Wild Atlantic Challenge Craic in Kenmare

Report by Heike O’Sullivan

The Wild Atlantic Way (WAW), Ireland’s first branded and separately marketed long-distance Touring Route, stretches along the Atlantic coast from Malin Head in Donegal to Kinsale in West Cork. It covers approx. 2,500 km (c. 1,550 miles) and since its launch in 2014, the WAW has breathed new life into Atlantic coastal regions some of which had previously been considered as somewhat off the beaten track. The WAW Passport introduced by Fáilte Ireland and An Post is an inspired way of encouraging repeat visitors from home and abroad, to collect all location stamps along the Route, in the same fashion as done on the Camino de Santiago.
The WAW has also given long established tourist destinations a great boost and businesses and communities along the Atlantic are adding to the attractions of beautiful scenery and historic sites by organising popular events, enlivening the region even more. In June 2016, The Sneem Hotel’s 2nd Wild Atlantic Challenge (WAC) Cycle took participants from Sneem to Lauragh and back, via Kenmare, raising much needed funds for Breakthrough Cancer Research.
This year, Saturday the 13th May will see Kenmare’s first ever WAC Multi Craft Rowing Event taking place on a hopefully sunny summer’s day. The event is the brainchild of a four men committee, comprising of two members each of our two local Rowing Clubs: Kenmare RC and Templenoe RC. Mike Donovan, Ben van Deventer, Clive Johnston and Gerard van Deventer have put a lot of effort into organising the event and will be supported by members of both clubs in the run-up to the event and on the day itself. As we all know, every community event depends on the help of dedicated volunteers, be they marshals or clean-up crews.
The WAC Multi Craft Rowing Event will be very different from regular boat races in that an interesting mix of types of watercraft will be able to participate. “We’re looking forward to seeing a good representation of our traditional Kerry rowing boats such as the Kerry 4-Oar, the Seine Boat and the Killarney Six,” says Ben van Deventer, “but as there’s great interest from coastal rowers with a good mix of boat types, spectators can look forward to seeing One-Design boats, single and two-oar sculls, canoes and kayaks and even paddle boards.”
“The WAC Committee has invited rowing clubs from all over Ireland, the UK and Europe. Unfortunately, Continental and many UK rowing clubs would have needed longer notice to arrange their travel and won’t attend this year, but we’ve got a very enthusiastic response from lots of foreign clubs who would love to take part next year,” says Ben.
Participants will have five different routes in Kenmare Bay to choose from, all starting at Star Outdoors in Dawros and finishing at Kenmare Pier. Course 1 is the shortest at 5km and is suitable for novice rowers. Courses 2-4 are 7km, 10km and 20km respectively and are, obviously, increasingly challenging. Course 5 is the longest at 30km and will head west as far as Maiden Rock near the middle of the bay between Rossmore Island and Leaghillaun, before turning back eastwards and on to Kenmare Pier.
Whilst the launch and start location is Star Outdoors, the real WAC Kenmare hub will be at the finish line at Kenmare Pier where we can expect a real carnival atmosphere with food stalls, live music, children’s entertainment and a Viking Raft Race. Weather permitting, this will be a real Family Fun Day and locals as well as visitors to Kenmare are guaranteed a great long weekend as the actual build up and fun surrounding the Challenge is what it’s really all about. The Challenge day will come to a close with the prize giving ceremony and a yummy BBQ, and many, many aftermath stories. Some stories will be competitive, some even heroic, but many rowers will simply be celebrating to have finished their chosen Course and may even already be planning tackling a longer Course in 2018.
If you, dear Reader, will not find yourself on the waters of Kenmare Bay on Saturday the 13th May, you could do much worse than to turn out along the northern or southern shoreline of Kenmare Bay, to watch the event and cheer on the participants from one of the many publicly accessible lookout places, or clap the rowers across the finish line at Kenmare Pier towards the end of the day.
WAC Kenmare is delighted to have got the thumbs-up from Skibbereen Olympic rowing legends Gary and Paul O’Donovan and the Irish Coastal Rowing Federation. The website www.wackenmare.com has all the important information as to the Event & Safety Rules and Essential Equipment required to participate, particularly important for any water based challenge. The website will also guide you through the registration process. Registration per participant before 10th May is €35.
Proceeds of the event will benefit Kenmare and Templenoe RCs, but also the indispensible voluntary group that are Derrynane Inshore Rescue. This registered charity provides an essential emergency lifeboat service to the Kenmare Bay communities, 24/7, 365 days a year. When you see their wonderful volunteers ensuring the safety of all rowers on 13th May, give them a big wave (honestly: no pun intended!) and cheer!
For questions about the WAC Multi Craft Rowing Event please call 089 4945380 or email wackenmare@gmail.com.