The intriguing story of how a ship’s gig of 1796 came to be quietly preserved in Bantry House is well known among classic and traditional boat enthusiasts writes W M Nixon. The elegant craft was left behind after the unsuccessful invasion attempt by France in southwest Ireland, and somehow was forgotten by the outside world until people like Hal Sisk arrived on the scene with useful ideas as to what might be done with this by-then unique vessel.
The Bantry Boat herself is now on conserved display in the museum in Collins Barracks, but her lines were taken off to enable replicas to be built with the inspired idea – from Hal again – that they could be used as the basis for training programmes and inter-regional competition on both sides of the Atlantic.
The current Festival of Sail on the Golfe de Morbihan in Southern Brittany (its proper name is Semaine de Golfe, but if we use that title, everyone expects Rory McIlroy to turn up) provides an ideal showcase for these lovely boats. Yet in a very mixed fleet which apparently is now approaching the 1500 mark, even the distinctive Bantry Boats can take a bit of finding.
It was the hawk-eyed Con Murphy (who’s taking part in the event with his wife Cathy MacAleavey in her new Jimmy Furey-built Water Wag Mariposa) who spotted the Bantry Boats as he ambled along the beach, and the image has winged its way to Afloat.ie.
Meanwhile the Water Wags, far from letting themselves be dragged with indignity onto the beach, made for an impressive display in a neat row lying to a mooring, showing their gleaming brightwork to perfection. Those long off-season hours of preparation and sanding, and then varnishing when the temperature finally rose a little in the shelter of remote sheds in places like Kilpedder and Rogerstown, are this week paying big dividends on the international scene in South Brittany.
See more photos of the Morbihan Festival on Thierry Martinez's gallery here.