Colmcille Challenge and Islay’s Festival of the Sea

The Festival of the Sea will take place to accompany the 'Colmcille Rowing Challenge', a race organised by the Foyle Rowing Club in Moville, County Donegal. Rowing teams from Moville and from Islay will race from Port Ellen to Moville, a distance of 44 miles, in traditional coastal rowing boats on Saturday July 9th 2011. This is a transnational project developed with Inishowen Development Partnership of Donegal, Eire. The Columba Challenge, a coastal rowing race between Islay and Donegal is a concept brought to South Islay Development by the Foyle Rowing Club, which has a membership of over 100, own two skiffs and several traditional Foyle punts. The group had heard about the growing popularity of coastal rowing on Islay, and saw an opportunity for a twinned event.

Islay’s Lagavulin Fundraisers run a smaller rowing group based in Port Ellen, Islay. The group itself is an informal organisation who raise money for local charities. South Islay Development recognised the opportunity to expand the initial race idea into a local project to increase volunteer participation, skills training and promotion of the area by developing a Festival of the Sea. As well as the actual race, both commmunities will each hold a Festival of the Sea including regattas, awareness raising events and workshops within their respective areas. Two exchange visits are planned, one before and one after the main event, for discussion of further cooperation and links between the communities. This race will mark the links between the seafaring communities of Moville and Islay, celebrating the ancient cultural connections shared by the two regions since before the time of St Columba. To celebrate this challenge, a Festival of the Sea has been organised in Port Ellen on July 7th, 8th and 9th. This event will showcase the best of Islay's talent, hospitality, fresh seafood and skills, reconnecting the island community with its heritage of seafaring. Continue reading...

In months leading up to the Festival, Islay High School has been engaged in a boat renovation project which will be unveiled at the Festival. Argyll College has run courses on Sea Survival and VHF radio operation, and the Festival of the Sea is currently running a photography competition for pictures featuring a maritime theme.

The Festival of the Sea begins on Thursday evening, July 7th with ‘Secrets of the Deep’ exhibition in St Columba Hall, Port Ellen. Underwater artefacts and photography accompanied by material from the Museum of Islay Life will be displayed. The exhibition launch will also feature talks on Coastal Wildlife of the North Channel, and Maritime History and Stories of the Region. The Exhibition opens at 6.30pm, the Coastal Wildlife talk is at 7.30pm, and Maritime History and Stories talk will be at 8.30pm.

On Friday July 8th, Stramash Outdoor Experience Day 1: Sailing classes in Port Ellen bay for 11-16 year olds,10am-4.30pm, spectators welcome.
A Gaelic/Irish Boat Terminology discussion will be offered at the Port Ellen pontoons (or on the Green) starting at 4pm. This will be an informal session, encouraging information- sharing with our Irish visitors. Islay High School’s boat renovation will be on display from 3pm-7pm.
The day’s Regatta will feature the Moville and Islay rowing teams, and local boats under sail at 5.30pm
An evening Ceilidh will be held in a marquee on Port Ellen Green, with entertainment by local and Irish musicians from 9.30pm-1am, with a grand Fireworks display and bonfire lit at 10.45pm

Saturday July 9th brings the start of the main rowing race, the ‘Colmcille Rowing Challenge’, setting off in the early morning from Port Ellen.
Following will be Stramash Outdoor Experience Day 2: Sailing classes in Port Ellen bay for 8-10 year olds,10am -4.30pm. Seafaring continues with kayak lessons for beginners with Islay Canoe Club.
Demonstrations of safety equipment and rescue procedures will be given by the RNLI Lifeboat crew and Islay Coastguard from 12 noon onwards.
A Food Fair will showcase local produce and local chefs, who will demonstrate their skills and encourage people to sample favourite seafood recipes, from 12 noon-3pm.
Islay Pipe Band will play in Port Ellen at 1pm.
Seal spotting and fishing boat trips will be available all day.
Stalls and exhibits by local businesses, charities and organisations will be open from 12 noon-5pm.
South Islay Development will hold fundraising activities on the day; the Fishermen’s Games will include Creel Toss, Guess the Weight of the Lobster/fish, Buoy Bowling and more, from 12 noon onwards

On Saturday evening, ‘The Smuggler’s Reward’, an evening whisky tasting at 7:00pm will be followed by a traditional Islay ‘knees-up’ ceilidh/concert starting at 9:30pm. To complete the Festival of the Sea, on Sunday morning, July 10th, St John’s Church in Port Ellen will hold a Service of the Sea at 11.30am, all welcome.

Text kindly provided by Susan Campbell

Tag: festival port ellen sea rowing