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New Winner of Coveted Cong-Galway Sailing Race Title

29th June 2021
John Lillis, Captain of the Corrib Rowing and Yachting Club, presenting to the 2021 Cong Galway Race winners Rob Talbot - Cumann Seoltóireacht an Spidéil, and Rain De Bairead - Galway City Sailing
John Lillis, Captain of the Corrib Rowing and Yachting Club, presenting to the 2021 Cong Galway Race winners Rob Talbot - Cumann Seoltóireacht an Spidéil, and Rain De Bairead - Galway City Sailing

What a difference a year makes! This year's running of the Cong-Galway sailing race was a very different affair to last year in many ways - timing, weather, wind and a new holder for the coveted title.

Bright sunshine and a gentle north-easterly breeze greeted the competitors as they prepared to launch from Lisloughrey pier at the northern tip of Lough Corrib. With three-in-a-row champion Yannick Lemonnier unable to race following an unfortunate dismasting while returning from racing in Brittany, a new champion was guaranteed, and speculation was rife as to who would be the likely contenders. Unlike last year, when boats were buffeted by wind and rain approaching the start line, this year's entrants had a chance to relax and admire the beautiful scenery of the upper lake and the imposing edifice of Ashford Castle as they prepared to start. There was a bumper field with 37 boats crossing the start line under the watchful eye of race officers David Vinnell and Aoife Lyons. The main fleet consisted of 31 catamarans and racing dinghies sailing under the Portsmouth Yardstick handicap system, while for the first time in a number of years, there was a fleet of six cruisers amongst which were two traditional gleoiteogs from the Galway Hooker Sailing Club. In order to ensure a windward start, the boats headed back towards Cong from the start line, before rounding the windward mark and accelerating southwards towards Kilbeg.

The Cong-Galway Lough Corrib yacht race courseThe Cong-Galway Lough Corrib yacht race course

With the wind behind them for most of the race, crews tried to keep all available canvas aloft. This suited the more traditional designs including the Fireballs and 420s, which made impressive headway under symmetrical spinnakers. In striking contrast to last year when catamarans ruled, the leading positions at the end of the first leg were dominated by monohulls. Despite the pleasant conditions, the crews managed to work up a healthy appetite by the time they pulled into Kilbeg pier, outside Headford, where GCSC provided a tasty lunch. After recovering their energy, the boats had a fast downwind start into the narrows for the second leg. However, with the wind at their backs for much of the way, the narrows didn't seem quite as narrow as previous years when boats were beating into a strong breeze.

Congratulations to the winners of this years Cong-Galway Sailing Race 2021 Rob Talbot - Cumann Seoltóireacht an Spidéil, and Rain De Bairead - Galway City SailingCongratulations to the winners of this years Cong-Galway Sailing Race 2021 Rob Talbot - Cumann Seoltóireacht an Spidéil, and Rain De Bairead - Galway City Sailing

The trip through the lower lake was quick and while Tim Breen's Formula 18 catamaran was out in front, it was the Fireballs, Lasers and 420s who were leading the way on adjusted time as they entered the sheltered confines of the lower lake. Here frustration descended as crews meandered from side to side in search of every puff of air that could be found for the final push to the finish line at Corrib Village, egged on by vociferous onlookers from the banks. Once across the line, there was the final crowd-pleasing capsize for the dinghies to get under the Quincentennial Bridge as the larger boats dropped their masts and switched to engines and oars.

Back on dry land, the calculations started while the competitors took advantage of outdoor dining at the CRYC, compliments of McHugh Properties. When the computations were completed, the overall winners in the main dinghy fleet were Rob Talbot of GCSC and Rian De Bairéid of CSS in a 420, who earned themselves a luxurious stay in the Lodge at Ashford Castle.

As Afloat reported earlier, second place went to Frank Miller and Imail Inan in a Fireball, while Damian Lord brought his Laser home in third. Winner in the cruiser fleet was Ed Butler in his Drascombe Lugger "Egret" while Tina Concannon and her crew had the first Hookers across the line in "An Lon Dubh".

The event involves a huge volunteer effort and the organisers - Galway Bay Sailing Club, Corrib Rowing and Yachting Club, Galway City Sailing Club, Galway Hooker Sailing Club and Cumann Seoltóireacht an Spidéil - would like to thank everyone who contributed both ashore and on the water. The race officers and race committee, crews of support boats from all of the organizing clubs, the safety officer and safety team, beach master crew, everyone who was involved in or, publicity team, transport social media and catering ensured the long tradition of the event, dating back to 1882, continues for another generation of sailors to enjoy. With the generous sponsorship from McHugh Properties and the Lodge at Ashford Castle, and despite the vagaries of wind and weather which makes each year a new and unpredictable challenge, the event continues to grow in popularity while retaining its idiosyncratic charm.

A big thank you to the five clubs involved Corrib Rowing & Yachting Club, Galway Bay Sailing Club, Club Seoltóireacht Húicéirí na Gaillimhe, Galway City Sailing Club and Cumann Seoltóireacht an Spidéil, RO Team, Beachmaster, Safety Boats, Results Team, lunch provider, Buffet providers, Competitors, without which this would not have been such a successful event. The Media for covering the event and our two sponsors The Lodge at Ashford Castle and McHugh Properties.

Race results here

Published in Cong-Galway Race Team

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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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