Coracle racing

By | Category: Travel news
 touching the rope strung across the river signifies you've completed the course

touching the rope strung across the river signifies you’ve completed the course

The last bank holiday in August is one of the last big event and festival offerings before the long-drawn out run through autumn and winter. So local festivals, fairs and fetes don’t attract hundreds of thousands of people, just hundreds but they can be just as enjoyable.

Take the coracle races on the Teifi last Saturday. This was local yet international as people from Australia, the USA, England and even foreigners from Ceredigion attended this annual Cilgerran event. The small Pembrokeshire village is one of the few places in any of our countries where coracles can still be seen outside of events as fourteen licences still remain for coracle fishing on the River Teifi.


a Teifi coracle

With river banks and a hill to sit on, everyone could get a good view of the racing. Men raced other men as did women but women raced with men and children joined in as well. The youngest competitor was nine but he did come from a well-known local family that participated is almost everything and was christened by the afternoon commentator as “the firm.”


coracle racingr

putting the effort in to win – and he did

There were Teifi coracles which are oblongish with rounded ends so that quite a large surface area is on the water making them difficult to paddle at speed and then there were Towy coracles which are more sleek and can travel faster. And after the racing was over, anyone could try their hand and see how they fared on the river paddling this fast- disappearing river craft.

Coracles were river fishing vessels ideal for catching the salmon or siwen that inhabit rivers hereabouts. In fact the raffle prize of the afternoon was a salmon and two coracles – as was and is traditionally done – slowly paddled the river a net strung between them in a trawl and fished from the river a salmon as the prize. Much as the commentator lauded this effort even he admitted it might have come from the local Tesco and been placed there earlier!

croacle racing using Towy boats

Towy coracle racing

Very light as coracles are – you carry them on your back – they are difficult to paddle until you know. A bit like a Venetian gondolier you paddle across the boat but at the front not at the back as a gondolier does. Paddle at the side and you’ll go around in circles. And, not as you would expect, you paddle with the wider part of the boat at the front not the slightly tapered end.

With 21 competitors in one race, which virtually occupied the width of the river, it showed that in some parts, the art of coracling was being maintained. The Coracle Society lists events happening in the few places where you can still see this ancient craft and today – Monday 25th of August –

race finish

at the finish of a race – just time to get out and carry your coracle back to the start!

it is the Coracle Regatta at Ironbridge in Shropshire.

This summer Ray Mears, the TV adventurer, has been filming for a new series and one episode will apparently include him in a coracle. Maybe that will encourage more people to explore this part of our heritage, attend the few coracling events that happen largely in wales and Shropshire or to visit the National Coracle Centre at Cenarth where the owner, Martin Fowler, personally explains the exhibits rather than just letting you look around.

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