Long before the Volvo Ocean Race was making the entire country come over all nautical, the Round Ireland Yacht Race was the premier event in Irish sailing.
Indeed, it’s one of the top ocean races in the world, along with Fastnet, Sydney to Hobart, Malta, Middle Sea and Newport Bermuda.
It gets under way in Wicklow harbour at noon tomorrow, and watching the 40 yachts gather for the start is a magnificent sight, like a herd of billowy racehorses itching to take off across the waves.
To mark this major maritime event, Wicklow town has succumbed to festival fever. Starting yesterday and continuing until tomorrow, the Sailfest Festival provides a range of free family fun activities, both in and out of doors.
These include concerts, aeronautical displays, street theatre, surf simulators, funfairs, fireworks, art displays and storytelling.
Much of the fun is centred around Wicklow’s Historic Gaol, whose costumed staff will take to the streets depicting prisoners of yore as they made their way to the harbour, en route to Van Diemen’s Land.
The Round Ireland takes place every two years and this is only the second Sailfest to mark it.
If it’s anything like the first one, two years ago, at which 15,000 people turned up, it will be a terrific day out for all the family, particularly if the sun splits the stones as it did last time.
And if the weather’s terrible, well, sorry sailing folk, but that just makes it more entertaining for us landlubbers, who will wonder how you’ll cope in a Force 10 as we head off for a spot of lunch.