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St. Patrick’s Rowing Club Ringsend has received a national IPB Pride of Place award for their commitment to the community.

The 17th Annual All-Ireland Pride of Place Gala Awards Ceremony was held in the Lyrath Hotel in Kilkenny last Saturday night the 30th November 2019.

The purpose of the IPB competition is to acknowledge the work being done every day by communities all over the island of Ireland. Since the competition commenced the IPB judges
have met hundreds of thousands of people, all of whom are proud of their place. St Patrick’s Rowing Club won the best Urban Neighbourhood project in an area with a population of
between 1,000 – 2,000 category.

The judges were particularly impressed with St. Patrick’s Rowing Club with its role as a “key community energiser in their area, which actively involves community, influences well-being and cares for the vulnerable in its area.”

Eimear McCormack Public Relations Officer for St. Patrick’s Rowing Club said: “This award showcases our club at a national level and credits those who volunteer to keep our club
going year on year”. She went on to say “however, we can’t forget past members to laid the foundations of the club and set the community ethos of the club we are today. This is a
fantastic achievement and one we will celebrate for a long time”.

St. Patrick’s Rowing Club is no stranger to awards, last year the club won “Dublin’s Best Sports Club” awarded by the listeners of 98FM and this year they were highly commended
by Dublin City Council for the upkeep of their club area.

Published in Coastal Rowing
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The World Coastal Rowing Championships were a big success.

The Hong Kong sights provided a spectacular backdrop for a huge event. Ireland sent a big team, with multiple A Finalists, five in the solo women’s class: our top two, Sionna Healy of Arklow and Miriam Sheehan of Castletownbere, placed seventh and eighth.

Here are some striking images which recall this memorable occasion:

Published in Coastal Rowing
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Two rowers from the St. Michael’s Rowing Club Dún Laoghaire, Colm Crily and Martin Dowd, qualified for and participated in the World Coastal Rowing Championships, which took place from the 1st to the 4th of November in Hong Kong. This is the first time that rowers representing the club participated in a World Championship. They competed in a coastal double scull (CMx2).

The team faced a difficult qualifying heat on the first day, Friday, when they rowed a 4,000m course consisting of 5 turning points, as they had to deal with an unexpected hand injury, but they managed to qualify for the Final B on Saturday, where they placed 14th.

‘Participating in the Worlds was an amazing experience for the team, as we were venturing into uncharted territory for us.’ said Colm Crilly.

St. Michaels rowing2Colm Crily and Martin Dowd, qualified for and participated in the World Coastal Rowing Championships

‘It was a tough competition, but we are proud to have represented the club and worn the colours. Thank you to everyone for their support,’ said Martin Dowd.

The St. Michael’s Rowing Club has so far promoted traditional East Coast clinker built skiff rowing, building on the heritage of the hobblers of old. Having two rowers compete in a men’s double coastal scull is an exciting beginning for the club, which is currently looking to expand its current fleet of 6 skiffs and a One Design boat to include a Celtic Longboat.

‘This is a great feat for the team. The club is delighted and proud of what they achieved.’ said Gary Bryne, St. Michael’s Captain. ‘We would like to thank the organisers, Rowing Ireland and Irish Offshore Rowing for their efforts in promoting this wonderful sport.’

Published in Coastal Rowing
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#Rowing: Ireland will send a big team to the World Coastal Rowing Championships in Hong Kong early next month (November 1st to 3rd). Coastal Rowing is growing and may become part of the Olympic programme.

 Niall O’Toole (49) was Ireland’s first world rowing champion. The three-time Olympian now runs Crew Class for indoor rowers. He tried his luck at the Irish Offshore Rowing Championships in September in Co Antrim. Here are his impressions.

The Rock’n Roll of Offshore Rowing

By Niall O’Toole

I was excited for my first offshore race. Rounding the corner, I arrived at the location to big breaking waves crashing onto the shoreline. I immediately knew this was something different: it was going to be ugly and unpredictable.

 I fully hoped that the regatta would be called off, due to the extreme weather conditions. I looked to other competitors for solace. Instead of being able to gauge their fear, I was met with wide grins and a crazy glint in their eyes: they were unfazed. This was their normal. They were just looking forward to getting amongst it.

 I’m used to something different. A sterile environment in your own lane, as fast as you can row from A to B over 2km. You train for your own race, your pace and pushes planned down to a T. You have very little to think about on the day, other than executing that race plan. A starter holds your stern, everyone in line, traffic lights signal the off. It’s all inch-perfect and highly controlled. You may have one or two glances out of the boat, but essentially you row without interference from others.

 In Olympic-style rowing, we are guarded from the elements. Most international courses are strategically located to have a prevailing wind in one direction to avoid rough water. If there is wind, the water tends not to be affected. I wasn’t used to nature writing the rules.

 There was a delay to racing due to a late change of course. We were told that it was no longer safe for the safety boats, and that rowers were likely to be pushed onto the rocks. When the officials said, “You need to ask yourself, is it safe for you to row today?” the answer was screaming in my head. The organisers said they’d run the first race and would review whether they would continue the regatta after that. I took this to mean that the first race competitors were now officially the canaries down the mine. They got around, despite buoys moving during the race, and the regatta continued, to my growing fear and dismay.

 Shouldered with the weight of some rowing heritage behind me, I had to harness my dwindling toughness and get out onto the water, launching amidst breaking waves on the beach. Within 30 seconds I was completely soaked and instantly thought we needed a bigger boat.

 The race starts with a floating start and is the only real part that you can plan. There are no individual lanes, just a fight for the best line around a 4km course of buoys. Your only real hope is to fly out the start and get clear of the field down to that all important first buoy, before traffic starts hitting you and rowing becomes a contact sport.

 Battling the elements, and trying to keep the boat straight without a tiller was absolutely exhausting. Given my experience, I went out high and hard, but found it difficult to factor in the added dimensions of staying away from other boats and staying on the right lines to hit the markers. Trying to keep the boat straight against a crushing side-wind completely seized up my forearm within minutes of the start. Within the washing machine of the wind and waves, and the physical exertion of breathing through your ears, you are punished for small navigational mistakes which are big errors, handing away hard-fought lengths to more savvy and seasoned competitors.

 I did enjoy it though, despite myself. The rush of adrenaline you get flying around buoys, fighting for your line, with other boats breathing down your neck. You are completely focused on getting in and out of the turn as quickly as possible, whilst also paranoid that your competitor is taking a better line, for reasons as yet unknown to you. The sheer volume of data you have to integrate along with the physical exertion maxed me out in a way I couldn’t have imagined.

 This is one hell of a sport. Chaotic, unpredictable and exhilarating. It really is the rock’n roll of rowing. I’m completely hooked.

Niall O’Toole was part of the winning men’s quadruple, a composite crew of Wicklow, Kilurin and Ring, at the Irish Offshore Championships. 

Published in Rowing

The St. Michael’s Rowing Club in Dún Laoghaire raised €9,289.80 for the RNLI as part of their fundraising effort for the Celtic Challenge, which they completed in May 2019.

Two crews from the St. Michael’s club entered the Challenge, a mixed crew rowing in a skiff and a ladies crew in a Celtic longboat in a 160km race across the Irish Sea, from Arklow to Aberystwyth.

The cheque was presented to RNLI representatives at the beginning of the week. The club has been taking part in the Celtic Challenge since 1997 and raising funds for various
charities, but this is the highest amount raised so far.

“ The Celtic Challenge is not just about proving the endurance of a team while crossing the Irish Sea, but it is also about how that team dedicates time, energy and passion to support a worthy cause. And we have proven that the Michaels are a great team in that respect as well ,” said Cathy Brooks, who completed the Challenge this year for the first time.

The St. Michael’s Club wishes to thank their sponsors: Newstalk, Morton Coaches, Jones Engineering, The Graduate, Healthy Ireland for their support, as well as everybody who donated for their generosity.

“ We are grateful to all our sponsors, families, friends, work colleagues and supporters who donated and helped us raise these funds for the RNLI and the amazing service they provide,” said Vincent Scully, Fundraising Coordinator for the event for the St. Michael’s Club

Published in Coastal Rowing
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St. Michael’s Rowing Club hosted The Hobblers Coastal Rowing Challenge on Saturday, a 28km endurance race, which has been taking place since the 1990s on Dublin Bay.

Several courses have been used, predominantly from Dún Laoghaire Harbour to the Kish Lighthouse and back.

As Afloat previously reported, four categories competed this year: Ladies, Men, Mixed and Under 21.

Hobbler Coastal rower 08A 9079

Saturday's course, first set in 2017, started at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, at the East Breakwater beneath the Hobblers Memorial, out the harbour mouth, around the landward side of a ‘gate boat’ off Merrion Strand, around Poolbeg Lighthouse, up the Liffey as far as the ESB towers, before doubling back, across the mouth of Dun Laoghaire Harbour, across Scotsman’s Bay, past Sandycove and Bullock Harbours, turning at Coliemore Harbour, before returning to Dun Laoghaire Harbour, finishing at the end of the East Breakwater.

Hobbler Coastal rower 08A 9079Hobbler Coastal rower 08A 9079Hobbler Coastal rower 08A 9079Hobbler Coastal rower 08A 9079

Published in Coastal Rowing

St. Michael’s Rowing Club will host The Hobblers Challenge on the 7th of September. The challenge is a 28km endurance coastal rowing race, which has been taking place since the 1990s on Dublin Bay.

Several courses have been used, predominantly from Dún Laoghaire Harbour to the Kish Lighthouse and back.

Four categories will compete this year: Ladies, Men, Mixed and Under 21.  

The current course, set in 2017, starts at Dun Laoghaire Harbour, at the East Breakwater beneath the Hobblers Memorial, out the harbour mouth, around the landward side of a ‘gate boat’ off Merrion Strand, around Poolbeg Lighthouse, up the Liffey as far as the ESB towers, before doubling back, across the mouth of Dun Laoghaire Harbour, across Scotsman’s Bay, past Sandycove and Bullock Harbours, turning at Coliemore Harbour, before returning to Dun Laoghaire Harbour, finishing at the end of the East Breakwater.

“We are delighted to host this endurance race again. Similar to previous years, the competition is open for traditional skiffs so we are hoping to get as many East Coast rowing clubs taking part as possible,” said James Tedd, St. Michael’s Club Chairperson and race organiser.

Participants can choose between four categories: Ladies, Men, Mixed and Under21. “The latter two are an addition to the 2018 race,” explained Eoin Clarke, Race Registration Officer. “ We aim to be inclusive to experienced rowers of all ages, and we hope that, by introducing the Under21 category, we can help young rowers who transition from the youth level to the adult one get a taste for what endurance racing is, by competing against rowers of the same age. ”

The best times to complete the challenge are 2h47min - a record held by the St. Michaels’ men 2018, and 3h 3min - a record held by the St. Michaels’ ladies. Both records were set in 2018.

Published in Dublin Bay

Traditional Irish currachs will compete in a Spanish rowing race next week and the crews also hope to will visit the Galician Naomhog exhibition dedicated to the memory of the late poet Danny Sheehy.

Naomhoga Chorcaigh is taking six currachs to Santander next week for a trial version of “Navigatio Santander” – a 22-km rowing race being developed in the fashion of Cork’s Ocean to City Event in Spain.

After the race, the boats will be taken to Vigo where the group that includes Drascombe and traditional boat sailor Jack O'Keefe will visit the Naomhog exhibition reported by Afloat here.

If the weather allows – the currachs will be rowed from Vigo to A Guarda to participate in the 14th Encontro de Embarcationes de Galicia. More here.

As Afloat readers will know, A Guarda is where Danny Sheehy was lost – and the Cork crew intend to pay their respects.

Published in Historic Boats

As Afloat previously reported here, on the May bank holiday weekend (3rd to 6th of May), St. Michael’s Rowing Club Dún Laoghaire participated in the world’s longest true coastal rowing race, the Celtic Challenge, making their way from Arklow to Aberystwyth on the Welsh coast, covering a distance of 90 nautical miles. The two crews set off at 11.50am on Sunday and rowed through the night to reach Wales at 6.59am and 8.24am respectively on Monday morning.

For the skiff crew, Captained by Stephen Ring, making it across the line in 20h and 34min meant the realisation of a dream that started four years ago.

‘’We started training for the 2016 Challenge in October of 2015,’ Stephen Ring said. ‘’When the 2016 event was cancelled due to adverse weather, many of those disappointed resolved to try again for the 2017 race. Having battled through the night, the skiff crew were within a few miles of the shore when their tiller broke and they were forced to abandon the race. But 2019 was our year, and the 8 men and 4 women made sure that every stroke was an honest stroke and brought the St. Michael over the line to achieve that dream.’

Jake Byrne, the youngest male rower in the boat was part of the 2017 crew. ‘’Last time we came so close. So close. But this year, I was determined that nothing was going to stop us. We even brought an extra tiller with us, just in case.”

The all female crew entered the race as defending champions. And defend they did. They powered through the night, finishing the race in 19h and 9min, and brought the cup back to Dún Laoghaire.

St michaels celtic challengeThe Celtic Longboat crew crossing the finish line, with the rest of the crew close behind in the rib

‘’We entered the race determined to win it, said Nicola Fitzgerald, Captain of the all female crew. ‘’We entered as a crew of 12 strong women, eager to support each other and to give everything we had. I am so proud of each of these amazing ladies, and honoured to have been their Captain through this amazing achievement. In the middle of the night, when tiredness set in, the thing that kept us going was the thought that we wanted to clock up as many miles as possible to make it easier for the next crew of four to row. We were rowing for each other, and that is not only a testimony of the spirit of the St. Michael’s club, but also of what it means to be women in sport.”

Amy Smith, the all female crew Vice-Captain said: ‘’It took 26,438 strokes to cross the Irish Sea. Our crew rowed 161.97km at an average rate of 23 strokes per minute and 7 meters per stroke. We coxed ourselves, we rowed our best and we retained our title.”

The 24 rowers were supported by two boats and two ribs. The mixed skiff crew was supported by the yacht ‘Bod’ skippered by Derek De Jong, with Michael Nolan as crew. Their rib was the ‘Niamh’ with Clive Skelly as main driver, and Mark Donnelly and Barry Aston as crew. The Celtic Longboat was supported by ‘Joe’s Buoy 2’, skippered by Paul Morton, with Brendan McLaughlin as crew and Assumpta Doherty as assistant. Their rib was the ‘Father Jack’ with Kirstan O’Toole as main driver, and Jack O’Farrell O’Toole and Isaac Matthews as crew.

‘’We could not have done it without our amazing support crews,” said Mark Crockford, who completed the Challenge in the St. Michael’s skiff. ‘’They kept us going. They were there for us. Literally.” Sarah Lovejoy, also from the skiff crew said: ‘’This is the first time I have completed the Challenge, and I am so grateful to this fantastic support team for putting up with the cold, and the waves and lack of sleep to help us achieve our dream.”

Liz O’Toole, who rowed in the Longboat, not only was grateful but also took pride in the support team for her crew. ‘My sons, Kirstan and Jack, were out there, doing the Challenge with me. They were not rowing; instead they were in the rib, which was named after my father, making sure that the ladies were safe during all the transfers to the row boat and back. I simply could not be more proud of them. The same goes for Paul Morton; without his generosity and leadership we could not have been so successful.”

The St.Michael’s rowers took on the Challenge in aid of the RNLI and the club, and their sponsors include Newstalk, Jones Engineering and Healthy Ireland. ‘’We would like to thank everyone who has donated so far, not only sponsors but our family and friends,” said Vincent Scully, member of the fundraising team for the Challenge.

James Tedd, the Club’s Chairperson said ‘’We are very proud of all our rowers. Well done to them and well done to all the crews that entered this year. A special Thank You! goes to Newquay Rowing Club for lending us the Celtic Longboat, the Black Pearl. We are very grateful to the Celtic Challenge organising committee for their efforts and efficiency. Roll on 2021!”

Published in Coastal Rowing

This May bank holiday weekend (3rd to 6th of May), St. Michael’s Rowing Club Dún Laoghaire will participate in the world’s longest true rowing race, the Celtic Challenge, making their way from Arklow to Aberystwyth on the Welsh coast, weather permitting. It will be the eighth time that the club has participated in the Celtic Challenge. Two crews from Dún Laoghaire will attempt to row 90 nautical miles across the Irish Sea in aid of the RNLI. An all female crew in a Celtic Longboat, captained by Nicola Fitzgerald, and a mixed crew made of 8 men and 4 women in a traditional east coast wooden skiff, captained by Stephen Ring.

The crews will be accompanied by one support boat and one rib each, which will help guide the rowers as they make their south easterly journey. Besides rowing, the crews have undergone intensive training with maritime experts, such as man-overboard drills and first aid courses.

This year, the stakes are high for the 12 ladies in the Celtic Longboat, as they enter as defending champions, having won their category in 2017. Nicola Fitzgerald, Captain of the all female crew, said: “We have put together a very strong and determined crew, eager to prove itself. We’ve been training hard for the past five months, on and off the water, and we are delighted to have the support of everyone in the club as we attempt to be the first to cross the finish line and bring the ladies’ trophy to Ireland again.’

The Celtic Challenge has a special place in the heart of the club’s Chairperson, James Tedd, a native of Aberystwyth. James Tedd said: “We have been very happy to see the Spirit of the Challenge trophy head to Dún Laoghaire three times already. Our mission as a club is to keep traditional Irish skiff rowing - passed on to us by the hobblers of old - alive and strong. So we take great pride in seeing the St. Michael wooden skiff, built in 1999, make its way across the sea once more, a welcome testimony to what the challenge is all about.”

Similar to other years, crews are not exclusively made of rowers who have been in the club for a long time. Amy Smith, member of the selection committee, said: “A lot of people think that it takes a great deal of mental and physical strength to complete this challenge - which is perfectly true. But equally important, is what it takes to think like a team player and to trust each other, and when we see this mentality in rowers, we know they have what it takes to join in, whether they have been members for 6 months or 16 years.”

Gary Byrne, Captain of St. Michael’s Rowing Club – Dún Laoghaire, said: “We must keep in mind that, although this challenge is about endurance, team spirit and tenacity, but it is ultimately about supporting a good cause. We strongly feel that the RNLI is a perfect match as our charity of choice, and we are asking people to help us support them.”

Published in Coastal Rowing
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