Colie Hernon and his family were setting the competitive pace over the weekend at the Crinniu na mBad in Kinvara, with the man himself winning the leath bad race with the 2012-built Croi an Cladaig, while his son Colie og Hernon was winner in the gleotogs with Nora Bheag writes W M Nixon.
The very handsome Croi an Cladaig featured here last week when we were previewing the annual festival, which in its modern form was founded by Tony Moylan in 1979 as a celebration of the western maritime and folk traditions.
The sunlit image of Croi an Cladaig was so cheering that we were moved to put the most favourable possible spin on the weather predictions. That inspiring mainsail, by the way, was made in Connemara by Dara Bailey. But as our photos from the Pierces Purcell, father and son, clearly indicate, far from a brisk and sunny westerly, a huge crowd and a large fleet had to make do with rain and a fitful sou’east breeze.
Yet the boats were so interesting and the onshore entertainments and food & drink experiences so many and varied that some who were there claim they didn’t notice any rain at all. Under the benign direction of Dr Michael Brogan it all went swimmingly, deliberately so in the case of those who took part in the time-honoured cross-harbour swim, and preferably not swimming at all for those who were in the in the seaweed boat race – don’t ask, the photo says it all.
The requisite cargoes of traditional turf were on the Kinvara quayside from Connemara, and the inevitably slow racing began. The rest of the world thinks it is getting to grips with the nomenclature of Galway Bay’s traditional boats, but then those in the heart of it all move the goal-posts with a new category which we hadn’t heard of before, but doubtless it has been around since the time of St Brendan.
This is the gleotog mor, the “big gleotog”, which one expert assured us is somewhere between a leath bad and a bad mor. Thus in order of size we presumably ascend from the pucaun through the gleotog, the leath bad, the gleotog mor, and the bad mor which can go on to become something enormous like the Chicago-built, Atlantic-crossing Naomh Bairbre.
But exact categorization depends on so many factors that it’s not a topic for the faint-hearted, let alone the dim-witted, in which category we include ourselves when it comes to working out what’s what west of the Shannon.
All we know is that every size was represented. There was even what looked like a pucaun road-trailed down from the north in a shade of brown through varnish which might look orange on a sunny day, but definitely looked brown in Sunday. And on the harbour in front of everyone was a traditional boat which seemed well on the way to becoming a yacht, for with her immaculate black topsides she sported a very stylish white boot-top at the forefoot to set off the blue anti-fouling.
The visual effect of a neat white boot-top, even a partial one, cannot be over-estimated – the great schooner Atlantic which was in Dun Laoghaire last week absolutely cried out for one, as she didn’t look her best with midnight blue topsides and dark grey anti-fouling with nothing in between.
But there in Kinvara was John Flaherty’s Naomh Cailin looking very well indeed with her white boot-top, and she was more than just good looks – she went out and won this gleotog mor class which is only just registering on our radar, and looked great doing it, with her Philip Watson sails settling in nicely as the breeze got a bit of life to it.
As for the really grown-up class, the bad mor division, that was won by the Tonai, skippered by Mairtin O’Brien. Yet again, the Kinvara gathering leaves us with a cascade of visions of unique boats - and unique people too. May it continue for ever.