Recent plate winner: 2015 - Hugo Boss - Axex thompson 2016 - Nora Bheag - Cóilín Hernon
The race arises from a challenge issued to the Royal Cork Yacht Club (est.1720) by the Royal Galway Yacht Club (est.1882), as part of SeaFest 2015, in a bid to revive the great yacht racing traditions and hotly contested regattas which linked Cork Harbour, the Shannon Estuary and Galway Bay 200 years ago. The third yacht club involved in these historic races – some of the most dramatic of which took place in the 1830s – is the Kilrush based Royal Western Yacht Club of Ireland which was established in 1828. One regatta in particular the famous 1834 Regatta on Galway Bay, which attracted enormous crowds and participating boats from Cork, Limerick and Galway between August 15th and 19th will be recalled and commemorated. This was a regatta organised by the Royal Western Yacht Club organised “Under the Immediate Patronage of Her Royal Highness, The Princess Victoria – Rendezvous Galway”. It had four days of races on the Bay for the biggest and fastest sailing boats of the time as well as Hooker races, Four Oared herring boat races and a series of gig races.
Two of the main races saw visiting boats from Cork and Limerick sweep the decks. The 59 ton “Comet” owned by William Harrington,Esq. of Sydney Hill, Cork, who was a member of the Royal Western Yacht Club, won the “Challenge Cup presented by the Ladies of the Town and County of Galway”. The boat also received a “Silver Salver, valued 40 Guineas”.
The Galway Bay Regatta Plate, valued at 30 Guineas, for yachts not exceeding 30 tons was won by “Rienville” a 20 ton cutter owned by the 25th Knight of Glin (Lt. Col. John Frauncies Fitzgerald) who was also a member of the Royal Western Yacht Club. Newspaper reports of the day describe in detail the race tactics used by the competing skippers and the excitement generated by the individual match race contests.
The trophy for the SeaFest Fastnet Race 2015 will be a replica of the historic “Galway Regatta” Plate won by the 25th Knight of Glin and a copy of a famous painting of ““Rienvelle” battling it out with another of the fiercely competitive boats of the period the “Paul Pye” owned by Stafford O’Brien of Crathloe Castle, Co. Clare, at an earlier regatta in Cork Harbour in 1834.
The match race between the latter day challengers, “Hugo Boss “skippered by Alex Thompson and “Kilcullen Voyager” skippered by Royal Galway YC Commodore, Enda O’Coineen, will be for “a bounty of €10,000 donated by Stephen and Linda O’Flaherty, whose ancestral roots are in the Aran Islands. O’Coineen has pledged to donate the “bounty” should he win the race, to the Atlantic Youth Trust which is leading the campaign to build new Tall Ship which would provide sail training for the youth of Ireland, North and South.
It is hoped that the Fastnet SeaFest challenge race will be repeated on Galway Bay during the 2016 Ocean Wealth Conference which will be staged in Galway and that it will encourage a revival of the races which linked the Cork, Kilrush and Galway Royal Yacht Clubs almost 200 years ago.
Newspaper reports of the 1834 Galway Regatta give a sense of the excitement which surrounded the week of yacht racing and socialising in Galway in August of that year. Under the heading “The Regatta” the “Connaught Journal” of August 1834 reported: “Expectation which is so long stood on tiptoe as to this nautical fete has now been fully gratified. Considering that the Galway Regatta is yet in its infancy, it has exhibited an energy of purpose and advance to perfection which few could have anticipated but for which all must be grateful. Galway has been crowded to excess. The “Blue Jackets” of the amateur Tars has given our streets a delightful aspect.”
“Carriages have been dashing in every direction – the Salthill Road has exhibited a complete holiday crowd and on land and on water the sounds of music and revelry have been heard. The weather has been beautiful. Now a calm, now a smart breeze gave the “land lubbers” ample opportunity to see all the “craft and mystery” of those on the sea; the snow white sails and the dashing of the oars in the water, the dread naught of the “faugh a balla” boats from the Claddagh, Connemara and Arran, the gay sounds of music from the yachts, the booming signal guns, the vari-coloured flags and in fact the “toute ensemble” of the scene from Nimmo’s Pier to Kilcolgan Point, from Black Head to Barna, “To the gentlemen who have come from Limerick and other distant places we are much indebted for the life and sport of the Regatta and the people of Galway feel a deep sense of obligation.”
The many other columns of reports in the “Connaught Journal” record that The Ball which was organised at the conclusion of the Regatta took place in Kilroy’s Hotel – “the assembly being most numerous and brilliant – perhaps there never was one which was more so in Galway. The numbers in attendance was upwards of two hundred and fifty and the dancing was kept up with unusual spirit.”
“One of the most interesting features of the night was the presentation of the LADIES CUP to William Harrington, Esq.,of Sydney Hill,Cork, who won it with his beautiful and fast sailing Yacht, “The Comet” “It was presented by Mrs Burke, the lady of James H Burke, Esq., of St Clerans, in a most graceful and complimentary manner. During the presentation of it the splendid band of the 85th Regiment played God Save the King and Rule Britannia.