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The West’s Awake Rally
by Daria Blackwell

In mid-June, as the fears of Covid transmission began to subside, the f rst ever ICC rally along the West coast of Mayo and Galway, took shape.  Beginning in the shadow of Croagh Patrick on Clew Bay, yachts descended on Mayo Sailing Club for the inaugural dinner.

The conditions proved challenging, with contrary winds, damaged yachts, and viral incapacitation causing most to retire, but fi ve intrepid crews and one land yacht descended on Rosmoney near Westport, seeking adventure. Joining us was also an OCC vessel, Swiss-fl agged Gaia, transiting from Iceland to mainland Europe. The dinner at Mayo Sailing Club (MSC) was an exceptional six-course tasting menu, with more ICC members and friends joining by land.

From there, the crews sailed a leisurely course to Clare Island, some 20nm out in the mouth of Clew Bay. That night we took advantage of a new pizza maker near the harbour and organised a hilarious pizza party aboard Aleria. It was good to laugh so hard for the first time in a long time.

We were joined in Clare Island by our Vice Commodore’s Ballyclaire, who’d had a boisterous passage from the North.  On Clare Island, we enjoyed a BBQ lunch at The Sailors’ Bar, followed by a talk about the history of Clare Island and a visit to the Abbey where the legendary Pirate Queen, Grace O’Malley, is reputed to be buried.

The following day was a lay day, and a few of us decided to sail to Inishturk, an island of very little tourism.  We all spent the day walking the beautiful unspoilt island. By the end of the day, the rest of our ‘fleet’ had arrived and a grand impromptu dinner was put on in the Community Centre high aloft the hills with stunning views over Connemara.

The next stop was Inishbofin, and as the fleet assembled, the weather began to turn. It held until the dinner was done at Murray’s Doonmore Hotel.  It was St John’s night and the hills surrounding the harbour were dotted  with bonfires. By mid-day the day after, the rain was lashing the fleet as the wind whipped up the waters in the anchorage.  For three days, we were pinned on our boats by near gale force  conditions; precisely why the rally was organised as a two-week cruise with many lay days. We sadly had to cancel the Commodore’s raft-up in Gorteen and the dinner in Kilkieran in Galway Bay.  But there was one more stop and our intrepid crews were determined to get there.  We all made it to Inishmore in the Aran Islands.  Some crews took advantage of the side trip to Inisheer.  Afterwards, we were treated to a get together on the Commodore’s jolly yacht ReeSpray.     A group braved the elements again for a wet and blustery tour of the island and a walk up to the promontory fort Dun Aengus before the closing dinner at the Aran Islands Hotel, for which several other members and friends joined us.

Many thanks to Ray O’Toole and Alex Blackwell for organising the rally and for managing the ever changeable contingent of members taking part. It was
not easy, but it will remain very memorable.