A look at the 80-year-old 'river' class yachts that are part of a long sailing tradition on Strangford Lough and the cut and thrust of summer racing on Strangford Lough.
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Some people have got a stressful job
and they go out for the race to get rid of that tension
that they might have had.
I think when I race, I get tension!
You're not just racing against other competitors.
You're racing against elements.
It gives me a thrill. Bit like a fix!
When you're sailing well, things are humming,
it just feels like the wee boat's on wheels at times.
My father worked on boats throughout the country
and around the Lough in different areas of the Lough
and, indeed, down here.
The boatyard was founded here in the early '30s,
and when we were born into it,
it was a great playground for us.
So it's still going on as a family tradition.
Myself and my brothers grew up with the yard here and the boats.
We all own a boat of some sort.
I own number eight, Laragh,
and it hadn't been sailed for a number of years.
It was getting in bad repair.
And we got it, brought it back to the yard and restored it.
It's working with your hands with wood.
As a tradition here, it was wooden boats in our childhood.
Fibreglass was coming into it in the late '60s, early '70s.
A lot of them are considered that they're not boats at all!
I enjoy working on it.
I enjoy getting it really how it should look.
It's really looking well.
I enjoy racing it.
I mean, you're not out there just for a wee sail about.
You're enjoying that, the scenery, the surroundings,
but you're there to race.
And racing is something that you have in your blood
and you can't shake that off.
There's always a friendly rivalry,
but in the water, when you're racing,
those feelings just sometimes go out the window.
It's more intense competition nearly, against the brothers.
There's a thing called brotherly love.
But I'm telling you,
it doesn't stretch very far sometimes in the water.
Now, obviously the competitive spirit comes out of it first,
let me tell you!
Quite a lot of the rivers were based in the boatyards during the winter.
We always worked at them as we got older.
At the time, you think, "Those are nice-looking boats, nice lines,
"nice character about it."
Looking at the way the rivers were built,
I remember my father saying, "Those are well-built boats."
When someone with his expertise says they're well-built boats,
you take heed of that.
You get a bond with the actual boat.
Because of the way it's built and the pride you have in it,
it's not something that you can replace.
You can't go down to the shelf and buy a new one.
These are boats that almost live and breathe.
I love the rivers, because they talk to you.
As a boat, they talk to you.
When you have your sails set correctly,
you can hear the creaks and the groans in the rigging, in the mast,
in the very fibre of the boat
that tells you that that is what she wants to be doing.
The boat has a character,
and that character, that interaction,
is two people having a conversation together.
A very good start.
There's some very, very nice prizes to be won.
I think that's one of the things that people again race for.
A really nice one is the cigar box.
It dates back to the '20s.
It was raced for by a class before the rivers.
But they died away, soled away, whatever.
It's a really treasured prize for anybody winning it.
Each time you win the trophy, the owner and the boat,
their names are on it,
so you look back years and see how well each one has done.
There's pride in that as well,
because you know if you win a race at the regatta,
your name's gonna be on that for ever.
And it's nice to look back. There's a real sense of history in that.
Yacht racing is a very competitive sport.
There's a lot of cut and thrust in it.
Oh, my God! They're late.
I enjoy it because of the skill involved,
the concentration, the unpredictability of it.
One of the most important things
in the kind of racing which we do in Strangford is making a good start.
Once a boat is in the lead, it generally speaking has an advantage.
In a race, you're trying to gain every advantage you can
from the starting line,
position your boat at the start.
The boats are all moving, there's no stop,
and then suddenly, bang, the gun goes and everybody moves off.
Jib. Fly the jib. Fly the sails.
I'm very competitive, I'm afraid, I am.
Not in a bullish way.
Everybody has to sail within the rules.
But you have to have a sort of controlled aggression,
you have to have a will to want to win.
Very important they don't get an overlap on us at the mark.
-He has got an overlap on us.
Did they touch?
-I don't know.
Sailing's very polite. Racing's a different story.
Everybody says it's cut-throat out on the water.
It really is cut-throat.
-..We might have to!
-Ease! Ease! Ease!
A few near experiences!
OK, it's going to be a close race.
There is a very strong rivalry in the racing,
but there has to be a fellowship as well.
You have to trust the other competitors.
Because there's a lot of weight and power behind those boats.
It's like a chess game in the water.
You're trying to position your boat into certain areas
where there's more wind, a bit less tide maybe,
a bit more tide if it's to your advantage.
The wind's gone up a bit and there's a nasty rain squall
coming in over Killyleagh.
It's pretty dire at the moment. There's no wind.
These guys have a breeze up here. We're in nothing.
This rain is killing everything.
We just have to wait and see what happens.
Any breeze coming in, I hope those guys don't make too much on us.
There's nothing we can do but sit and wait.
Kenny is completely becalmed.
-It's not over yet.
-It's not over yet!
Going up. You'll have to come in.
Why are you trying to devil me?!
Stop sitting in my wind!
You've no claim or I'd have married you.
Kenny's coming up.
This is hyper!
No, I was complaining to the Blue Glen that he was taking my wind.
No-one was challenging him
and I was trying to get the lead in the river class.
I suppose I really should have kept my mouth shut.
-Poke her up.
Well done, man.
At the end of each race, all the boats cheer the winner.
Hip hooray! Hip hooray !Hip hooray!
On the water there, it's a battle,
but once it's over, anything that happened is forgotten about.
You can't force kids to do something.
If they take it nice and easy out for a wee evening sail
and they get the feel of the boat, and if they want to pick it up,
they'll adapt to that very well.
For a child, helming a river, I'm sure, is some feat
and something for them to remember.
The river I have means a lot to me, I must say.
It would be hard to part with it.
I enjoy racing it,
and hopefully I'll pass it on to my family, my kids.
You can imagine the pride my father had
when Kenny and I did well in racing.
Some day, we might be blessed with the same thing, you know,
with our kids coming in and saying, "That's good.
"You got a win tonight."
Owning a river is, to me, quite important.
I'm an owner of a bit of wood and lead and canvas.
But I'm only an owner for a while.
And when you own a yacht that's 84 years old,
you have a feeling sometimes you're just a steward there for a time,
looking after a lovely bit of property.
As time goes on, you realise that these boats are lent to us.
If the kids come up afterwards when we're long gone,
if these boats are still sailing about,
that would be an achievement and something to give you pride,
thinking that that will happen in the future,
they're gonna be sailed by people who still care for them.
The owners are now custodians.
And I think that when you look at a river,
you have to look at your time in the river
and then your time to part with a river
and someone else's time in a river.
I would like to think that the rivers will see their 100 years.
I don't think I'll be there, but I still would love to see them
or love to be able to attend the dinner on their 100th anniversary.
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