Three French lifeboat crew who died in a recent sea rescue will be remembered by a fleet of west-of-Ireland crafts setting sail from Galway for the Breton port of Lorient.
Bearing sods of turf, the “cruise in company” involves some 30 yachts and classic craft, including the Galway hooker MacDuach.
French honorary consul Catherine Gagneux will be in Lorient to greet the fleet, leaving Galway tomorrow on Friday (jul 12) and expected on or about July 20/21, weather permitting. The fleet from Mayo, Galway, Clare, Cork, and further afield will fly “battle flags”. Celebrations are planned to mark almost 45 years of a twinning between Galway and Lorient.
Ms Gagneux says the voyage is particularly significant, as one of the crafts will sail with a signed flag from Galway rescue volunteers to honour three French lifeboat crew who died recently in Sables d’Olonne, some 100km north of La Rochelle.
A letter of condolences from Galway harbourmaster Captain Brian Sheridan will also be presented to the Groix Island Sea Rescue, near Lorient.
The French crew members were part of Société Nationale de Sauvetage en Mer, which went to the aid of a fishing vessel during Storm Miguel on June 7.
The lifeboat capsized due to severe weather conditions, which saw winds of up to 120km/h. Four of the seven crew were able to swim ashore.
The Galway-Lorient cruise was initiated by Enda Ó Coineen, along with Cormac Mac Donncha from ThermoKing in Galway, and Jean-Gab Samzun, the president of Lorient Galway Association — also known as a real Vieux Loups de Mer (Old Sea Dogs ), explains Ms Gagneux.
Sailing fleets from Galway and Lorient participated in a number of events in the 1970s and 1980s, and the aim of the Great Celtic Cruise Adventure is to revive this tradition.
The 1,100-nautical-mile return voyage — 550 nautical miles each way — will have three stopovers: Kinsale, Co Cork, for Bastille Day on July 14; the Scilly Isles; and Ile de Groix.
Mr Mac Donncha says that the bags of turf were requested by “Celtic cousins” in Brittany to commemorate the role of working boats such as the Galway hookers which delivered such cargo to the Aran islands and along the west coast before electricity and diesel were used to heat homes.
Mr Samzun will lead the fleet, along with Galway Bay Sailing Club vice-commodore and voyage organiser Johnny Shorten.
Ms Gagneux says that further social, economic and cultural projects will mark 45 years of the Galway-Lorient relationship in September 2020.