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Fully Rigged Ilen - A Sight Not Seen in Limerick City for Over a Hundred Years

25th February 2019
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The Ilen with sails set at Limerick Docks The Ilen with sails set at Limerick Docks

After an eleven year rebuild, last Saturday offered a first opportunity for sending up ‘Ilen’s’ entire suit of sails, save her square sail - a headwind at Limerick Docks precluded its participation.

It might be observed how ‘Ilen’ seems to punch above her weight in the amount of canvas her ketch rig is expected to flying. And this is directly attributable to the pioneering legacy of that inveterate blue water voyager of Irish traditional wooden sailing boats; Conor O’Brien.

When designing the ‘Ilen’s’ rig some five years back the Ilen Project, for better or worse, elected to pay homage to her original Conor O’Brien design rig from 1926. A decision which more than doubled the overall rigging task. Upgrading a traditional coastal ketch rig of three sails to an ocean rig of seven, not to mind all the additional supporting gear, blocks, spars, running and standing rigging is not a small task.

Happily, it has all come together nicely and ‘Ilen’ looks splendid, and nearly ready to embrace the coming sailing season.

Published in Ilen, Historic Boats
Afloat.ie Team

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The Ilen is the last of Ireland’s traditional wooden sailing ships.

Designed by Limerick man Conor O’Brien and built in Baltimore in 1926, she was delivered by Munster men to the Falkland Islands where she served valiantly for seventy years, enduring and enjoying the Roaring Forties, the Furious Fifties, and Screaming Sixties.

Returned now to Ireland and given a new breath of life, Ilen may be described as the last of Ireland’s timber-built ocean-going sailing ships, yet at a mere 56ft, it is capable of visiting most of the small harbours of Ireland.

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