COMPETITORS in the Ocean to City Race rowed in memory of Kerry poet and boatmaker Danny Sheehy who died in a boating accident off the coast of Spain at the weekend.
The founder of the Ocean to City Race Padraig O’Duinnin was in the boat with Mr Sheehy, but escaped unharmed.
The incident happened at the mouth of the river Minho, which delineates the border between Spain and northern Portugal.
The four crew members managed to make it to shore where emergency services aided them but Mr Sheehy was taken ill and later died.
The other members of the crew included lead singer of the Hothouse Flowers Liam Ó Maonlaí, musician Brendán Ó Beaglaíoch, and Mr Ó Duinnín.
News of the tragic accident filtered through on the same day as the Ocean to City Race was taking place in the city.
Saturday’s event, which is in its 13th year, was shrouded in shock and sadness as a number of Padraig’s family members were competing on the day.
Many rowers were also friends with accomplished boatman and poet, Danny Sheehy.
Badoreacht manager with Meitheal Mara Clare Hayden said a number of boats decided to row in memory of Danny.
Padraig, who is safe and well after the accident, alos founded the currach-making charity Meitheal Mara.
He still helps out in Meitheal Mara from time to time and was described by Ms Hayden as a joker, dreamer, adventurer and a character.
“We found out before the race, and it was very shocking on the day of the Ocean to City race, which he founded.
“News was slow to come in, there was a lot of rumour first and we didn’t know what was going on.
“There was a lot of worry, but by the time the race started, we knew Padraig was safe and the people who knew Danny were rowing in his memory.
There was a minute silence at the prize giving ceremony in honour of Danny.
“There were 35 naomhogs rowing in the race, the same boat the boys had been in,” Clare said.
“They are built for sea going and we were on rivers, but it makes you aware of the danger. It makes you think what if.”
Padraig, Danny, Breanndán Begley and Breanndán Ó Muircheartaigh were on a voyage they had started four years ago in Dublin when their boat capsized on Saturday morning.
They called it the ‘Camino of the sea’ and it was the subject of a TG4 series called ‘Camino an Tsáile.’
The trek, which was accomplished over three summers, starting from St James, Dublin and rowed to Santiago in Spain.
The four lads rowed to a point every summer, stored the boat and returned the following summer to continue their voyage on to the next destination.
This year the boatmen were continuing on their adventure to Portugal when they got into trouble.
Their adventure was being documented on a Facebook page called ‘Naomhog na Tinte.’ Back in 1992, Padraig took a naomhog to London and competed in the Great River Race among 300-500 other boats.
He won first prize.
“Padraig is an accomplished boatman, he has been rowing most of his life. He went to Kerry to learn how to make a currach then came back to Cork and set up Meitheal Mara, where people from disadvantaged backgrounds are taught the skills he learned.” “He is an engineer by trade and a Gaelgoir. The currachs for Padraig are a connection to Irish culture and the Irish language.
“It is confidence building, working on the currachs together, and there is a sense of achievement when it is finished.
Padraig also has another programme on TG4 called Muintir na Mara where he rowed around the coast of Ireland, chatting to people he met along the coast.
Speaking about the four boatmen that took on the challenge of rowing from Spain to Portugal, Clare said these were men who had been rowing all their lives and who loved adventure.
“They had a now or never attitude. They were not ones for sitting back and getting out the pipe.
‘Their way of looking at things was why not?
“They wanted to prove that age doesn’t matter.”