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Galway Hookers Participate Once Again in Cong-Galway Yacht Race

23rd June 2021
Gleoiteogs which have been restored by the Galway Hooker Sailing Club will participate in the historic Cong Galway race
Gleoiteogs which have been restored by the Galway Hooker Sailing Club will participate in the historic Cong Galway race Credit: via Facebook

Several Galway hookers will join a fleet of finely tuned sailing dinghies on Lough Corrib for Europe’s longest and oldest inland yacht race this weekend.

The Anam Cara and Lon Dubh gleoiteogs which have been restored by the Galway Hooker Sailing Club will participate in the historic race which starts out from Lisloughrey near Ashford Castle on Saturday (June 26).

It is the second year that the club has entered century-old gleoiteogs in the handicapped contest, which follows the old steamship route from the top of Lough Corrib right into the heart of the city at NUI Galway.

Such has been the level of interest in the Cong-Galway that entries had to be capped and a waiting list compiled.

Father and son duo of Yannick and Seán Lemonnier of Galway Bay Sailing ClubFather and son duo of Yannick and Seán Lemonnier of Galway Bay Sailing Club are reigning Cong Galway champions

Reigning champions have been the father and son duo of Yannick and Seán Lemonnier of Galway Bay Sailing Club.

Yannick Lemonnier (50), managing director of West Coast Sails, is a five-time Figaro sailor with over 90,000 miles sailed mostly solo.

In spite of a dismasting in the English Channel earlier this week, organisers of the Cong Galway race say although he expects to return in time for this year’s event he cannot participate due to COVID quarantine regulations.

Instead, Sean and his best friend Kilian Maithieu will defend the title in a DART 16 catamaran. 

Amongst last year's larger boats to complete the Cong-Galway, Cóilín Óg Ó hÍarnáin was first across the finish line in Asurnaí.

The traditional vessel has been in the family for over 50 years and was left to him by his godfather.

Five Galway clubs are hosting this year’s event - Corrib Rowing and Yachting Club, Cumann Seoltoireachta an Spideil, Galway City Sailing Club, Galway Bay Sailing Club and the Galway Hooker Sailing Club.

The race dates back to 1882, when, as organisers point out, the lake was a vital economic artery into the port of Galway and the wider world. The starting point at Lisloughrey reflects the close connections with the Guinness family, former owners of Ashford Castle, as Arthur Guinness was a member of the Royal Galway Yacht Club.

The 30 nautical miles course is split into two legs, crossing the wide expanse of the upper lake and sailing south to the narrows at Kilbeg, near Headford, where crews will come ashore for a lunch break.

The start line for the second leg at 2 pm leads into the “tricky middle section of the waterway”, the organisers state, with the channel being only three feet deep in places and often narrower than a single boat length.

“Unforgiving rocks all around stand ready to ruthlessly punish any errors,” the race organisers warn.

Vantage points for spectators include Knockferry pier, opposite Kilbeg, at 2 pm, and sails will also be spotted from Bushypark, Dangan and Menlo Castle – the castle once being where “the great and the good of Victorian society would gather to cheer home the boats in days of yore”.

One last obstacle which the Victorians did not have to think about is the Quincentennial bridge.

This involves one final capsize for the crews – to ensure their masts are under the bridge structure - before finishing at the Corrib Rowing and Yachting Club near NUIG.

Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins

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Lorna Siggins is a print and radio reporter, and a former Irish Times western correspondent. She is the author of Everest Callling (1994) on the first Irish Everest expedition; Mayday! Mayday! (2004) on Irish helicopter search and rescue; and Once Upon a Time in the West: the Corrib gas controversy (2010).

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The Cong-Galway: Ireland’s oldest inland sailing race

The annual Cong – Galway Sailing Race is Europe’s oldest and longest inland water sailing race.

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 2020 race is the 137th such race. 

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.

Cong Galway Race Winner

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. 

Cong Galway Race Course

The Cong to Galway Race start is from Lisloughrey Pier in Cong, Co. Mayo and is typically scheduled for 10.30 a.m. on a course through Upper and Lower Lough Corrib to the finish line at Corrib Village on the River Corrib in Galway. The race makes a stop for lunch at Kilbeg Pier, approximately half way, where timings will be taken for the restart.

Cong Galway Race Organisers

Corrib Rowing & Yachting Club, Galway Bay Sailing Club, Galway City Sailing Club and Cumainn Seoltóireacht an Spidéil.

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