A currach is a wood framed boat traditionally covered with light skins, although all modern currachs now use canvas and black oil paint. The wooden ribs used to make the boats are traditionally ash or oak. The oars are non-feathering - that is they don't widen out at the tips. This design is unique to the currach so the boat can cut through the choppy waters of the Atlantic.

Historically the currach served as both fishing vessel and general transportation along the many rivers of Ireland and in the coastal waters. Currach racing today gets it start from the fishermen who used these boats. They would collect their catch, and at the end of the day race back to the harbor. The first boats in received the best price for their catch and a sport was born.

The construction and design of the currach is unique to the western coast of Ireland, although the size and shape vary widely by region. Written records of the currach date from 100 BC. Early Gaelic accounts speak of large ocean going sailing vessels roving the North Atlantic. One of these legends concerns St. Brendan, an Irish monk during the Middle Ages. St. Brendan wrote of having made an historic voyage across the Atlantic under sail and oars in a currach.

Currachs are still used in Ireland in their traditional roles as well as in competition. To learn more about the design and construction of a currach, visit Meitheal Mara's website.

Rowing a currach is a different experience than rowing a shell or any other row boat. A currach seat is stationary. Rowers start the pull leaning forward and "snap" their upper bodies back, keeping their arms straight until the last possible moment. The form is very similar to doing a "deadlift" in the gym. Rowers sit up, push the oars forward and begin the process over again. The oars do not dig deep into the water, instead they skim just below the surface. This way, an oar won't get caught in the water when a wave hits, thus disrupting the rhythm of the rowers.

 

 
The Annapolis Irish Rowing Club started in 1982 when a team from Boston came to Annapolis and put on a demonstration for the Annapolis AOH. Impressed, the AOH provided funds for a boat. From there, the club has grown. We now have 3 boats (including our brand new boat!) The boat in these pictures is the original boat built in '82 - the Tir Na Nog.

We do our own fundraising to keep the club afloat, so to speak. We also do our own maintenance on the boats. 

This upcoming season will be our fourth back in downtown Annapolis after being on the South River for several years.

In the United States there are many rowing clubs dedicated to promoting the nautical heritage of Ireland through currach racing. The clubs have formed a league called the North American Currach Association (NACA). The following clubs are active members:

Albany, NY
Annapolis, MD
Boston, MA 
Columbus, OH
Milwaukee, WI
Pittsburgh, PA
Philadelphia, PA
New London, CT

Each club holds their own regatta. Regattas usually consist of 8-10 races, including different combinations of men and women rowers. 

After a hard day of racing, no regatta would be complete with a traditional Irish party. And we do know how to party!


©2014 Annapolis Irish Rowing Club