The Shannon Boat Rally is a coming together of both the Athlone Branch and the Carrick Branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI). It is the most prestigious and well-attended boating event on Ireland’s inland waterways. The main objective is to bring boaters of all types together to participate in a nine day long fun event for families and friends on the river.
From its origins in 1961, the rally has grown in popularity every year attracting up to hundred boats annually crewed by over four hundred adults, teenagers and children who participate in sports, games, water and boating competitions, quizzes, talent and music events while improving their boating skills and safety practices on our waterways. The spirit of the rally is to bring boaters of all experiences together to share in a common purpose to enjoy the waterways, to share boating know-how and improve ones boating skills. The rally has attracted many boaters to our inland waterways and promoted development of facilities along the navigation as well as bringing a great dynamic and valuable business to the towns and villages along the river and lakes. The rally also encourages responsible use of the waterways for the benefit of all waterway users and has a strong educational and safety theme throughout.
The whole rally revolves around a number of main or “starred” competitions that participants and the crews compete in all week. These 7 competitions are: Man overboard, Navigation, Mooring, Rescue of a cruiser, Boat Inspection, First Mate and Timed reliability. The Premier Award, is awarded to the overall winner of the 7 starred competitions, a kind of boating heptathlon. There are also class awards for Open Boats, for Motor Cruisers under 30ft, for Motor Cruisers over 30ft, for Sailing Cruisers and for Barges. There are environmental, newcomer, canal visitor, merit awards and an award for those who exemplify the rally spirit. These competitions are hotly contested year on year culminating in an annual award dinner where the coveted Premier Award and a range of over twelve trophies are presented. Many of these competitions originated in the first rally with some new additions, for example rescue of a cruiser was introduced in 1965. There are a range of ancillary competitions which crews can take part in throughout the week such as ladies boat handling which was first run in 1969. It was not until 2008 that Men’s Boat Handling was introduced. Other competitions include the young mariner where ralliers of the future compete and are awarded with a merit certificate, sailing dingy races, crewmanship, line heaving, VHF and lots of fun competitions such as the talent, fancy dress, and the much loved commando event involving all the family.
The first rally was launched in 1961 at a civic reception in the Royal Hoey Hotel and over 71 boats participated that year. The Boats travelled from Athlone to Jamestown and on to Carrick on Shannon. The aim of the original organisers of the event was to preserve the navigation and to set an example in the safe use of the waterways through organised competitions and fun events. To mark its 25th year the Rally committee published in 1985 a book called The Silver River which documents in detail the early years of the boating event. In its 55 year history over two thousand five hundred boats and ten thousand people have participated in the boat rally.
Cruising in company (CiC) is always a popular activity. CiC’s are organised every long weekend of the boating season, and are generally attended by about 30 boats. A commodore volunteers to organise the CiC, and it is his / her job to make the itinerary with the help of other members of their own choice.
A typical CiC will involve picking a destination with overnight stops en route. This begins on Friday evening with the fleet gathering locally, where you can look forward to an evening of casual mingling and company. The Commodore will generally give a briefing on Saturday morning before casting off the ropes to set course for the next stop, where a day and evening of entertainment is laid on by the commodore, including the very popular cheese and wine! Sunday generally takes us to our destination, with another day and evening of entertainment and relaxation. CiC’s visit destinations that are within a day’s cruising, so Monday is spent on the homeward journey
Activities to be enjoyed on a CiC can be anything from historical tours, lawn games, communal barbeques on the quay wall, RIB runs, or a meal and music in a local bar or restaurant. We have many musicians within the branch that are always keen to entertain!