Round Ireland cancelled on 40th anniversary
This year's SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race, due to start on Saturday, August 22, has been cancelled due to continuing concerns over the spread of Covid-19.
The 21st edition of the race was headed for a record turnout, with over 60 teams signed up for what would have been the Round Ireland's 40th anniversary year.
The first event hosted by Wicklow Sailing Club took place in 1980, with the 704-mile race starting and finishing off the pier head at Wicklow Harbour.
The international race was initially due to take place on June 20, but was postponed until August 22 once the Covid-19 pandemic hit Ireland. Talks between Wicklow Sailing Club and the various stake-holders, including race participants, sponsor SSE Renewables, Wicklow County Council and Irish Sailing, continued in the months leading up to the postponed date. It was considered restricting entries to Irish teams only, or restricting international crews from going ashore, but eventually it was decided that the sharp rise in global Covid-19 cases meant the event would have to be cancelled.
Kyran O'Grady, Commodore of Wicklow Sailing Club, said: 'We are bitterly disappointed at having to come to this decision. We tried to do everything we could but we just couldn't push it back any further. For a time, it seemed like we were on track to stage a successful race, albeit with significant mitigation measures that people would understand. But the global situation with the virus is precarious and while under some control in Ireland now, who knows where we might be in just a few weeks' time.
'We could easily run the race for entries from the island of Ireland only and possibly restrict visiting international teams from coming ashore before and after the race. But this runs against both the spirit of this classic race and our tradition at Wicklow Sailing Club of welcoming all competitors. Our competitors need certainty as soon as possible and our first priority must always be the safety of participants and those supporting the delivery of this sporting event.'
The next edition in 2022 of the 704-nautical mile race is unaffected at this time. Race sponsors SSE Renewables supports the decision by Wicklow Sailing Club, and will continue to sponsor the event.
Barry Kilcline, Director of Development at SSE Renewables, said: 'We have been hugely impressed at the great deal of work invested by Wicklow Sailing Club and other key national and local stakeholders to respond to the impact Covid-19 has had on this year's staging of the Round Ireland. As the most prominent international offshore sailing event staged in Ireland, the decision to have to cancel this year's event is clearly disappointing for everyone in the sailing community and in Wicklow in particular. However, clearly in the context of the pandemic the decision to cancel is also the most appropriate and necessary response. As race sponsor Wicklow Sailing Club is assured of our full support in this regard and we will work with the club as it prepares plans for the next staging in 2022.'