ARTICLE published by Derry City Council about Ken Doherty and PUNTS

There aren’t too many people who can say they have sailed – indeed raced – a boat they have built themselves.
Ken Doherty is certainly an exception to the rule as he builds a type of boat that is unique to local waters in Lough Foyle – the Foyle Class Punt.

A member of Lough Foyle Yacht Club, Ken has had a lifelong interest in boat-building and sailing.

A number of his hand-crafted sailing punts will be taking part in the Lough Foyle Yacht Club Punt Race during the LegenDerry Maritime Festival which is taking place in Derry~Londonderry from June 21~29.

And it won’t just be local and visiting spectators who will be out in force to watch the race set off from Culmore Point on Wednesday, June 25, at 7pm.
Skippers from the twelve 2013-2014 Clipper Round The World Yacht Race yachts will be swapping their familiar vessels to experience the local custom.
It will be more of a jaunt for the skippers who have steered the Clipper Race yachts tens of thousands of miles across the globe since last September.
The Clipper Race crews are stopping off in Derry~Londonderry on the Homecoming leg of their epic 40,000 miles transatlantic odyssey, visiting 14 ports on six continents in the world’s longest ocean race.

Ken Doherty recalls that massive crowds attended the Punt Race during the last Clipper Race stop-over in the city in the summer of 2012.
The Lough Foyle Yacht Club stalwart said: “We decided that because the Foyle Punts are peculiar to Lough Foyle and they wouldn’t see them anywhere else, we would invite a skipper from each of the Clipper Race yachts to sail a Foyle Class Punt in a race at Culmore Point.”

The venture was such a success, it’s being repeated this time around, bringing a real international flavour to the occasion.
Ken recalled: “It was absolutely brilliant. There was a massive crowd the last time, it was unbelievable.” Among those in attendance was Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, the founder of the Clipper Race and the first man to sail solo, non-stop around in the world in 1968-69.

Ken, an engineer by profession, is currently putting the finishing touches to his latest hand-crafted punt which is soon to make its maiden voyage on Lough Foyle.

For now, the stunning piece of craftsmanship – which Ken modestly regards as a hobby – is housed in the garage-cum-workshop at his Prehen home.
The distinctive smell of freshly varnished wood gives a hint of the newness of the spruce and mahogany-trimmed boat, one of eight sailing punts Ken has built over the years.

Punts evolved from working boats used for inshore fishing but their usage declined with the introduction of larger, motorised boats.
Ken said: “When inshore fishing was common, regattas were held at all the local ports and sailing and rowing competitions were organised for the fishing boats.
“As larger boats came along and these smaller boats were no longer used for fishing, they were still kept for sailing at the traditional regattas.
“The design and measurements would remain the same, but modern sails, fittings and safety features have been added.”
It’s not known for certain when the punts originated but they are believed to have Scandinavian roots.

The standard Foyle Punt has a 16ft long keel and a beam (width) of five to six feet with a sail and a crew of three.
Ken explained: “These boats do not have a centre board or drop keel but use bags of ballast to compensate for this, hence the third crewman.
“The Foyle Punts would originally have been built by two prominent boat-builders in Moville; McDonalds established in 1750 and Beatties, which ceased operation around 1950. Other people would have built punts as a hobby.”

A native of Whitecastle on the Inishowen peninsula, Ken had two uncles who built boats and he too developed a keen interest.
You can see his hand-built boats in full glory at the Lough Foyle Yacht Club Punt Race at Culmore Point on Wednesday, June 25, at 7pm.
The LegenDerry Maritime Festival is organised by Derry City Council with funding support from NITB and Diageo and delivery support from Foyle Port, the Loughs Agency, Visit Derry and Ilex.

View the programme at


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