Light winds mean it's plain sailing for Round Ireland Race
TWO priests blessed the boats but really the participants were more blessed by the weather -- and they knew it.
Sunglasses, short-sleeved shirts and lashings of sunscreen were the order of the day at the launch of the Conway Media Round Ireland Yacht Race.
The fleet of 36 headed south towards Tuskar Rock from noon, with the sunshine very welcome but the winds not being so favourable.
More than 10,000 people attended the launch of the 30th anniversary of the race -- which includes participants from the UK, the Netherlands and France -- at Wicklow Bay yesterday afternoon.
The Round Ireland is the longest race in the Royal Ocean Racing Club calendar and has become a bi-annual event since its launch in 1980.
During the 2008 race, gales forced many of the boats to retire. This year the opposite was the problem -- with participants looking skyward and hoping for stronger winds. As a result of the light winds the organisers believe the race will take considerably longer than before.
Last year the fastest yacht completed the 704-mile, non-stop race in less than three days -- but this year it is more likely to be closer to four days.
One quarter of the entrants this year were returning contestants hoping to make history on this milestone occasion.
The Sailfest weekend was launched at the same time to celebrate the hosting of the prestigious race. And the American Drifters, Luan Parle, Heathers and Key West were among the 33 music acts to perform over the weekend.