Ocean to City race organisers hope to make a big splash

Michael Moynihan

Padraig Ó Duinnín, manager of boatbuilding venture Meitheal Mara, said the race was a long-standing idea and they grabbed the chance to bring it to fruition this year.

"In 1992, a crew from Cork Jim Conroy, Frank Conroy and myself won a similar race in London, and the idea of something similar here was stewing away.

This year was the opportunity and Cork 2005 backed us."

The response was enthusiastic, and Meitheal Mara have had to stop taking entries.

"At the moment we have 108 boats, with a total crew of over 500 people. We hope to run it again next year, but from the city to the ocean because of the tide."

The vessels involved include a Norfolk mussel boat, 40-foot dragon boats a Hawaiian outrigger, the standard Irish Coastal Rowing Federation boat, six different varieties of currach and sea kayaks.

The best vantage points for the race include Castle Point in Crosshaven, where the first boats will leave about 10.15am, the promenade in Cobh, and the pier at Monkstown.

"They'll also pass close enough to Passage, then the Marina, the finish point.

We expect the first boat around 1.30pm. We'll have commentary at those points and entertainment at Cobh and the Marina."

Ó Duinnín said the participants will vary in ability. Sure to attract attention, however, will be the first boat away, an Atlantic racing boat with Olympic rower Gearóid Towey in the crew. Towey, from Fermoy, Co Cork, is getting in some practice ahead of his participation in the Woodvale Atlantic Rowing Race in November, when he and Ciaran Lewis plan to row in a specially-designed 7 metre long boat over a 2,935 mile route from the Canary Islands to the West Indies.

Not only have the two oarsmen set out to become the first Irish team to win the race, they also intend to raise over 250,000 along the way for the Irish Cancer Society.

Ó Duinnín said: "We'll have sliding-seat rowers taking part in traditional boats; that's a wonderful aspect of the event, to have Olympic-class athletes competing in a traditional boat.

We have over-50 and over-40 categories, we have mixed crews, women's crews and junior crews."

As well as the enjoyment factor for crews and spectators, Ó Duinnín said the Ocean to City race would also raise funds for worthy causes. "We have four charities involved officially the St Anne's Shandon restoration fund, the lifeboats, COPE and St Vincent de Paul.

"We want to thank Cork 2005, while the Cork Tall Ships Committee of 1991 have donated trophies through Ted Crosbie. AIB are our main sponsors, while Marks and Spencer are providing packed lunches for crews and volunteers."

Meitheal Mara are still looking for stewards and RIBs (rigid inflatable boats) and can be contacted at 021-4316813.

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