Galway and Derry make waves as yachts race to ports
TWO ATLANTIC ports have transformed their waterfronts for the next nine days, as both Galway and Derry host separate round-world yacht race festivals.
Hundreds of spectators witnessed the pre-dawn arrival into Derry yesterday of Australian entry Gold Coast Australia in the Clipper 11-12 Round the World Yacht Race, after a 2,350 mile upwind Atlantic crossing from Halifax, Nova Scotia.
In Galway, the Volvo ocean race fleet is due to leave Lorient, Brittany, tomorrow for their shortest and last leg. It may also be one of the most closely fought finishes in the race’s history, with four boats still in contention for the title, which will be decided after an in-port race on July 7th.
Interest in the Volvo fleet was suspended for a time in Galway docks yesterday when Cork single- handed sailor Barry Hurley arrived in to become overall winner of the first Galway/Round Rockall.
German boat Bank Von Bremen with nine crew had been first of three contestants over the line in the 750-mile race. A corrected time later gave Hurley the lead on his 35ft boat Dinah – prompting the comment that his Tricolour should read “Angela Merkel thinks she has won this race”.
Fellow single-handed sailor Jamie Young of Killary Adventure Centre arrived in yesterday evening in his 49ft Killary Flyer.
The six-boat Volvo fleet is due to complete the 550-mile passage up to the Aran islands by a Fastnet rock waypoint by late Monday or Tuesday, while the city’s festival runs until July 8th.
A parade of sail involving boats from all compass points takes place tomorrow at 4pm in Galway docks, weather permitting.
There is no Irish entry in the 2011-2012 Volvo, but Galway was selected for the finish on the back of its 2009 success in hosting the first ever Irish stopover – when Green Dragon was an Irish-Chinese competitor and the sun shone until the boats sailed out again.
Two of that original Green Dragon crew, Kerryman Damian Foxall and Cork-born Justin Slattery, are competing on the leading yacht Groupama and Abu Dhabi respectively.
President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, up to six Ministers, ambassadors and Crown Prince Carl Philip of Sweden are expected west. Even Britain’s Prince Harry was invited, after an April Fool joke led to a local news report that Buckingham Palace had “confirmed” his attendance.
A diplomatic incident occurred this week when it emerged that race hosts and Galway business leaders had attempted to extend the term of Fine Gael mayor Hildegarde Naughton for a fortnight to cover the festival. However, seasoned Independent councillor Terry O’Flaherty was elected last Monday and the festival invited Ms Naughton to be an “ambassador”.
The new mayor was abroad and unable to comment yesterday but Fine Gael councillor Pádraig Conneely, who was mayor for the 2009 stopover, said the matter was “badly handled”.
While he could understand the Volvo organisers’ wish for continuity, the councillors were under statutory obligation to hold the election by a certain date unless a formal request was made otherwise, he said.
There are free nightly open air music performances, street theatre, fireworks, exhibitions, displays and “try sailing” and windsurfing sessions.
However, a new corporate dimension, with “VIP hospitality packages” and “executive lounges”, means the organisers are billing the crew arrival party on Tuesday with President Higgins as a “ticket-only event”. The Saw Doctors will provide the free waterfront welcome for punters.
Going out: Something for the weekend
WEST CORK CHAMBER MUSIC FESTIVALThe festival takes place in Bantry this weekend.
The RTÉ Vanbrugh Quartet will hold a masterclass this morning at 10am at the Maritime Hotel, admission free.
Tonight's main evening concert takes place at Bantry House at 8pm, tickets €11-€32.
THE IRISH OPENThe Irish Open continues today and tomorrow with an expected 27,000 fans descending each day on Co Antrim’s Royal Portrush. The event has made European Tour history with its first regular sell-out event. Royal Portrush is staging the Irish Open for the fourth time in the club’s history after last hosting it in 1947.
LEINSTER FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIPTomorrow’s double-header at Croke Park sees reigning All-Ireland champions Dublin face Wexford at 4pm, while Meath take on Kildare at 2pm. The stadium will host the two semi-finals in the GAA Leinster Senior Football Championship with tickets priced at €30. Fans attending the Leinster showdown can enter Croke Park from 1pm.
IRISH DERBYThe Irish Derby takes place this evening at 7.40pm at the Curragh. The Kildare racecourse is atypically hosting the race on a Saturday this year. The day kicks off at 11am with activities including the Race Day Preview, Most Stylish Lady competition and the Paddy Power Sprint. Ronan Keating performs live at 8pm.