Foyle rowers to take on the Colmcille Challenge

Foyle Rowers High Kelly, Don McGinley, Anthony Dougan, Damien Gillen and Odhran Heggarty who will be rowing to Islay pictured during training at Moville. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 5.5.11
Foyle Rowers High Kelly, Don McGinley, Anthony Dougan, Damien Gillen and Odhran Heggarty who will be rowing to Islay pictured during training at Moville. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 5.5.11
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As the annual Foyle Days maritime festival draws nearer, Foyle Rowing Club will be marking the event as a date closer to another test of their stamina and rowing skills.

The club was set up six years ago initially aimed at focusing on reclaiming the long tradition and heritage of local boats.

Hugh Kelly, Jackie Kelly, Katrina Reynolds, Jennifer Gill and Denise Kelly who will be rowing to Islay. PIcture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 5.5.11

Hugh Kelly, Jackie Kelly, Katrina Reynolds, Jennifer Gill and Denise Kelly who will be rowing to Islay. PIcture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 5.5.11

This year will be the third time that the club has taken part in the Foyle Days event showcasing their punts.

Some of the punts are new, having been modeled on the traditional working vessel while others have actually been restored.

However, this year will see them bring their fibreglass Celtic Longboat to the event ahead of their Islay-Inishowen Colmcille Challenge which takes place in early July.

Bríd McGinley, Treasurer, Foyle Rowing Club and Chair of the Islay-Moville Challenge, explained: “As many people are aware, on a nice clear day it is possible to see Scotland, specifically the Paps of Jura behind Islay, from the Moville/ Greencastle area. Many of our members dreamed that, maybe, someday we would be able cross over, from Islay to Moville, as a rowing club.

“This dream has now become a reality after extensive fundraising and research was undertaken to acquire an appropriate vessel that could be used to complete the arduous task.

“The Celtic Longboat, which was built in Milford Haven in Wales, is a fibreglass vessel which is modeled on the Irish Curragh, and is rowed by a crew of four and a cox.

“We hope to secure additional funding for another boat and each vessel is set to have a team of 10 rowers for the Colmcille Challenge - a men’s team and a women’s team.

The training has been intense to help increase our stamina and power to cope with the challenges of rowing on the open sea and we have also established contact with a rowing club in Islay who will be participating in the challenge with us, using fibreglass boats modeled on the Greencastle Yawl, or Drontheim.

“We are organising a team of support vessels and we plan to travel by boat to Islay on July 7 where a day of festivities has been organised for July 8.

“We will set off from Islay on the 9th. We anticipate that the row should take us approximately 10 to 12 hours, so we’ll be very much looking forward to reaching Moville where a celebratory event has been organised to acknowledge the feat!

“The support from our local community has been fantastic with local writer Brian Friel contributing a short piece of prose to commemorate the challenge we have set for ourselves. His prose is based on his experience of watching us row regularly past his home in Greencastle.

“Before man harnessed the wind in a sail, he propelled his boat with two sticks. The Foyle Rowing Club is reviving a skill as old as mankind, a skill that requires physical strength and - because it is a group exercise - mental discipline.

“The Club is building up a modest fleet and, at the same time, reclaiming the Foyle as a place of pleasure and pleasurable exercise.”

For more information on the Islay-Inishowen Challenge, contact Brid McGinley on 0868242714 or foylerowingclub@gmail.com. Proceeds from the event will go to the Foyle Hospice.

Derry City Council is co-ordinating the Foyle Days maritime event taking place along the Queen’s Quay later this month.

Further details about the range of maritime events taking place during Foyle Days can be found on www.derrycity.gov.uk/foyledays.