Competitive sailing in the West of Ireland received a huge boost recently with the launch of Sail Team Ireland West. Ireland West Tourism and Ireland West Airport Knock have joined forces in sponsoring an entry in the 2006 BMW Round Ireland Race, Ireland’s premier offshore yacht race. This year over seventy boats, in three classes, will be at the start in Wicklow on July 1st and will race day and night to complete the biannual 720-mile course in three to five days depending on conditions.
Aodhán Fitzgerald, winner of the 2004 Round Ireland two-handed class with Yannick Lemonnier, heads the twelve strong Team Ireland West, drawn from the membership of Galway Bay Sailing Club. They will be sailing a race-optimised Beneteau 40.7 yacht, chartered specially for the event, under the name "irelandwest.ie". Well known Galway sailor Barry Heskin will be watch leader, while Galway man Noel Butler, a former Laser 2 World Champion and helm of the winning boat in Class 1 at the UK`s Cowes week last year, will be principal helmsman. The crew will consist of Mark Kilroy, Daithi De Forge, Seamas Moneley, Tommy Smyth, Martin Breen, Eoghan McGregor, Phillip McCafferty, Nigel Moss and Larry Hynes. Preparations have already began in earnest and the team will be taking part in the Kinsale - Fastnet race in mid-June as a warm up for the Round Ireland.
Liam Scollan, Managing Director, Ireland West Airport Knock said: “We are very pleased that our airport is associated with a team representing the West in this premier sailing event. As the fastest growing, and best regional airport award winner in Ireland, we similarly wish that Sail Team West succeeds in collecting the top award and being the fastest in Class. Just as the team from nearby Knock Village and elsewhere in the West triumphed marvelously in both the North East and North West Passage Expeditions, so too do Sail Team West embody the spirit of adventure which the airport is pleased to be associated with. Although we’re not normally in the business of promoting travel by sea, we’re big fans of sailing and we wish Sail Team West the very best of luck in their Round Ireland challenge and hope its ‘plane’ sailing for all concerned!”
Ireland West Tourism is the official Regional Tourism Authority for Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. The organisation is the principal contact for all individuals, organisations and authorities involved in tourism at local and regional level. Speaking at the launch CEO John Concannon said: "Ireland’s Atlantic coast is part of what makes Ireland’s West unique and it is an integral part of the challenge of the round Ireland race. We at Ireland West Tourism are delighted to be associated with the team."