by Rebecca Evans 28 Jul 09:11 UTC SSE Renewables sponsor the Round Ireland Yacht Race © Line Up Sports Tweet
The sharp rise in global Covid-19 cases has forced Wicklow Sailing Club to cancel this year’s SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race, due to start on Saturday 22nd August. The next staging of the blue ribband sailing event will now take place in June 2022.
As early as March of this year, the 21st edition of the race was headed for a record turnout in excess of 60 teams in what would have been the Round Ireland’s 40th Anniversary year.
Following the introduction of initial Covid-19 lockdown restrictions the original start date of June 2020 was postponed to 22nd August to allow time for virus counter-measures to take effect. Even with Covid restrictions in place, entry numbers for this year’s rescheduled race from Irish and international competitors held around the 50-boat mark.
In the months since the postponement, Wicklow Sailing Club has been consulting diligently with various stake-holders including race participants, sponsor SSE Renewables, Wicklow County Council and Irish Sailing among others to agree a range of mitigation measures onshore and offshore to allow the race event to proceed safely while adhering to Covid-19 guidelines.
However, despite these mitigations, Wicklow Sailing Club has taken the decision to cancel this year’s SSE Renewables Round Ireland Race in the best interests of participants and volunteer support crews, and in response to concerns around the recent sharp rise in global Covid-19 cases.
The next edition in 2022 of the 704-nautical mile race that has been dubbed “the Kilimanjaro of Sailing” is unaffected at this time.
“For a time, it seemed like we were on track to stage a successful race albeit with significant mitigation measures that people would understand,” commented Kyran O’Grady, Commodore of Wicklow Sailing Club. “But the global situation with the virus is precarious and while under some control in Ireland now, who knows where we might be in just a few weeks’ time.
“We could easily run the race for entries from the island of Ireland only and possibly restrict visiting international teams from coming ashore before and after the race. But this runs against both the spirit of this classic race and our tradition at Wicklow Sailing Club of welcoming all competitors. Our competitors need certainty as soon as possible and our first priority must always be the safety of participants and those supporting the delivery of this sporting event.”
Race title sponsor SSE Renewables has expressed its support for the decision by Wicklow Sailing Club. Barry Kilcline, Director of Development at SSE Renewables, said: “We have been hugely impressed at the great deal of work invested by Wicklow Sailing Club and other key national and local stakeholders to respond to the impact Covid-19 has had on this year’s staging of the Round Ireland. As the most prominent international offshore sailing event staged in Ireland, the decision to have to cancel this year’s event is clearly disappointing for everyone in the sailing community and in Wicklow in particular.”
“However, clearly in the context of the pandemic the decision to cancel is also the most appropriate and necessary response. As race sponsor Wicklow Sailing Club is assured of our full support in this regard and we will work with the club as it prepares plans for the next staging in 2022.”
Further information about Round Ireland 2022 will be issued in the coming weeks.