Viking vessels engage in river race to mark Battle of Clontarf millennium

Gandelows built as part of Limerick City of Culture project

Four replica Viking boats described as "swift on river and fearless at sea" will take to Dublin's Liffey next week to mark the millennium of the Battle of Clontarf. The "gandelows", as the craft are known, are in training on the Shannon. They were constructed as part of a Limerick City of Culture project by the Ilen wooden-boat-building school and network.

The three-crew, fixed-seat rowing boats are 23ft long and described by Gary McMahon of the Ilen project as “very graceful”. The Limerick gandelow is a “beautiful, vague and floating thing”, McMahon says, but there will be nothing vague about the plan to to take on several crews from Dublin on April 23rd.

Six Munster and six Leinster rowers will race up the Liffey, with the incoming tide, from Poolbeg Yacht Club to the replica Famine ship Jeanie Johnston . "Munster men seem to do this sort of thing with a periodicity of 1,000 years," McMahon adds, noting that "the last time they tried it, they rather carelessly lost their king, Brian Boru". If the Munster crews lose, they vote to "return in 1,000 years time, better prepared", he vows.

The crews intend to make a seaborne raid on Clontarf Yacht Club after they have completed the Liffey foray. After that, boats and crew travel – by air – to Italy, to participate in the Festa della Sparesca (Asparagus Festival) races in Venice in early May.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times