Thursday 20 June 2019

Fermoy Rowing Club pull the plug on popular annual Regatta

Committee had 'no option' but to cancel event for first time in its 80-year history

Picture showing how low the level of water is at exactly the spot on Ashe Quay where Fermoy Rowing Club placed its pontoon for last year’s regatta
Picture showing how low the level of water is at exactly the spot on Ashe Quay where Fermoy Rowing Club placed its pontoon for last year’s regatta

Bill Browne

The secretary of Fermoy Rowing Club, Paul Kavanagh, has said they have been left with "no option" but to officially cancel their annual regatta for the first time in its 80-year history due to what he said were "a number of factors involved in creating a safe course for competitors".

The event, which was due to have taken place on Sunday, June 30, is widely regarded as one of the most important of its kind in the country, attracting hundreds of competitors from across Ireland. It is also worth 10s of thousands of Euros to the local economy 

The well-documented issues with the Fermoy Weir have meant that the event has been under threat for the past couple of years, with low water levels rendering water sports such as rowing and swimming virtually impossible. 

After much speculation surrounding this year's Regatta, Mr Kavanagh confirmed this week that the Fermoy Rowing Club committee had reluctantly had to cancel the event for the first time in its 80-years history. 

"Every avenue has been, exhaustively and painstakingly explored over the last six-months to find a solution to temporarily repair the damage to the breaches in the weir that are causing the lowest water levels on the regatta course in living memory," said Mr Kavanagh. 

He pointed to a photograph (attached) showing the "unprecedented" water levels at the spot where a pontoon was located at last year's regatta for crews launching their boats into the river. 

"We can barely get one of our boats onto the river for training by building a single pontoon out of our existing three and extending them out into the middle of the river. Even then, we have to stay in the centre channel of the Barnane stretch and can safety go no further than 800 metres for the boathouse," said Mr Kavanagh. 

He said that with water levels predicted to fall even further during June, the regatta committee was left with no option but to cancel the Rowing Ireland allocated fixture "having exhausted all proposed solutions" with Cork County Council, which owns the Weir. 

"It's a very sad day for rowing and for Fermoy. But, the safety of visiting oarspeople and our own was paramount in making this decision," said Mr Kavanagh. 

However, he did hold out one glimmer of hope saying that the rowing club would continue to monitor water levels over the summer with a view to revisiting their decision. 

"If any temporary solution can be agreed between Cork County Council, Inland Fisheries, the Office of Public Works and all other government bodies that are not allowing a temporary repair (to the Weir), then we can reconsider hosting a safe regatta," said Mr Kavanagh. 

He said that, in the meantime, the Rowing Club would continue to petition all relevant Government Ministers, Oireachtas members, MEP's and County Councillors in an effort to fined what he described as a "common sense" solution to the Fermoy Weir issue. 

"It is ironic that those Government agencies commissioned to be the protectors of our heritage are now allowing this protected structure to be washed away and, in turn, have virtually killed all water activities (along the Blackwater in Fermoy) and threatened the very existence of Fermoy Rowing Club," he concluded.