€2m ahoy for town as over 15,000 turn out for Sailfest
The population of Wicklow Town more than doubled at the weekend as thousands turned out for the first ever Round Ireland SailFest.
More than 15,000 people descended on the town as local businesses put on a free festival of music and fun in support of the biennial Round Ireland yacht race.
"It has been very successful despite the weather and we have had thousands of people turning out to the events. We expect the festival to generate €2m directly in the local economy over the weekend and there will be long-term benefits in terms of tourism," said festival chairman John Sinnott.
The weekend included a spectacular air display to coincide with the start of the race, live street theatre, performances by Ryan Sheridan and The American Drifters and a draw for a Volkswagen Polo.
The race itself got off to a great start at noon yesterday. Following winds meant the 3,000 spectators were treated to a colourful display as competitors unfurled their Spinnaker sails.
A total of 37 boats from around the world, ranging from 30-to-100 foot long, are participating in the race, which will take more than 400 crew members around the Irish coast. The crew of Scottish boat 'EOS' sports both the youngest and oldest competitors at 11 and 75 respectively.
Race organiser Theo Phelan said that despite a fast start, the winds were expected to die away tomorrow and the record for completing the race -- 65 hours and 48 minutes -- was likely to go unbroken.