective countries, surrounded by natural beauty. They have been fishing ports for centuries. They are both aware of the bounties and the threats imposed by the wild Atlantic. This shared life experience made for a good twinning. Obviously sailing - from traditional vessels to modern yachts - is a passion cherished by both.
"The West of Ireland sailing community, from Westport to Kilrush grabbed the idea with both hands"
Sailing fleets from both cities joined forces for a number of very successful events during the ’70s and ’80s, but with other distractions nearer home, the tradition subsequently died away. These sailing adventures started with the northbound departure of a fleet of yachts from Lorient Harbour. After crossing the Celtic Sea and passing by the south-west coast of Ireland, the French fleet arrived into Galway for some serious partying. In Galway, the French boats were joined a Galway fleet to form a formidable flotilla for the southbound journey to Lorient. There, the mother of all parties ensued.
Enda O'Coineen was the catalyst to motivate JeanGab Samzun from Lorient and Cormac Mac Donncha from Galway Bay Sailing Club (GBSC) to join forces last summer in an effort to revive the event in 2019. The West of Ireland sailing community, from Westport to Kilrush grabbed the idea with both hands.
Both City Councils have rowed in behind the idea. Mayor of Galway, Niall McNellis, has been a big supporter. Events have been planned for the Harbour Hotel on the eve of the departure from Galway docks on the 11th July and also at the docks marina on the day of departure, 12th July. For the 2019 event, the French team are again pulling out all the stops for their stage of the event, with plans to fly some Irish dancers in from Galway for the occasion.
The two cities have signed up 33 skippers, mostly from the West of Ireland, to join the craic. There has been great support from neighbouring clubs in Mayo and Clare as well as boats from Lough Derg clubs. The Galway boats to register, from Rosamhil Marina, Galway City Sailing Club, Galway Docks Marina and GBSC, have already reached 17. There is a healthy fleet of 6 joining from Westport on Clew Bay, with four boats from Lorient while another six are joining from Kilrush, Lough Derg and Cork.
A number of well known West of Ireland sailors have signed up for the trip, including Westport’s Jarlath Cunnane of Northabout renown as well, as Dr Michael Brogan from Kinvarra. Michael plans to skipper the renowned extra-large Galway Hooker, MacDuach, to France for a Cruise-in-Company which will cover 1,100 miles in all.
On the Irish coast, the route from Galway towards Lorient will follow the shores of Munster as far as Kinsale, and the committee is very grateful for the warm welcome received from the folks at Kinsale Yacht Club, as well as the Harbour Master in the Isle of Scilly, and of course to the Lorient City Club for organising events on Ile De Groix and in Lorient Harbour.