Galway City Tribune - Opinion Piece
Johnny helps bring it all back homeJuly 5, 2012 - 2:23pm
The West of Ireland man who has travelled the world to co-ordinate the programme of events at each of the ten stopover ports for the Volvo Ocean Race (VOR) has admitted that the homecoming at Galway Harbour in the early hours of Tuesday morning had astonished everyone associated with world sailing’s biggest event.
Ironically, drummer Johnny Donnelly left The Saw Doctors in 2001 because he was tired of all the travelling. When the boats sailed into Galway on Tuesday, it was the beginning of the end of an amazing adventure in which he has organised VOR festivals in Spain, South Africa, Abu Dhabi, China, New Zealand, Brazil, the USA, Portugal, and France.
The father of four young children admitted that it was not easy to spend so much of the last nine months on the road, but he had a genuine thrill when at least 20,000 people turned out to welcome the six competing boats to his home city at 2.30am.
All year, people in boardrooms as far apart as Sanya (China) and Itajai (Brazil) marvelled at the success of the 2009 Galway stopover – and everyone associated with the event was overwhelmed when the most exciting finish in the race’s history ended with such a rousing reception from the huge crowds around the harbour.
“On Monday night, all I could think was ‘thank God I’m from Galway’,” Donnelly told the Galway City Tribune this week. “I have seen the reactions of the spectators at all the other ports when the boats were coming in and none of them were like the reception the crews received on Monday night. I have never experienced anything like that.
“I think it is just being Irish and being from Galway. It’s a sense of pride and also a big ‘Thank You’ to the VOR for having faith in Galway and bringing the event to our small city. It’s like the Irish soccer fans singing when the team is being beaten. That’s the power of being Irish!”
Donnelly, who lives in Headford, had run between 60 and 70 marathons across the globe for charity between 2008 and last year after his youngest son, Harry, took ill. Then he landed the job of co-ordinating all of the Volvo stopovers and had to visit all of the ports for preparatory work before the race even began. Effectively, he has been on the road for four years, so it’s a good job he has such an understanding wife at home in Headford!
“It was an amazing feeling on Sunday night, coming back to Galway and knowing that the travelling had come to an end. The marathons happened because Harry, the youngest child, was very sick. For me it was just constant travelling from 2008 until the start of the race last October,” he said.
“It’s funny. I left The Saw Doctors because I did not want to travel. For the last year I’ve been doing even more travelling than I ever did with them, without having the highs and lows of being on stage. But it has been unbelievable, a real learning experience for me.”
Donnelly, whose events management company is called Arcana, had previously worked on the 2008-9 VOR, running the Tourism Ireland entertainment programme at six of the nine stopover cities. He admits to having little interest in sailing – and he has never even been on one of the competing boats.
But he jumped at the chance of taking on a job which has huge responsibility when approached by the Volvo organisers, who had been impressed by the huge success of the 2009 stopover in Galway.
Johnny was the man who co-ordinated the arrival of the boats into the docks early on Tuesday morning, the full programme of entertainment, and he has had to liaise with the crews on a constant basis since last October. As a marathon runner, he can relate to their dedication and the hardship they have endured in sailing 39,000 miles across the globe.
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.