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It has been a hugely successful World Cup II for the Irish rowing crews in Poznan. Out of the eight crews competing, six of them are coming home with medals. Ireland has ranked fourth out of the medal hauls from the event.

Katie O'Brien and Steven McGowan started off the morning of A Finals in the PR2 Mix2x. Against tough competition, the new Irish crew placed fourth in the final. With Katie's dominant win in the PR2 W1x yesterday, and the collected rowing displayed in the mixed 2x, there's a lot more to come from this Galway crew.

The W2- of Emily Hegarty and Fiona Murtagh set off the medal streak with a bronze medal in their final. Coming up to the halfway mark the crew were bow ball to bow ball with the crew from Czech Republic. With each stroke, the crew in that third place position swapped back and forth, but it was the rowers from NUIG and UCC that held out and secured the medals.

Half an hour later, it was Sanita Puspure and Zoe Hyde who had their time on the podium. In the medal positions from the start, the crew went out as they intended to finish. Coming into the last few hundred meters the Chinese crew put in a big push to try to come through the Irish, but the Irish crew made it over the line first and secured their silver medals.

W2x - Zoe Hyde, Sanita Puspure - Silver MedalZoe Hyde (left) and Sanita Puspure with their W2x World Cup II Silver Medals

The LW2x of Margaret Cremen from UCC and Lydia Heaphy from Skibbereen RC came into the finish line with not only the bronze medals, but one of the most exciting races of the day. The Irish double took off the starting blocks at a rate of 55 strokes per minute, leaving the rest of the field behind in those first few strokes. As the race developed, USA and Australia began to pull away but there was nothing separating the rest of the crews. Approaching the finish line, there was no telling who was coming home with the medals. It came down to a photo finish between the crew from Ireland and the crew from China, but it was the Irish that made it across first and won the bronze medals. In the end, there was only 0.3 seconds separating the crews from second place to fourth place.

Finishing off World Cup II on a high, the W4- of Eimear Lambe (Old Collegians BC), Tara Hanlon (UCC), Aifric Keogh (DULBC), and Natalie Long (Killorglin RC) came in winning the bronze medal and rounding up the Irish medal tally to six. An impressive final burst in the last 500m, moved the Irish crew from fifth place up to the bronze medal position. There was nothing that the crews from USA and New Zealand could do to stop the Irish coming through them, as they were the fastest boat on the water coming into the finish.

Rowing Ireland’s High-Performance Director, Antonio Maurogiovanni, said: "We are delighted with the results from this weekend's racing. Taking home six medals across para, lightweight and heavyweight rowing is a difficult feat. We hope to continue this momentum through the rest of the racing season. Congratulations to Katie O'Brien on her gold medal and new world record, as well as all of the Irish athletes on their medal wins and strong performances."

Rowing Ireland’s CEO, Michelle Carpenter, said: "It's been exciting for our team to get back out to World Cup racing and return to one of our favourite courses in Poznan, Poland. This infamous World regatta course is where many of our athletes raced during their junior pathways.

With six out of eight crews medalling putting us in a good position, we are pleased now that the team have a pulse check going into the World Championships and ultimately the Paris Olympic cycle.

Well done to our dedicated HP team Director, Antonio, our incredible team of coaches and staff, Giuseppe, Dominic, Conor and Michael and all our competing athletes backed up by our HP committee and committed board. A massive thank you to Sport Ireland and Sport NI and our loyal sponsors who continue to support us on our journey."

Irish Results at Poznan

PR2 W1x - Katie O'Brien - Gold Medal (World Record)
LM1x - Fintan McCarthy - Silver Medal
LM1x - Gary O'Donovan - 5th B Final
PR2 Mix2x - Katie O'Brien, Steven McGowan - 4th Place
W2- Fiona Murtagh, Emily Hegarty - Bronze Medal
W2x - Zoe Hyde, Sanita Puspure - Silver Medal
LW2x - Margaret Cremen, Lydia Heaphy - Bronze Medal
W4- Eimear Lambe, Tara Hanlon, Aifric Keogh, Natalie Long - Bronze Medal

Published in Rowing
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Rowing Ireland had eight crews racing in the heats at World Cup II in Poznan.

Five of the crews qualified directly to the A/B Semi-Final, the two PR2 crews go straight to the A finals from their test races and one crew will compete in the Repechage on Saturday morning.

The first Irish crew at the start line was the W2- yesterday evening for their heat. The crew came third in their heat and with only one crew to qualify straight to the A Final, they'll be racing in the Repechage tomorrow morning. The pair of Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty is a new combination, however, they have some experience rowing together as they raced alongside each other in the W4- at the Tokyo Olympics, coming home with the bronze medal.

Next up was the PR2 Mix2x of Katie O'Brien and Steven McGowan. Their first competition was last month at the International Para-Rowing Regatta in Gavirate, where the crew came 4th in the Final. The test race this morning showed great racing with all crews within eight seconds of each other. The A Final will go ahead on Sunday, where the Galway RC crew can try to improve their 4th place test race finish. Katie was kept on her toes today racing the PR2 W1x later in the afternoon. With a commanding lead, Katie finished first in the test race and will race again tomorrow in the A Final. Having won the bronze medal at the 2019 World Championships we'll be looking forward to hopefully seeing Katie on the podium again.

Both Fintan McCarthy and Gary O'Donovan raced the LM1x this morning. With very strong racing in their heats, the two rowers from Skibbereen qualified straight through to the A/B Semi with Fintan winning his heat and Gary placing second. We will see them race again tomorrow where they will be looking to try make it into the A Final.

Another new combination in the Irish crews was the W4- of Eimear Lambe, Tara Hanlon, Aifric Keogh and Natalie Long. Even with the new 4- combination, all athletes are well established with Eimear and Aifric being part of the bronze medal Olympic 4-, Tara competing at a number of World Rowing events from Junior through to Senior level and qualifying as the Olympic spare last year, and Natalie who has also competed internationally over the last number of years, as well as placing 4th at the World Coastal Championships last year in the Women's Quad. The crew finished second in their heat and are straight through to the A/B Semi tomorrow morning.

The final two Irish crews were the W2x of Sanita Puspure and Zoe Hyde, and the LW2x of Margaret Cremen and Lydia Heaphy. Both crews qualified straight into their A/B Semis with the W2x winning their heat and the LW2x coming in with a very close second place. Having previously been used to seeing Sanita race in her single, she has gained a double partner, Zoe who was also in the Women's Quad with Natalie Long that placed 4th at the World Coastal Championships in Portugal last year.

Provisional Saturday Race Schedule (IST)

LM1x A/B Semi (Gary) ~ 9:30am
LM1x A/B Semi (Fintan) ~ 9:30am
W2- Rep ~ 9:40am
W2x A/B Semi ~ 10:00am
W4- A/B Semi ~ 10:20am
LW2x A/B Semi ~ 10:50am
PR2 W1x A Final ~ 14:20pm

Friday Results
W2- Heat ~ 3rd
PR2 Mix2x Test Race ~ 4th
LM1x Heat (Gary) ~ 2rd
LM1x Heat (Fintan) ~ 1st
W4- Heat ~ 2nd
W2x Heat ~ 1st
LW2x Heat ~ 2nd
PR2 W1x (Katie) ~ 1st

Published in Rowing
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Galway adventurer and former professional rugby player Damian Browne and his friend and fellow rugby player Fergus Farrell have set off from New York on their unsupported row across the Atlantic.

The pair are attempting to set a new Guinness world record in their purpose-built Seasabre 6.2m craft, and estimate it will take 1.5 million oar strokes to complete the 5,000 km crossing.

They are also raising funds for four charities – Ability West, the Galway Simon Community, Madra animal rescue and the National Rehabilitation Hospital (NRH) foundation.

Browne is well familiar with what is ahead, having spent 63 days 6 hours and 25 minutes at sea completing the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge to Antigua in 2017-18.

The existing world record for an unsupported row was set over 120 years ago by Norwegians George Harboe and Frank (Gabriel) Samuelsen who were the first pair to attempt it.

The Norwegian crossing from New York to the Scilly Isles in 1896 took 55 days and 13 hours. After a short break in the Scillys they rowed another five days to Le Havre in France.

Browne and Farrell say there have been 52 previous attempted crossings by way of an unsupported row, with 11 of these attempts by pairs. Only six of those pairs managed to complete the row.

There have also been successful crossings by six solo rowers, five fours and one crew of five.

Browne, who spent 16 years on the rugby pitches of the Celtic League, English Premiership and French Top 14 Championship and was part of the winning 2012/13 Heineken Cup team with Leinster Rugby, has climbed in the high altitude Pamir mountains in Afghanistan.

He has summited Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Mont Blanc in France and Gran Paradiso in Italy.

After retiring from rugby, he completed the six day, 257 km Marathon des Sables in the Sahara desert, also known as the “toughest footrace on Earth”. He then spent 18 months preparing for his solo row across the Atlantic.

At sea, he endured nine-metre swells, a badly cut head, capsizes, encounters with whales, sea and pressure sores, lost an oar and experienced complete steering failure with still over 2000 nautical miles to go to Antigua.

“A hell of an experience, hell of an adventure and a hell of a challenge,”he describes it on his website.

“It was exactly what I wanted from the challenge, I wanted to be pushed to my limits mentally and physically and I got exactly what I wanted,”he said.

Fergus Farrell, his partner on “Project Empower” as this new transatlantic crossing is called, is a lifelong friend of Browne’s. Both played underage rugby together for Connacht and Farrell was a self-employed business man who experienced a traumatic spinal injury.

On October 26th 2018, Farrell ruptured his T9, T10 and T11 spinal discs in the middle of his back. One of the ruptured discs leaked into his spinal cord. After an operation in the National Spinal Unit at the Mater Hospital, Farrell says he noticed his motionless feet and asked his surgeon if this is how he would be for the rest of his life?

He says the surgeon put his hand on Fergus’s shoulder and “calmly told him he had been extremely unlucky”.

Farrell, who was then paralysed from the waist down, moved to the NRH and set about his recovery.

On October 26th 2019, a year after his surgery, he miraculously completed a 206km walk from the site of the injury at his yard in Athenry, Galway to the NRH in Dún Laoghaire.

Farrell attributes his recovery to his “stubbornness, thickness and determination”, and he also raised €70,000 for the NRH.

Farrell says he is determined to give his second chance of life everything he can give. He says he wants to show people that “the mind is a positive and powerful part of everybody’s lives” and that “when challenged correctly there are no limits to what you can achieve”.

Browne and Farrell’s progress can be tracked on their website here

Regular Afloat readers will recall the pair previously rowed a currach from Aran islands to Galway here

Published in Coastal Rowing
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NUI Galway has applied for planning permission for a new watersports facility on the city campus.

As Galway Bay FM reports, the development at the college’s upper Newcastle campus would involve the construction of a rowing storage shed, along with two floating platoons on the bank of the Corrib river.

A pedestrian and cyclist greenway along Corrib would link to an existing footpath, and the plans include equipment storage facilities, changing rooms, drying room, bathrooms, reception, first aid and a café.

A gym training room, function room, kitchenette, mother and baby room, communications room and offices are also provided for in the application, which has been submitted along with an environmental impact statement.

Galway city planners are expected to rule on the application in July.

Read more on the Galway Bay FM website here

 

Published in Galway Harbour
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Four new rowing boats have been named in tribute to alumni and current student athletes at NUI Galway.

Chris O’Dea and the late Dr Donagh O’Donoghue, both of whom are former rowers with Coláiste Iognáid and NUI Galway Boat Club, have had new boats named after them.

World-class medal-winning athletes Cliodhna Nolan, who won gold at the 2020 European Championships, and Fiona Murtagh, who won bronze at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, have also been honoured with their names on new craft.

“We are delighted to be able to recognise and honour the commitment and dedication of Donagh, Chris, Fiona and Cliodhna to our rowing and sporting successes in such a unique and appropriate way," NUI Galway (NUIG) president Prof Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh said.

Cliodhna Nolan, 2020 Gold European Championship and Fiona Murtagh, 2021 Olympic Bronze Medal Tokyo.Cliodhna Nolan, 2020 Gold European Championship and Fiona Murtagh, 2021 Olympic Bronze Medal Tokyo. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy

“They are all first-class ambassadors for our university and our values, not least excellence," he said.

" In many ways, NUI Galway’s success and achievements are made possible thanks to the support, encouragement and endeavours of our students and our alumni," he said.

Ciro Prisco, head coach of NUI Galway Rowing, said that a boat naming ceremony is a "fitting opportunity to acknowledge our alumni and athletes who played vital parts in making the NUI Galway Boat Club a success".

“The commitment, support and ambition of Chris O’Dea and Dr O’Donoghue played an important role in establishing a high-performance rowing coach position at the university," Prisco said.

"Their foresight has allowed for the development of a pathway for student athletes to achieve their dreams and compete at the highest levels."

Ciro Prisco, NUI Galway Rowing Coach, Fiona Murtagh, 2021 Olympic Bronze Medal Tokyo, Cliodhna Nolan, 2020 Gold European Championship, and President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaighPictured at NUI Galway Boat Christening Ceremony were (l-r) Ciro Prisco, NUI Galway Rowing Coach, Fiona Murtagh, 2021 Olympic Bronze Medal Tokyo, Cliodhna Nolan, 2020 Gold European Championship, and President Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh. Photo: Mike Shaughnessy

“On top of that, our student athletes bring international successes while they fully embody the values or our club and stand as role models for other students and athletes," he said.

The boats have been manufactured by Filippi, and two of them can be converted into a pair and double. The third boat is a coxless four and the fourth is a sweep eight.

They will be used by the NUIG rowing club high performance team to compete in national trails and also for club racing, include in domestically and internationally at the IARU National Championships, Varsity and Henley Royal Regatta.

Published in Rowing
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Afloat was quick to point out to An Post there were some notable absences from last month's tribute to Irish female sporting heroes in its set of six National Stamps (Irish Women in Sport).

The Irish Post Office paid tribute to achievements in athletics, boxing, horse racing, swimming and hockey in its March issue.

But there was no place for sailing's 2016 Olympic silver medalist Annalise Murphy or rowing's quartet of Aifric Keogh, Eimear Lambe, Fiona Murtagh and Emily Hegarty who produced a stirring finish to take the bronze medal in the women's four final at Tokyo.

The stamps acknowledge Irish sportswomen’s great achievements at home and on the international stage but an An Post spokesperson acknowledged the omission and told Afloat "We had a finite number of stamps so not all our wonderful athletes could feature – this time". 

The spokesperson added, "We have had similar enquiries about top Irish athletes in a number of other sports". 

The booklet features Irish female sporting icons Sonia O’Sullivan, Katie Taylor, Kellie Harrington, Rachael Blackmore, Ellen Keane and the Irish Women’s hockey team.

Happily, Irish Women in Sport is a topic that An Post will be returning to again in a future programme so, it appears, we may yet see some achievements afloat and get a stamp of approval?

Published in Women in Sailing
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Rowing Ireland’s first outing since the Olympic Games and World Championships last year took place this weekend.

The event is held at the Italian national Centre in Piediluco The memorial Paolo d’Aloja International Regatta was established to honour the memory of Paolo d’Aloja, President of the Italian Rowing Federation in the 70s and ’80s.

The regatta is always a good pulse check to launch the regatta season, and a large cohort of entries was from Italy, Greece and South Africa. With crews travelling from Serbia and Romania.

The three days event saw good first results for the Rowing Ireland crews Saturday’s results started with a silver medal for Gary O’Donovan in the Men’s lightweight single and a silver medal for U19 Holy Davis.

With Olympic Bronze medalist Fiona Murtagh paired, Tokyo experienced reserve Tara Hanlon taking a silver medal in the Women’s pair, followed by the pair of Natalie Long and Zoe Hyde in the Bronze medal position.

Many of the lightweight crews showed strong form in open weight events. Conditions were challenging on Saturday, and racing began on Sunday with more results for all crews.

A top podium finish for Fiona Murtagh and Tara Hanlon, winning the Women’s pair and a Bronze medal for Natalie Long and Zoe Hyde in the same event.

It was fitting to see Diana Dymchenko from Ukraine compete at the event and stand tall on the podium, with Rowing Ireland’s Emily Hegarty taking the bronze medal in the same. Lydia Heaphy took a silver medal in the Women’s Lightweight single.

Holly Davis finished the regatta well with a bronze medal in the U19 single.

The team will now spend the next number of weeks at a training camp in the North of Italy to prepare for the season ahead.

Final results

LM1x Gary O’Donovan Silver medal

WU19 Holly Davis Silver medal

W2x Lydia Heaphy and Margaret Cremen 4th Place
M2x Fintan McCarthy and Jake McCarthy 7th Place
W2- Tara Hanlon and Fiona Murtagh Silver medal
W2- Zoe Hyde and Natalie Long Bronze medal
W1x Aoife Casey 4th Place
W1x Emily Hegarty 5th place
W1x Alison Bergin 6th place

Sunday results

W2- Tara Hanlon and Fiona Murtagh Gold medal
W2- Natalie Long and Zoe Hyde Bronze medal
W1x Emily Hegarty Bronze medal
W1x Alison Bergin 8th place
WL1X Lydia Heaphy Silver medal

WU19 Holly Davis Bronze medal
W2x Aoife Casey and Margaret Cremen 4th Place
M2x Fintan McCarthy and Gary O’Donovan 4th place

The team consisted of the following crews

Open weight Women team
Tara Hanlon (UCC) and Fiona Murtagh (NUIG) in the Women’s pair
Natalie Long (Killorglin RC) and Zoe Hyde (Killorglin RC) in the Women’s pair
Alison Bergin (Fermoy RC)
U19 Holly Davis (LVRC)

The lightweight group
Margaret Cremen (UCCRC), Lydia Heaphy (Skibbereen RC), Aoife Casey
(Skibbereen RC),
Gary O’Donovan (Skibbereen RC), Fintan McCarthy (Skibbereen RC), Jake
McCarthy (Skibbereen RC)

The HP coaching team
HPD: Antonio Maurogiovanni
Coaches: Dominic Casey, Giuseppe de Vita, Fran Keane, Nicolo Maurogiovanni and Leah O’Regan

Operations officer: Michael O’Rourke

Published in Rowing
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The 72nd Colours Boat Rowing Race between Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin will take place on Friday, 18th March for the first time in three years.

The colours boat race sees Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin go head-to-head again on the Liffey, racing from O’ Connell Bridge to St. James’ Gate. Watch the high tempo start at O’ Connell Bridge, the mid-course battle at Four Courts or the sprint for the line at the dedicated viewing area at St. James’ Gate on Victoria Quay with live commentary.

Tom Stevens, Dublin University Boat Club (DUBC), captain commented, "It is fantastic to be back racing for Gannon Cup and the Dan Quinn shield, particularly after such a long gap since the last time this event has been run. The colours race is such a unique event. Racing through the city is incredibly exciting and a huge privilege. It feels like sitting in a fish bowl on the start line with all of the faces looking down at you off of O'Connell Bridge. We are very excited to get out there and race on the 18th March."

Alicia O' Neill, Dublin University Ladies Boat Club (DULBC) captain commented, "Colours is certainly one of the highlights of our rowing season. It’s the only race where we can row down the Liffey through the heart of Dublin City Centre and where spectators can watch the race from start to finish. We have been waiting since 2019 to race so the excitement is like no other. Both our senior and novice squads are more than ready to race and we are looking forward to the 18th to showcase the very best of DULBC. UCD are one of our biggest rivals and we are eager to go out and challenge them and hopefully claim the bragging rights for the year."

Colours Boat Race Schedule, Friday 18th March:

  • 10:00am – Sally Moorhead Trophy
  • 10:30am – Dan Quinn Shield
  • 11:00am – Corcoran Cup
  • 11:30am – Gannon Cup

The coin toss for the 2022 Colours Boat Races took place on the Sunday, 27th February at the dining hall of Trinity College Dublin, overseen by Trinity Alumni and motivational speaker Mark Pollock. Dublin University Boat Club lost the toss and will take the south station for the Gannon Cup and the Dan Quinn shield. Dublin University Ladies Boat Club won their coin toss and chose to race on the south station for the Corcoran Cup and the Sally Moorhead Trophy.

Published in Rowing
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“So your boat goes up the size of the wave, and then it goes down a bit and sometimes you might surf it or whatever but yeah, they were very very big..”.

I’m useless at measuring things, I don’t know what height.... but they weren’t aggressive to me, which was nice. ..”

The words of Dr Karen Weekes the morning after her triumphant arrival into Barbados to become the first Irish woman to row solo across the Atlantic.

The first Irish woman to row solo across the Atlantic nears the finish in Barbados Photo: Mick MurphyThe first Irish woman to row solo across the Atlantic nears the finish in Barbados Photo: Mick Murphy

About 30 of her team, close friends and family flew to Barbados to greet her, and there was a large crowd in Tully’s Bar in Kinvara to watch her welcome on social media.

“Even this morning my body is aching, and it hasn’t been for 81 days,” she said, expressing relief at a break from the intensity of it.

“You just can’t turn off at all...”

Weekes, who has been congratulated by President Michael D Higgins and is Afloat’s Sailor of the Month, says she plans to “plant spuds” back home in Kinvara, Co Galway.

However, she also plans to keep her Shecando campaign going to encourage young women into adventure sports and to highlight UN sustainability goals and ocean conservation.

She spoke to Wavelengths (below) from Bridgetown in Barbados.

Published in Wavelength Podcast
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One of the most entertaining events of the constrained pre-Christmas season was the All In A Row charity event for all-comers - provided they were oar-driven – in Dublin’s River Liffey on Saturday, December 11th 2021. It mustered an exceptionally varied fleet including everything from classic authentic currachs to hefty big traditional coastal rowing skiffs. The widely-different craft in between including the legendary Lorelei, built by the great George Bushe of Crosshaven in 1954 using then-revolutionary construction methods to produce a very fast shell for the Cork Rowing Club.

Lorelei had become something of a sleeping beauty, as she was slumbering for many years dust-covered in a hidden corner of one of the sheds at Crosshaven Boatyard, when classic boat enthusiast Darryl Hughes – who winters his Tyrrell-of-Arklow-built 43ft ketch Maybird in Crosser where he now lives – immediately spotted that this was something very special indeed.

The classic coastal rowing skiffs – some of them as long as 32ft - can be quite a challengeThe classic coastal rowing skiffs – some of them as long as 32ft - can be quite a challenge

As the local rowing clubs already have their hands full with some of the latest craft, he contacted the Stella Maris Rowing Club with its many members in Ringsend in Dublin, and they agreed to take on the custodianship of Lorelei – she’s supposedly so called because the top movie of 1954 was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, in which superstar Marilyn Monroe was the glamorous showgirl Lorelei.

Worth her weight in gold….the 1954 George Bushe-built Lorelei makes knots past the Central BankWorth her weight in gold….the 1954 George Bushe-built Lorelei makes knots past the Central Bank

Be that as it may, Lorelei the swift rowing skiff is a star in her own right, and she cut a speedy dash up the Liffey on December 11th when she and her fleetmates were brilliantly successful – they gave everyone a great time, they successfully demonstrated the wide range of rowing craft in Ireland, and they raised a total of €18,000 to be shared between the Lifeboats and the Irish Underwater Search & Recovery Unit. The presentation of the cheques will take place this Friday (December 4th) at 8.0pm in the Poolbeg Yacht & Boat Club.

Crew of all ages contributed mightily to the fund-raising effort on December 11th.Crew of all ages contributed mightily to the fund-raising effort on December 11th.

Published in Coastal Rowing
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