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Friday, 1 February, 2002, 09:08 GMT
Weather causes chaos for rugby fans
Traffic at Fishguard Port, west Wales
Traffic builds up at the ports as ferries are delayed
Thousands of Welsh rugby fans face an anxious wait to see if they can get to Ireland by ferry in time for the Six Nations match in Dublin despite the disruption caused by bad weather.

Ferry companies said they were still hopeful of getting all stranded passengers across the Irish Sea for Sunday's game.

Latest Friday sailings between Wales and Ireland
Irish Ferries - no Pembroke - Rosslare sailing, 1545 GMT sailing Holyhead-Dublin due to go ahead
Stena Line - Holyhead - Dublin 1515 GMT sailing IN DOUBT, Fishguard - Rosslare 1430 GMT sailing in SEVERE DOUBT
P &O - Mostyn Docks - Dublin 0930 GMT sailing due to go ahead

Irish Ferries' sailings from south west Wales between Pembroke and Rosslare have been cancelled for Friday, while Stena Line said its afternoon sailing from Fishguard was looking unlikely.

Stena said its Friday afternoon sailing from Holyhead was also in doubt.

Travel agents have reported that flights to Ireland from Cardiff, Manchester and London have been booked up fast as fans seek alternative transport.

Passengers hoping to travel on the early Friday morning sailing from Fishguard were also disappointed when they were asked to rebook.

Stena Line had earlier cancelled its 0315GMT sailing on Friday from Fishguard, west Wales, to Rosslare, but was still undecided whether the 1430GMT sailing would go ahead.

If sailings can take place, the company has said it would then run virtually non-stop shuttle services across the Irish Sea in order to get all the supporters across, weather permitting.

As well as cancelling its Pembroke sailings on Friday, Irish Ferries has also called off its Dublin Swift fast ferry services from Holyhead, north Wales, to Dublin - the fast ferries can be stranded in bad weather.

Fan waiting for the Fishguard ferry
People have been trying to keep their spirits up
But the company said it expected to be able to carry everyone as foot passengers from Holyhead on the Ulysses superferry to Dun Laoghaire.

However, with winds gusting up to 70mph that service may also be in doubt.

P&O said it was still taking bookings on its Ambassador ferry services from Mostyn, north east Wales, to Dublin for car and coach passengers only.

Its 0130GMT sailing left Mostyn for Dublin around half an hour late on Friday, while the 0930GMT sailing was also expected to go ahead as planned.

On Saturday the Ambassador is due to leave at 0200GMT and 1000GMT, and Sunday at 0200GMT for a six or seven hour crossing.

Stena Line remained "seriously" concerned about the weather forecast for Saturday and said it had very few remaining tickets for its services.

Troubled games

The travel difficulties follow the frustrations of last year's postponement of the Wales-Ireland game at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff due to the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Ticket for Ireland v Wales
Fans hope their tickets will not be wasted

The ferry companies say the main problem in bad weather is not sailing - it is docking in port.

In 2000 when Wales last met the Irish in Dublin, fans were marooned at sea waiting for the conditions to improve for docking.

Milford Haven coastguards said it would be storm force nine or storm force 10 blowing through the Irish Sea on Friday - with gusts around 80mph.

Irish Ferries has now instructed its clerks not to take any further bookings for crossings because of the weather conditions.

The company said it wanted to hold the remaining space for passengers being transferred from other sailings.

Passengers can call the ferry companies for information on the following numbers:

Irish Ferries - 08705 17 17 17

Stena Line - 08705 755 755

P&O Irish Sea - 0870 24 24 777

BBC Wales's Hywel Griffith reports
"Some had travelled hundreds of miles to get to the port"
BBC Wales's Caroline Evans
"The weather dealt its first blow on Thursday"
See also:

04 Apr 00 | Wales
Rugby fans finally arrive home
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