Jan 9 2013 by Lorna Hughes, Birkenhead News
A 100-strong “Viking Navy” from Wirral is set to raid Norway in June.
A date has been provisionally set for the group of volunteers to travel to Scandinavia for vital practice in rowing the biggest ever replica of a Viking longship.
The 114ft Draken Harald Hårfagre – Dragon Harald Fairhair in English – had been due to set sail for the UK this summer – with Wirral one of the first stops.
Volunteer oarsmen would row the boat into harbour when it arrives in Wirral and have been training at the Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club in Wallasey.
But, although the vessel has been constructed, the voyage has been delayed for more test sails around the Norwegian coastline.
The oarsmen will instead join forces with their Norwegian counterparts and row the vessel as part of the Viking Festival in Karmøy on June 7 to 9.
Professor Steve Harding, North West England co-ordinator of the longship project, who was recently made Knight of the Royal Norwegian Order of Merit, said: “The response has been fantastic, and it has required a tremendous amount of dedication and graft from the volunteers – of all ages and both sexes, with the training ably led by Jim Bibby and colleagues at Liverpool Victoria Rowing Club.
“The next stage is to get to Norway to complete the training on the longship itself.
“We can take advantage of some very cheap flights now to Haugesund, and accommodation should be no problem.
“No expensive five-star hotels – our Navy will be sleeping either in tents or boathouses, just like they would have done a millennium ago. And Norway has been warned our deckhands are pretty formidable so they had better watch out!”
At 35m long and eight metres wide, the Drakan Harald the Fairhair is the largest Viking longship built in modern times.
Although a crew of about 20 can sail it on the high seas, a team of 100 are needed to row in and around the coast and into harbour.
Its maiden voyage will follow the path of the Vikings from Scandinavia via the British Isles to Istanbul – with Wirral one of the first stops.
Professor Harding, the author of several books on Wirral’s Viking links, said King Harald V of Norway had expressed an interest in the project – and hoped to be present to greet the longship in Wirral.
He said: “I can’t stress enough just how great this will be for Wirral. The Friends of Meols Park are also working flat out to raise the funds for a statue of a Viking holding an oar – and to get this erected in time for the King to unveil.
“I am hoping the people of Wirral will handsomely support their fundraising.”