Friday 19 January 2018

Weather fails to knock wind out of race revellers' sails

Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

AND after the euphoric party of a lifetime? Well, a hangover of sorts was only to be expected.

As Galway blearily struggled to open its eyes after a night-long session that will go down in the annals of history, exhausted merrymakers and sailors took one look out the window at the steady soft curtain of rain and thanked the weather gods for a decent excuse to pull the covers up once again.

Having spent the last year building the festival and international Expo around the arrival of the Volvo Ocean Race fleet, planning the hooley to beat all hooleys and pulling it off in spectacular style -- with more to come -- Galway was entitled to take a moment and breathe.

The rather less positive spin on things is that the Mediterranean balminess that had made the 2009 stopover of the Volvo fleet such a dazzling success failed to materialise this time round.

This wasn't quite what the Go Ireland website had in mind when they called this event "a water lover's paradise."

"Do you get this much?" a polite New Zealander asked the man at the coffee stall yesterday, as he desperately struggled to brush the torrent off his insufficiently waterproof jacket.

"Yes," the man simply replied, handing him the steaming beverage. No more elaboration was necessary.

But at least he was selling hot coffee.

The poor purveyor of candy floss had had to abandon his stall in despair and, down at Eyre Square, funfair attendants sat listlessly in the otherwise empty spinning tea-cups.

Electric

Things had looked very different a mere 12 hours previously when Galway had given the triumphant 'Olympians of ocean sailing' an electric welcome in the wee hours of the morning.

The party was already in full swing. The music was pumping, strobe lights etched a starry stencil on the night sky, tens of thousands had lined the city coastline and docks.

And the craic was pretty mighty. No less than 17 lads had nimbly hoisted themselves up onto a digger to get a better view out to sea.

Two girls in treacherously high heels were simultaneously trying to pick one another up and an elderly woman was tucking into an ice-cream cone in the enjoyable knowledge that it was 2.30am.

The arrival of each of the race winners triggered the lighting of red flares which lit up the docks eerily and 'Highway to Hell' was blaring out.

Far from being over, the party was just cranking up another notch.

Much to the relief of event organisers, the rain ceased at about 5pm, just in time for the second leg of the festivities, which kicked off last night with an official welcome by President Michael D Higgins with his wife Sabrina on the main stage in the Race Village before he introduced another great Galway institution, The Saw Doctors.

Today, the President will do a walkabout of the Race Village and Docks area, joining the race skippers alongside their boats for photos and interviews.

Organisers have taken the precaution of making alternative arrangements "subject to weather".

Just in case.

Irish Independent

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