Return of the Kinsale hooker

AN ICONIC ship that last sailed the seas more than a century ago is to be painstakingly recreated by a team of craftsmen in Co Cork.

A replica of the all-but- forgotten Kinsale hooker, which once dominated the seas off West Cork, will be meticulously built from scratch by a team of skilled shipwrights over a two-year period.

The project will mark the first chapter of an ambitious long-term plan to create a sustainable boat building industry in Kinsale which will employ specialist shipwrights to build a number of the eye- catching vessels, which closely resemble the more well-known Galway hooker, and relaunch them into the Atlantic for commercial use.

Organisers of the fledgling Kinsale Hooker Project also have long-term plans to hold regatta days in which the 40ft sailing boats will be raced.

The project, which has been backed by the town’s Mayor, local historians and business and tourist chiefs, is expected to generate revenue almost immediately, as plans are underway to open up the boat- building process to school- children and visitors.

However, the first boat won’t be lying idle once it’s built in 2013, as project chiefs are planning to employ up to four full-time staff to sail and manage the craft on a year- round basis.

The completed vessel will then be leased for excursions to boating enthusiasts, paraded in national and international maritime festivals and even offered as a base for corporate team building events.

But as no ‘living’ boat remains in existence, designers and shipwrights will rely on miniature-scale models, computer-generated images and even local folk memory for inspiration when they start construction later this year.

Funding for the €500,000 two-year project, which will include an interpretative centre where the boat’s colourful history will be explained, will be sought from both public bodies and private enterprises.

Project co-ordinator, Conor Doyle said: “This is about reviving a key part of Kinsale’s lost maritime heritage.

“It will bring huge benefits to the town... We envisage a continual process, which if it takes off, half a dozen [vessels] could be built. It has huge tourism potential, because people will be able to learn about and watch the boat-building process.”

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