The Boats


Oars and Sails Maine 2002.jpg

Irish involvement began in 1987 when Hal Sisk, curator of the Irish Maritime museum was asked to form a crew to participate in 1988 Atlantic Challenge. Appropriately enough, he contacted Bantry Rowing club who took a crew made up of rowing club and sailing club members to Douarnenez in France and competed using a borrowed boat.
In 1990, with the help of Bantry armada centre, the group had a boat built by Billy O Driscoll in Baltimore. This boat, Unite, has represented Ireland at Atlantic Challenges in Denmark, Canada, France, USA, Wales and Italy . Unite and her crew have won the Challenge on four occasions.
The organizing committee for ACIRL are based in Bantry.


Atlantic Challenge South East(ACSE) ,based in Waterford was founded in 2004 as part of an INTERREG IIIA project between the South east of Ireland and Pembrook in Wales. An Seabhac Mara was launched in May 2005 in time for the Tall ships event in Waterford. ACSE have travelled all over Ireland to different events including Baltimore Wooden Boat festival, the Ocean to City Race and to Antrim. The crew have also travelled to Wales for different events and took part in the Atlantic Challenge in 2006 in Genoa.


Atlantic Challenge Cuan Chorcai(ACCC) is in it’s infancy at the moment and is currently building its own Bantry Bay longboat. The newest members of Atlantic Challenge Ireland, this group is closely associated with Meitheal Mara in Cork who are well known in the world of Currach and Naomhog building, along with organising the famous Ocean to City race. To date they have been visiting Bantry and Waterford to gain experience in the longboats and are planning to launch the Cork based boat in the spring of 2008.


Surite, the Dublin gig was built in 1995 in Ringsend ,Dublin, as part of a youth programme(expand) was the second replica built in Ireland and competed in the Atlantic Challenge in Bantry in 1996 as the International team with crew from Dublin , Poland , and Mexico. For a number of years the boat was not used and fell in to disrepair but is now being used by the sea Scouts in Malahide. At present she is lying in Waterford being repaired and hopefully will be returned to Dublin in the spring of 2008.

The Event

In even years crews travel to the Atlantic challenge and in odd years local friendly competitions are held in neighboring countries. Training of crews in maritime skills , rowing, sailing, navigation and ropework are carried out for months prior to contests and every crew member must be proficient in all of these.


The minimum crew at any time is 13.Twelve consisting of ten rowers, four to be of the same gender, two “nageurs” or bowmen, half to be under 21. The thirteenth is the cox, who may be any age or gender.


Original Bow collins barracks.JPG

In December 1796 a French Armada of 48 ships and 13,000 troops under the command of General Hoche and direction of Wolfe Tone, failed to land in Bantry due to adverse weather conditions. Most of the Fleet returned to France but a ships longboat and her crew were washed ashore on Bere Island. They were quickly apprehended by yeomanry loyal to the crown, and under the command of Richard White of Bantry House who later received an earldom for services to the crown.
The ‘Bantry Bay Longboat’ as she is now known, was brought to the boathouse at Bantry House, where she lay for 150 years. In 1944 she was presented to the National Museum of Ireland and was subsequently transferred to the Maritime Museum in 1974.

Original in Bantry circa 1944.JPGOriginal port side collins barracks.JPG

The original longboat, the oldest surviving vessel in the French Navy, is now on exhibit in Collins Barracks museum, Dublin, where Wolfe Tone himself was once imprisoned.
The lines used by Atlantic Challenge International to replicate these vessels were taken from the original gig.