Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Thursday 19 October 2017

Farming family takes to high seas

RACE IS ON: Keith Miller with his daughters, Alice and Hannah, on their boat Andante at Kilmore Quay. Photo: Patrick Browne
RACE IS ON: Keith Miller with his daughters, Alice and Hannah, on their boat Andante at Kilmore Quay. Photo: Patrick Browne

Valerie Cox

Last week, Wexford suckler and tillage farmer Keith Miller was busy cutting silage in Rosslare. But this month, Keith and his daughters, Alice and Hannah, take on the Volvo Round Ireland Yacht Race against multi-million euro super yachts.

Dad Keith is a 30-year veteran of the Rosslare Harbour Lifeboat. Alice (23) has followed in his footsteps, joining the lifeboat crew in Galway, where she is a student.

Last September, Keith decided to buy a boat, and so the family set off for Strangford, Co Down, to collect the Andante, a 36ft cruiser which is three decades old. On the way back, they got the notion of entering the Volvo Round Ireland race. They have trained by sailing northwards from Galway back to Wexford, and although Keith says "we won't be first across the line", they could do very well on their handicap.

The family trio is looking forward to racing alongside some of the biggest and most expensive yachts in the world, yachts costing millions, whereas Keith says the Andante was "the price of a car".

They face up to seven gruelling days surviving on minimal sleep, damp clothes, wet bedding and battling the currents of the wild Atlantic and, according to Hannah (22), making do with dry shampoo and baby wipes. "Dad is the main cook, hot food, cooked in a pot and eaten out of a bowl. We'll have fresh meat to start us off," she said.

Alice is delighted to be sailing with her dad and her sister, Hannah, a musician who is assistant principal French horn in the Kuopio symphony orchestra in Finland.

For Keith, safety is the main priority. "We have gone above and beyond with safety; we have personal locator beacons if someone falls overboard, life rafts, life jackets, I don't want to have to be rescued by a lifeboat, I'd never hear the end of it," he said.

The race starts from Wicklow Harbour at 1pm on Saturday, June 18. It's the biggest-ever race in the competition's 36-year history, with a record number of 65 yachts competing, including the Sultanate of Oman's flagship trimaran.

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Organisers are expecting tens of thousands of spectators to travel to Wicklow to witness the incredible spectacle for the weekend of the Volvo Round Ireland, and the local chamber has put on a Sailfest for the weekend, including the Taste of Wicklow on the Sunday to welcome visitors.

Sunday Independent