August 7, 2022

New London Currach Team Hosts Regatta Today

New London Currach Rowers Maureen Plumleigh of Old Lyme and Brendan Downey of Mystic row in the one man-one woman race in the Annapolis Regatta, June 2022.

OLD LYME — Old Lyme folks are accustomed to seeing the sleek shells of the Old Lyme Rowing Association or those of the Blood Street Sculls plying the waters of Rogers Lake.

The summer of 2021 saw a different kind of boat arrive on Rogers Lake. The boats known as currachs had fewer rowers and each rower wielded two oars.

Maureen Plumleigh of Old Lyme explains that after a two-year gap forced by COVID-19, 2022 is a come-back year for currach rowing.

On Saturday, July 30, these rowers of Irish working boats — currachs — will welcome member teams from the North American Currach Association (NACA) to their annual Regatta at the Custom House Pier in New London. 

The New London-based team is a member of NACA, which currently consists of eight additional teams: Albany, N.Y., Boston, Mass., Philadelphia Pa., Pittsburgh, Pa., Annapolis, Md., Milwaukee, Wis., and Leetsdale, Pa.

The Regatta begins at noon and the schedule is as follows:

Races begin at 12 noon
1Man – 1Woman,
1 Man,
2Man -2Woman

Events conclude at approximately 4:30 p.m.

A typical race length is 1-2 miles.

Spectators may view the event free of charge from New London’s Waterfront Park.

To support this traditional Irish cultural sport, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) John P. Holland Division will host an Irish cultural booth on the Pier during the races. The public is invited and there is no charge.

The awards ceremony for the regatta will be held at Hanafin’s 40 Thieves Irish Pub in Groton; with the awards being presented at 8 p.m. Coincidentally, Bushmill’s Irish Whiskey will introduce a new line of mixed drinks fashioned after the Netflix Peaky Blinders episodes. Live music and 20’s attire are encouraged. $5.00 for the tasting.  

Presently, the New London club is captained by Old Lyme’s Plumleigh. Practice sessions are held at least once a week, including every Thursday evening, and monthly meetings are held throughout the year. Contact Plumleigh for details on learning to row via this link.

Plumleigh states, “Irish rowing is open to everyone. And there’s no need to be Irish. Those interested may simply try it out, and then decide it if suits them. It’s an activity that, when viewed, looks easy, but ‘Rowing Irish’, differs greatly from the traditional rowing in shells. We welcome those who enjoy a new challenge!”

The modified four-seat Kerry-style Namhog (canoe) is the standard boat design for racing. In January 2006, Monty O’Leary from the Maharees area of the Dingle Peninsula, County Kerry, Ireland was invited to Connecticut to build three currachs.

The design is the same as that from several thousand years ago when the boats were used for trading and servicing towns along the western and north Atlantic coast of Ireland.  Cowhide covered the grid of a wood frame, which gave way to canvas in modern times, but otherwise the design remains unchanged.

This design creates a light boat that rides like a ping-pong ball on the surface of the ocean, which was helpful when rowing in the large Atlantic swells. 


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