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Ireland's World-girdling Saoirse Is Re-born - All Welcome At Thursday's Skibbereen Launching Of Photo-Book Of The Magical Process

18th April 2023
Kevin O'Farrell's new book's cover shows Liam Hegarty and his team as the re-born Saoirse emerges from
Kevin O'Farrell's new book's cover shows Liam Hegarty and his team as the re-born Saoirse emerges from "The Sacred Shed" Credit: Kevin O'Farrell

Anyone who doesn't respond at several emotional levels to the atmosphere in an ancient boat-building shed when a traditional wooden boat is being re-created in the time-honoured style can only be soul-dead. And when the boat in question is Conor O'Brien's 1922-built 42ft Cape Horn-pioneering ketch Saoirse, with the re-birth happening for owner Fred Kinmonth in Liam Hegarty's enchanted space in The Old Grain Store (aka The Top Shed) at Oldcourt near Baltimore, then the enchantment is total.

Inevitably, the sacred mood in the shed begins to evaporates as soon as the boat leaves her sheltered place of birth to be readied for
launching. But fortunately the entire process of building Saoirse has been recorded by West Cork photographer Kevin O'Farrell, who hung on until he could get the first photos of the 2022 Saoirse sailing for the very first time in February this year, and then he set to on completing the production of the evocative photobook of the entire process.

It's a real come-all-ye launching in the West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen at 7.0pm this Thursday, April 20th. Everyone of goodwill is welcome, and the book-launching honours are being performed by Cormac Levis, the guru and conscience of the traditional boat movement in West Cork. This will be a uniquely West Cork occasion which will offer an early opportunity to savour the spirit of what is going to be a very special and unrepeatable year for all Conor O'Brien and Saoirse enthusiasts.

 The spirit of the re-born Saoirse is captured in this February 2023 Kevin O'Farrell photo taken off Baltimore. Photo: Kevin O'Farrell The spirit of the re-born Saoirse is captured in this February 2023 Kevin O'Farrell photo taken off Baltimore. Photo: Kevin O'Farrell

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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About Conor O'Brien, Irish Circumnavigator

In 1923-25, Conor O'Brien became the first amateur skipper to circle the world south of the Great Capes. O'Brien's boat Saoirse was reputedly the first small boat (42-foot, 13 metres long) to sail around the world since Joshua Slocum completed his voyage in the 'Spray' during 1895 to 1898. It is a journey that O' Brien documented in his book Across Three Oceans. O'Brien's voyage began and ended at the Port of Foynes, County Limerick, Ireland, where he lived.

Saoirse, under O'Brien's command and with three crew, was the first yacht to circumnavigate the world by way of the three great capes: Cape Horn, Cape of Good Hope and Cape Leeuwin; and was the first boat flying the Irish tri-colour to enter many of the world's ports and harbours. He ran down his easting in the Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties between the years 1923 to 1925.

Up until O'Brien's circumnavigation, this route was the preserve of square-rigged grain ships taking part in the grain race from Australia to England via Cape Horn (also known as the clipper route).

At a Glance - Conor O'Brien's Circumnavigation 

In June 1923, Limerick man Conor O’Brien set off on his yacht, the Saoirse — named after the then newly created Irish Free State — on the two-year voyage from Dun Laoghaire Harbour that was to make him the first Irish amateur to sail around the world.

June 1923 - Saoirse’s arrival in Madeira after her maiden passage out from Dublin Bay

2nd December 1924 - Saoirse crossed the longitude of Cape Horn

June 20th 1925 - O’Brien’s return to Dun Laoghaire Harbour

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