What is NACA?
NACA stands for the North American Curragh Association; a confederation of member clubs in the United States that build, row, and race curraghs, traditional Irish fishing boats. Currently NACA has member clubs is Albany, NY, Annapolis, MD, Boston, MA, Columbus, OH, Milwaukee, WI, New London, CT, Philadelphia, PA, and Pittsburgh, PA. The Association was formed in 1984 when rowers from Boston, New York, and Annapolis wanted to expand curragh racing in America from a few isolated events. Clubs from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh joined shortly afterward.

What is a Curragh?
A curragh is a traditional coracle style rowboat indigenous to the West Coast of Ireland. The original design of these boats dates back over 2000 years; Julius Caesar wrote of hundreds of them in the Irish Sea as he prepared his invasion of England! Although coming in a wide variety of sizes and shapes, the curragh is a wood framed boat with a skin (now canvas) covering. The skin of the boat was originally treated with tar to make it waterproof, but oil based paints are used today. In North America, the 4-seat curragh, or naomhaig (NEE-vogue) is the craft used. These boats measure 25 feet in length and weight between 250 and 350 pounds. All rowing events in NACA use the naomhaig. In Ireland, the traditional 3 seat curragh is used around Galway, although 4 seaters are commonly used in Kerry and on the Aran Islands.

What is with the oars?
The oars of a curragh are long, slender blades with no paddle. This is because the curragh is designed for rowing in rough ocean waters where large paddles can get caught on the wave tops. The key to rowing with the curragh oars is to dig a good length of the oar into the water, perhaps 5 feet. This length times the width of the oar gives it plenty of surface area to push the water and propel the boat. The oar locks must be the traditional design of the block and thole pin. Oak blocking is used on the gunwale and oar, and pins are made of either oak or metal. The curragh oar does not feather like the standard crew oars.

Can I join a NACA club?
If you live in an area where NACA already has a club, you may contact them. Most clubs are accepting new members, no previous rowing experience needed. Follow the links to the member clubs for contact information.

How do I start my own NACA club? There are three aspects to operating a NACA rowing club that need to be addressed before you get to racing.

  1. Members: Most NACA clubs need at least 8 – 12 committed members in order to be competitive.
  2. Finances: Although less expensive than crew rowing, curragh racing does require a modest investment. See “What does it cost to operate a NACA club?”.
  3. Equipment: The curragh itself is not commercially available. All boats in NACA are hand made by NACA members and other boat builders. In addition, oars, a trailer, and a location suitable for regatta events is needed. See “Where do I find a curragh?”.

What does it cost to operate a NACA club?
Although the sport of curragh racing is less expensive than its more modern cousins, there are some significant costs to keep in mind. Racing curraghs cost between $3000-$5000 new. NACA may be able to assist you in obtaining a new or slightly used curragh, however, to get you started. The approximate annual cost for operating a NACA are:

  • Travel expenses - $4000
  • Marina / regatta site - $1000
  • Membership in NACA - $200
  • Hosting a NACA regatta (optional) - $1500

Where do I find a curragh?
NACA can put you in touch with individuals that build and maintain curragh racers. We also have a grant program to assist new clubs in obtaining equipment to get started. Is it safe? All NACA clubs follow US Coast Guard safety regulations during all regattas and practices, and there have been no incidents in almost 30 years of NACA competition. As with all outdoor sports, however, there is an element of risk involved. Potential rowers should understand safe boating practices before participating. In addition, curragh racing is a strenuous sport! Potential rowers should ensure that they are in reasonably good physical condition before attempting this sport.

Do I have to be Irish to join?
Absolutely not! All that is needed is the willingness to row and an appreciation of the Irish culture. NACA is proud to have introduced this great Irish sport to people of all backgrounds over the years.

Where can I learn more?
You can contact any of our member clubs or our President, Patrick Clark if you have any other questions. We look forward to hearing from you!

©2019The North American Currach Association