The 138-year-old Shandon Boat Club, based on Cork’s Marina, made club history at the weekend when it put eight new state-of-the-art Wintech racing boats — worth a combined total of some €90,000 — on the water.
Shandon Boat Club secretary Frank Coghlan said it is the largest number of boats the club has ever launched at one time.
And it was one of two such ceremonies by city-based rowing clubs at the weekend as Blackrock-based Cork Rowing Club put four new boats on the River Lee — among them the Finny Heas, the Paul Farrelly, and the Eamonn O’Brien, named after three legendary club members.
The Shandon club’s boat- naming ceremony follows an incredible period of growth for the club after a tough few years. It had to close its doors between 2000 and 2005 following a drastic fall-off in membership. But Mr Coghlan said club officers spent that time rebuilding membership and structures, and refurbishing clubhouse facilities.
Today, the rejuvenated club — with more than 100 junior rowers — is one of the largest in Ireland.
Mr Coghlan said as club membership soared in recent years, they were struggling to accommodate everybody with their existing fleet. They applied for and secured 85% funding from the last round of the Sport Capital Grant scheme to buy the eight new rowing boats — one eight, four fours, two pairs, and a single scull.
“We now have enough boats to service the large number of kids in our club,” Mr Coghlan said.
And in keeping with club tradition, the new vessels were named on Sunday after serving club trustees, officers and recent captains — each of whom has contributed to the club’s growth over the last decade.
The new boats have been named after current club president Tom Rose, trustees John Cashell, Mick Looney, George Costello, and Frank Coghlan, captain Ken Lynch, and former captains David O’Donovan and Brian O’Flynn.
Mr Coghlan said: “We refurbished our clubhouse a few years ago and provided a new pontoon, so we have very good infrastructure.
“But we will be applying for funding this year to build a secure storage area for our smaller boats.”
The club will hold its annual learn-to-row summer camp for 11 to 14-year- olds in July, and begin enrolling new members in September.