Celtic Challenge Rowing Race
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The Celtic Challenge Rowing Race is a 96 mile (150 km) rowing race from Arklow in Ireland to Aberystwyth in Wales. It is a biennial event which usually takes place on the first Saturday in May. Crews from Wales, Ireland, England and as far afield as Germany compete.
The race is open to all 4-oared boats with a cox. No sliding seats or out-riggers are accepted. Normal class entries are Celtic Longboat, Pembrokeshire longboat, Irish East Coast skiff, Irish All Ireland class boat and a variety of Thames skiffs. Each crew consists of 12 people, therefore crew changeover strategies are a must. There is a Senior Men's category along with Senior Ladies, Veteran, Mixed and Miscellaneous categories.
The Celtic Challenge on 4 May 2002 had favourable weather conditions. The overall challenge that year went to the senior men's crew from Arklow Rowing Club, who beat off the Challenge holders, Aberystwyth senior men, who, after 90 miles and 14 hours and 46 mins, were 47 seconds behind the Arklow men.
In 1989 a crew from Aberystwyth Lifeboat rowed from Arklow to Aberystwyth to raise money for the Bronglais Hospital Scanner Appeal, raising a sum of approximately £4000, taking well over 22 hours to complete the course. In 1991 the Lifeboat crew did another sponsored row from Arklow to Aberystwyth raising money towards the new Lifeboat Station at Aberystwyth. It was from these two sponsored crossings from Arklow that the idea for Celtic Challenge was conceived. In 1993 the first Celtic Challenge Rowing race took place starting from Arklow and ending in Aberystwyth and since then the challenge has taken place in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2002, 2006 and 2008. The 2001 event was cancelled due to foot and mouth and in 2002 14 crews took part. The 2004 challenge was cancelled due to bad weather. 2006 had 17 entries.
A documentary of the 2008 Celtic Challenge, called 'Crossing the Irish' was completed by Rob Garwood in 2009.
The 2012 Celtic Challenge began at 4:00pm on Saturday, May 5th 2012. Conditions were rough throughout the first night and of the 23 crews who entered the event, only 12 completed the crossing, with several teams being forced to retire from the race. The majority of the withdrawals were due to multiple sea sicknesses, whilst other crews pulled out due to issues with support boats, one case of a lost tiller and one punctured RIB (Rigid-hulled inflatable boat). The first team to cross the finish line in Aberystwyth were the Aberdyfi men's team, with a time of 17 hours, 50 minutes and 4 seconds. The first Mixed team to finish were Foyle RC of Moville, Co. Donegal, Ireland. The first (and indeed, only) ladies' team to complete the challenge were Arklow Ladies. Despite the harsh sea and wind conditions, an all novice crew from Shropshire successfully completed the crossing in just shy of 26 hours. General consensus amongst the Welsh and Irish sea rowing community was that the 2012 Celtic Challenge was the most difficult so far, with a member of the winning team from Aberdyfi describing the experience as "like rowing uphill through concrete".