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.
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