The History of Roundstone Regatta

Three local Roundstone men in a Currach

Three local Roundstone men in a Currach

The Roundstone Regatta is a 200 year old festival featuring the Galway Hooker and the Currach. The Galway Hooker is the triple red sailed larger boat. The Currachs are smaller rowing boats which can be taken onshore and don’t need to be anchored. Both are suited to the rough weather of the Irish tides and both have peculiar shapes with deep hulls. Nobody knows who originally designed the Galway Hookers peculiar seagull shape with the front part longer and full for the purpose of carriage and thinning out at the back with three large sails and curvaceous¬† look.

Connacht Tribune 1963 & 1964

Connacht Tribune 1963 & 1964

It wasn’t that long ago that the Galway Hooker was the main source of travel between the islands and thus important for communication and trade. Today, the Hooker is more a recreational boat, noted for its splendid graceful presence that resembles a bird and enlightens the environment that surrounds it.

Roundstone Harbour was originally built with sand that was taken from Inislacken island to the inlet of Roundstone in a Pucan boat, which is a small hooker. The sand was then shovelled off the boat and put onto the harbour.

Poem By Dick Toole

Poem By Dick Toole

One day whilst bringing sand from Inislacken to Roundstone, people started racing each other. Alexander Nimmo who was the chief engineer at that time, witnessed the people racing and decided to hold races in Roundstone, and the Roundstone Regatta was born. The Regatta is part of an all Ireland wide series, where winners of the Currach races are titled the all Ireland crown. Such as its historical prestige, the winners will long be remembered. There is even a world series event held each year in New Orleans at a Celtic festival.  Anyone is invited to challenge the winners of the all Ireland.

The Galway Hooker is a traditional part of Irish culture. It was an integral part of the Irish economic system and daily life, trading between the islands was done by these boats as well as fishing. It was once said in the famine times in the 1840s by John Bailey that “If you owned a hooker you would be classified as a millionaire”.

Roundstone Quay

Roundstone Quay

The Currach was once made of canvas. A local man who was rowing back from Roundstone to Inishnee, after having a pint in Roundstone, ran into difficulties. A limpet tore the canvas and water came flowing
into the Currach and he almost sank. He said “I will have a Currach in a week that will take more than a limpet to put a hole in it” and the timber Roundstone Currach was born. Soon after all Currachs were made of timber, although parts of Connemara still use the canvas version which is also used for the regattas because its lightweight. Boats are a natural and vital part of Roundstone and the Regatta is a celebration of this.