A SERIES of boat races with craft native to and inspired by the river Shannon will take place in the city this weekend.
The Ilen School Gandelow Races take place this Saturday and will feature the CityOne dinghies, a new boat custom-built and performance designed in Limerick, specifically for the conditions of the river in the city.
The City of Culture backed project, run by the Ilen School based in Roxboro, promises an event boasting “dynamic and highly competitive river rowing and sailing”.
Gary McMahon of the Ilen School, explains that the event is a “new racing concept on the river”.
“The gandelows are a piece of synonymous Limerick architecture, a beautiful piece of architecture. And so are the CityOnes, they are unique to Limerick,” he explained.
“They were designed for sailing between the bridges in Limerick. We have the highest range of tides in the country - which a lot of people might not know - and also very strong currents, and these boats are designed to perform within those challenging conditions.”
The CityOne design emanated from the Ilen School, based in the LEDP, which sees about 50 people pass through its doors every week.
Backed by City of Culture, the school took four new 23ft gandelows to Venice in April for the races on Canale Della Fondament.
“Venice was extraordinary - we got a great welcome and there is some connection between the boats and the local Venetian boats, not the gondolas, but the local workboats,” said Gary.
“There are huge similarities. The local people thought our gandelows were local boats. In some of the canals we found boats that were so similar to the gandelows that it was quite a revelation.”
The organisers of this Saturday’s races, which start at 1.30pm from Howley’s Quay for about three hours of consecutive racing, will help to reconnect Limerick to the river.
“Yes, in an authentic way, where you build boats that are for the river, rather than putting infrastructure in to suit boats that don’t suit the river in Limerick, the particular conditions,” said Gary.
Teams from Clare and Limerick will race the gandelows, while teams from NUIG, NUI and the local sailing clubs will man the CityOne dinghies.
See www.ilen.ie for more.