On Thursday 1st June, 5 of our members, Norma Loudon, Jo Drewitt, Clive Drewitt, Duncan McKay and Ann Hume, packed up St Baldred and set off on their journey to take part in the Ocean to City race, An Rás Mór, in Cork. We were to be just 5 of 650 participants and 1 of 230 boats.
It was a very early start, travelling to Cairnryan to catch the 11.30am ferry to Belfast. We then headed off to Cork, passing Dublin on the way. It was a long journey, eventually arriving in Cork about 7.30pm and had an interesting time getting to our accommodation. Narrow streets, parked cars, and a boat on a trailer are not a good mix! After settling in, food and drink were required with Clive enjoying his much-needed pint of Guinness after the long drive.
Friday morning was time to relax and explore Cork city which is lively and cosmopolitan before getting the boat hitched up again to take her to the start at Crosshaven. Here we launched the boat and rowed it to a pontoon ready for the race. All went smoothly, apart from the dramatic exploding jockey wheel so some heavy lifting was required! It was really good to meet rowers from different areas and see different boats, all getting ready for the race.
Race day, Saturday 3rd June, involved an early start to get the bus to Crosshaven in time for coxes’ briefing. There was a great buzz of excitement as crews did their final preparations for the day ahead and inspected how each other’s boats worked. We were one of 8 St Ayles Skiffs. The wide selection of boats included Cornish Pilot Gigs, Dragon Boats, Currachs, Naomhogs and Celtic Longboats to name just a few, as well as plenty of sliding seat boats. It was a glorious sunny day with a fresh Easterly breeze so plenty of water and sunscreen were important!
Clive, Ann, Jo, Duncan and Norma all ready to go
At 11.39am we were off, heading out towards the Atlantic Ocean to the first gate at Roches Point with Jo in the cox’s seat. Conditions were tough, heading into wind and waves, but these eased as we turned the gate to head north. It felt good to be making ground, catching up and passing other skiffs and boats as we got into a good, steady rhythm. After a swift change, Ann took over coxing the next stretch which took us west past Cobh where crowds were cheering on from the prom and an incredibly big cruise ship anchored there.
The next gate was at Monkstown where we turned to head north again. The conditions were ideal here and we were able to increase the pace. Another swift cox change saw Norma take over for the final stretch which took us across Lough Mahon, overtaking a noisy Dragon Boat before reaching the River Lee. Duncan and Clive just kept on rowing the whole course, and we sped past Blackrock Castle and onwards to the finish in the centre of Cork where we could hear the crowds cheering as boats got to the finish line which we crossed in 2:58.45, third fastest St Ayles, behind a youthful Men’s Open crew from Dundrum and hot on the heels of a mixed crew from Firth of Clyde Coastal Rowing Club (FOCCR’s). All hot, tired, and blistered but very happy that we had succeeded in completing the course in under 3 hours.
After crane out and a quick change, we headed out for a celebratory meal then joined fellow competitors at the after party, being entertained by fantastic young musicians and learning a new dance. Much hilarity ensued.
Sunday involved another early start as we headed back to the ferry at Belfast for the return journey home and to the end of an incredible adventure.
If you would like to find out more about the event click here
More pictures of our adventure can be seen here
A short video of the first leg can be seen here