For details about the Rowing program at Barmouth please look at our Bulletin Board. For those interested in the History of the sport please read on.
The Celtic Longboat is a 4 person coxed rowing
boat used for racing, training and recreation. Racing this type of boat has a
long and interesting history on the West Wales coast.
Since the 1970's local
coastal villages have put up teams to compete for what has often been relatively
large cash prizes in the traditional 'pulling races'. The longboats started in
1978 when Tom Sutton, working on Ramsey Island, St Davids found the remnants of
an Irish Curragh (wooden frame, tarred-skinned rowing boat) washed up. With
friends Des Harries and Robin Pratt, he decided to re-skin the boat and enter it
in the local Solva Traditional Boat Rowing Race, for prize money of about £200 -
and came second. They thought that if they made the same shape in fibreglass it
would be even faster. Des, the carpenter, carved a plug out of a solid piece of
timber, to similar dimensions, and cast a mould from which they made the first
In 1979 - they entered the Solva race again and won easily
but were told not to come back as fibreglass boats were not wanted in that race.
Soon interest in the new boat was growing - they made a couple more for locals
and held races around Ramsey Island (a race considered too dangerous now!). From
this developed the Pembrokeshire Longboat League.
The original mould was
sold to Dai in Cardigan in the early 80's who went on to produced over 30
Pembrokeshire Longboats using the 'Old Mould' and later, when the old mould
'died', the 'New Mould' which was taken off one of the best of the old mould
boats. The sport continued to develop in fits and starts with the interest
spreading from Pembrokeshire to Cardigan where Dai was based. The Welsh Longboat
League Cymru was formed to try and standardise the boats, rules etc. and bring
together the boats from both areas. At this time every boat varied in weight and
finish as Dai would often sell a bare hull for the buyer to finish themselves,
giving the lighter boats an unfair advantage with many of the top boats being
'cut' to make them narrower and faster. These boats raced around the potentially
treacherous coastline of West Wales and even race across the Irish Sea and are
still some of the fastest at 'the Great River Race' in London.
In 1996 it
was decided to approach Sportlot for a grant for a new mould so that at last all
the boats could be standardised. This developed into a full blown bid for over
£100,000 to finance the mould, 18 new longboats and a junior training boat.
Several companies were approached to submit proposals to design and build a the
new boat, the brief was simple, the boat should be faster than the best of the
existing boats, and at least as sea worthy and all should be identical.
much deliberation and debate Dale Sailing from Neyland were selected as the new
builder in 1999 and to date the over 22 boats have been built (4 of which have
gone to Dubai) with over another 12 on order. The new boats have caused a
resurgence of interest in racing as now everybody will be able to compete on
level terms in the new one design Celtic Longboat.