Maherees Regatta

The Maharees Regatta is the first of the summer's contests of naomhóg racing. The regatta attracts competitors from Clare, Mayo, Sligo and Galway as well as local crews from all around the Dingle Peninsula.

THE MAHAREES Regatta is ‘without a shadow of a doubt’ the highlight of the year in and around Castlegregory.

As the sun finally breaks through the clouds on Sunday afternoon, it is clear that everybody from the seasoned spectators perched on the hill overlooking Scraggane bay to the children playing on the slip are relishing proceedings.

The regatta is a wonderful event for the people of the area. It’s great for the community. It’s amazing to see everybody out and about around the pier. The Maharees Regatta gets better every year.

The regatta is out of the past, one of the old traditions and snapshots of how Ireland used to be. On Saturday and Sunday, this little piece of heaven has been host to the All-Ireland Currach Championships.

Crews from Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Clare and Kerry contest the races which range from U16 contests to the sinew straining senior men’s and women’s events.

Over 150 competitors are signed up for the weekend’s competitions with multiples more expected on shore to cheer on the daily action and partake of a few celebratory drinks when the day’s racing is complete.

The distance varies through the age groups. The youngest competitors, the U16, face half a mile; its double that for the U18 grade while the seniors face a mile and half. Four is the optimum number per currach, though the weekend programme also includes three-man (or woman) and single-hand races.

In total 11 finals will be decided on Sunday evening.

The weekend event is confined to counties on the west coast, not out of some sort of maritime snobbery, but as the history of the currach is strongest along the Atlantic coastline. These boats are built specially for racing. Many, many years ago they would have used working boats for racing events. But these are much lower and straighter than the older vessels to get maximum speed.

The rules are pretty simple. Once the currach doesn’t exceed 25 feet in length. Four men could cover a mile-and-a-half in under 15 minutes but naturally a lot depends on the weather.

The championship decider is a one-off weekend of the currach racing world, but almost every weekend from April to August the currach racing community plays host to a regatta or a race.

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