LAST week, the Bantry longboat Unité and her crew arrived back from Antrim, where they represented Ireland at the 2018 Atlantic Challenge.
This contest takes place every two years and consists of a week of competitions in sailing, rowing, navigation and other maritime racing and skills. Bantry crews have represented Ireland since 1988 and have won the competition five times.
This year, a very young crew took up the challenge. Ten of them were in their first challenge and very new to the intensity of competition. Scoring is done on lowest points, i.e. one point for a win, two for second and so on down to 12th.
Bantry crews had always been strong in rowing events losing the rowing race once since 1992. This year, strong opposition from England, Russia and Belgium upset the natural order with Ireland finishing fifth in that race after an epic contest in which five boats finished within seven seconds of each other after a 20-minute race.
In sailing, Unité had a very good second in the first sail race and were leading in the second when the mast step gave way and they sailed on with one mast to fifth place.
The other events, slalom without rudder, man overboard, jackstay transfer rope work were very well contested. Some days there were three or even four events, which took their toll on the young crew.
Eventually, the crew put in a couple of very good finishes in the last two days’ events to finish fourth overall. Northern Ireland won again on home waters with England second and Russia third. Unité was a very close fourth.
Unité won the Esprit event of the challenge and were given the ‘Fair Play’ award for their overall contribution to the contest.
The crew was Joe Piggott, Robin McCarthy, Aileen Daly, Caroline Daley, Caoimhe Barry, Charlie Lavin, Luke Shaughnessy, Patrick Goggin, Ted Wiseman, Matthew Harley, Oliver O Shea, Grace Kelleher, Sara Kelleher, Sadbh O’Callaghan, Elaine O’Sullivan and Alanna Barry.
Diarmaid Murphy was chairman of the events committee and was ably assisted in this by Jack Price. A fine number of parents and old crew turned up to support the event and were very satisfied with a top four performance.