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Lough Neagh Stages the Atlantic Challenge, an International Contest of Seamanship

19th July 2018
During the weeks contest the 38ft wooden gigs will be sailed and rowed During the weeks contest the 38ft wooden gigs will be sailed and rowed

11 International teams will make Antrim their home for the International Contest of Seamanship tomorrow.

As Afloat.ie reported previously in March, 200 young people from USA, Russia, St Petersburg, Belgium, Ghent, GB, Ireland, Quebec, France, Denmark, Canada and Northern Ireland will compete, live and learn together.

During the week long contest the 38ft wooden gigs will be sailed and rowed. Teams will undertake various skill tests, including navigation, rope work, Jack Stay Transfer, Captain’s Gig, Slalom and Man overboard rescue.

Spectators will have a great view from the Lough Shore of the 11 picturesque gigs as they race on Lough Neagh.

The contest takes place every two years and Northern Ireland has competed in Canada, Finland, Ireland, Italy, France and Denmark in 2016.

"The Challenge for the crew is to learn to sail and row a 38ft Captain’s gig and use it in friendly contests"

The Challenge for the crew is to learn to sail and row a 38ft Captain’s gig and use it in friendly contests, including the biennial contest of seamanship with young people of other nations. To build a team that makes new friendships, new understanding and builds trust that spans frontiers. Also to be ambassadors among people of other nations, competing overseas in one of the member nations.

The gigs are replicas if 18th-century admiral’s barges, used by fleets in harbour for transport between ships and shore. The design was drawn from a French naval model, but such boats were common two centuries ago to the navies of Britain, France, Russia Spain and Sweden. Technically they are long boats but common usage and history have led Atlantic Challenge to use the term “gigs” or “Bantries. The model from which they are built dates from the French invasion of Ireland at Bantry in 1796.

Northern Ireland has had 2 gigs Harmonie was launched in 2003 by Dame Mary Peters and the crew are now sailing Cwch John Kerr, named after the boat builder credited with bringing the organisation to the UK.

We are a cross community, cross gender organisation, giving equal prominence to all individuals in our team. We welcome applicants from all corners of Northern Ireland. Our gig Cwch John Kerr is based at Antrim Boat Club on Lough Neagh.

Northern Ireland became World Champions in 2012.

Dame Mary Peters is our Patron and will open the International contest in Clotsworthy Gardens.

The contest will start in earnest this Saturday morning, with at least two races or tasks every day for the week. This is a strong test of the crew’s physical strength and endurance as well as requiring teamwork, quick thinking and ingenuity. All teams striving to be World Champions.

The experience of mastering the gigs, living with people from other cultures and learning new skills is life-changing for the young people. They grow in confidence, life experience and make new friends. The experience of the contests is something the crews will never forget.

It is an honour for Antrim Boat Club to be chosen to host this Contest. The visitors are all looking forward to enjoying the welcome, sights and traditions of Northern Ireland.
The Northern Ireland crew is made up of approx. 20 young people from the local area, Antrim, Randalstown, Doagh and Templepatrick with previous crew returning from Glasgow, New Zealand and Guernsey for this important contest. Under the expert supervision of Michael Patton the cox, the crew have been training every Sunday at Antrim Boat Club to prepare for the contest. 

The opening ceremony will take place in Clotsworthy Gardens at 4:00 on Friday 20th July 2018. Everyone is welcome to view the teams and contest. 

Published in Historic Boats
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