A love affair with the sea is the secret behind the success of the second Galway stopover, President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins said when he toured the Volvo Ocean Race village in his home city on Wednesday.
From fishing to trade, sailing and leisure, the sea symbolised everything that had made Galway what it is today, President Higgins said.
It was also the reason why thousands of locals endured an unseasonably chilly summer’s night to stand in the drizzling rain and welcome the skippers and their crews across the final offshore finish line of the epic 39,270-nautical mile ocean race, he said.
“About 10,000 people came out in the middle of the night to welcome the fleet on the very first occasion three years ago, and this time, people were asking if they’d do it again, and they did,’’ the President said.
“They came out in almost twice that number in the middle of the night again. There is a great connection with Galway and the sea.”
The President officially welcomed the skippers and the crew to Ireland on Tuesday night at the race village in front of tens of thousands of fans.
He said it was wonderful to see that the love affair wasn’t one-sided, that the sailors loved Galway as much as Galway loved them.
“The skippers and sailors said Galway was their favorite stop,’’ he said. “For someone who was mayor of Galway twice and President of Ireland I’m very pleased that people are having such a good experience.”
It is the second time the Volvo Ocean Race has visited Galway, having stopped in the city during the 10th edition of the Race in 2009.
Race planners were taken by surprise when tens of thousands turned out to create one of the greatest welcomes of the race to date, creating lasting memories for locals and sailors alike.