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Atlantic Challenge - Northern Ireland Win International Contest of Seamanship

01 August 2018



Eleven gigs from 9 countries competed hard over the past week on Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland to be crowned World Champions in this tough contest.

Crews of 13 young boys and girls handle the 38 ft wooden gigs, which are replicas of the 1796 tenders for the French invading ships. These gigs can be rowed and sailed.

The Northern Ireland crew had an outstanding week, with wins in the two Jackstay Transfer tasks, Traditional Rope work, Man Overboard and Rowing Slalom races.  They came a close second in the Navigation and Slalom 2 race.  Three Sailing races were also completed well.

Fresh winds at the beginning and end of the week ensured exciting sail racing between GB, Russia, Ireland, USA and Northern Ireland. The Oars and Sails races were especially tight between GB and Northern Ireland.

Cox, Michael Patton from Doagh, Ballyclare said “Having 11 gigs racing together is extremely exciting when rounding marks. Having to raise or lower the masts and sails, manoeuvre the oars and keep clear of the other gigs needs teamwork and skill. ” 

Team leader Katie Mc Allister was “Thrilled that Northern Ireland managed to win in Antrim on home ground and would like to thank all those who supported the crew over the past year in their training and organising of the event, including Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council, Enkalon Foundation, RP Hydraulic &Industrial Specialists, W.S. Dennison LTD, PY Developments New Homes and Antrim Boat Club.”

Dame Mary Peters, patron of Atlantic Challenge Northern Ireland sent congratulations to the team on winning the World Championships.

 The gigs are designed to encourage confidence, knowledge and skills in young people and develop teamwork and respect for others. The International Contest is held every 2 years in different countries to help the understanding of a variety of cultures. The young people live, compete and socialise together for 10 days.

Charlie Mc Allister organiser of this year’s event said, “Having won the International Contest for the first time in Bantry in 2012, it was a dream of mine to bring this contest to Antrim. Hosting the 200 young people and their supporters here is just wonderful. The final Rowing race was tremendous. Seeing 11 crews rowing a straight 2 miles towards the shore on Lough Neagh was a dream come true. It takes training to get the girls and boys working well on the oars, but in this race the Northern Ireland crew certainly gave it their all.”

The current Northern Ireland gig Cwch John Kerr, is named after the Welsh boat builder who brought the organisation to the United Kingdom and local man Alistair Begg decided this was such a great opportunity for young people, that he set about building the first NI gig, Harmonie.

The final results of the contest showed Northern Ireland clear winners, 2nd GB, 3rd Russia 1, 4th Ireland, Followed by Russia 2, Belgium 1, USA, France, Quebec, Denmark and Belgium 2. 

The next contest will be held in St Petersburg, Russia and then in Maine USA.  Northern Ireland will be hoping for lots of new crew to defend their title.