Three French lifeboat crew who died in a recent sea rescue will be remembered by a fleet of west of Ireland sailing craft setting sail from Galway for the Breton port of Lorient later this week writes Lorna Siggins.
Bearing sods of turf, the “cruise in company” involves some 30 yachts and classic craft, including the Galway Hooker MacDuach.
As Afloat previously reported in May, French honorary consul Catherine Gagneux will be in Lorient to greet the fleet, leaving Galway on Friday (July 12) and expected on or about July 20th/21st, weather permitting.
The fleet from Mayo, Galway, Clare, Cork and further afield will fly “battle flags”. Celebrations are planned to mark almost 45 years of a twinning between Galway and Lorient.
Ms Gagneux says the voyage is particularly significant, as one of the craft will sail with a signed flag from Galway rescue volunteers to honour three French lifeboat crew who died recently in Sables d’Olonne, some 100 km north of La Rochelle.
A letter of condolences from Galway harbourmaster Capt Brian Sheridan will also be presented to the Groix Island Sea Rescue, near Lorient.
The French crew members were part of the rescue organisation, Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer which went to the aid of a fishing vessel during Storm Miguel on June 7th.
The lifeboat capsized due to severe weather conditions, which saw winds of up to 120 km per hour. Four of the seven crew were able to swim ashore.
The Galway-Lorient cruise was initiated by Enda O Coineen, along with Cormac Mac Donncha from ThermoKing in Galway, and Jean-Gab Samzun, the president of the Lorient Galway association - also known as a real 'Vieux Loups de Mer' (Old Sea Dogs ), Ms Gagneux explains.
Sailing fleets from both Galway and Lorient had participated in a number of events in the 1970s, and 1980s and the aim of the “Great Celtic Cruise Adventure” is to revive this tradition.
The 1100 nautical mile return voyage - 550 nautical miles each way - will have three stopovers in Kinsale, Co Cork, for Bastille Day on July 14th; the Scilly Isles; and Ile de Groix.
Mr MacDonncha says that the bags of turf were requested by “Celtic cousins” in Brittany to commemorate the role of working boats such as the Galway hookers who delivered such cargo to the Aran Islands and along the west coast before electricity and diesel were used to heat homes.
Mr Samzun will lead the fleet, along with Galway Bay Sailing Club vice-commodore and voyage organiser Johnny Shorten.
Ms Gagneux says that further social, economic and cultural projects will mark 45 years of the Galway-Lorient relationship in September 2020.