Saints survive a rough night

Both St Michael's Dun Laoghaire skiffs finished the annual 90-mile Arklow to Aberystwyth Celtic Challenge -- the only traditional wooden boats to make the crossing. All the other boats were lightweight fibreglass Celtic longboats powered by carbon fibre oars.

Winner of the race, held every two years, was Aberdyfi Rowing Club who came into Aberystwyth harbour at 6am in the morning after taking just 14 hours 47 minutes 50 seconds to make the crossing.

Just over an hour behind for second place was Arklow Rowing Club in 15:54.10, while third was Aberystwyth in 16:24.10. All three were part of an elite group of crews which set off from Arklow at 4pm -- two hours later than the main group. They all faced a long evening and night of rowing.

For a second time, Arklow was first of the women's crews, finishing a magnificent seventh overall in 18:48.35. Courtown Rowing Club from Co Wexford finished ninth.

First of the two St Michael's Dun Laoghaire boats was the 'St Michael', which finished 12th in 19:59.30. The 'Eileen' wasn't too far behind in 20:21:05, with several boats finishing around this time.


A total of 17 boats completed the crossing with only one drop-out.

For the first third of the crossing, rough seas and big swells caused sporadic bouts of sea-sickness. As the seas calmed down, the Dun Laoghaire crews picked up time, finishing strongly.

The Celtic Challenge is the world's longest true rowing race. Each boat is about 24 feet (8m) long and has four fixed seats and one cox.

Crews consist of 12 people who take it in turns to row, spending the time in between on a support boat.

A small inflatable is generally used to transfer people between the support boat and the rowing boat. How and when to swap rowers is a critical part of every crew's tactics. Some like to row for an hour at a time, while others prefer two hours.

Arklow has traditionally been the strongest of the Irish clubs who take on the Celtic Challenge, but other clubs are catching up. The next Celtic Challenge is in 2012.

In the meantime, the annual summer open sea regatta season starts at the end of the month.