A high-frequency radar system has been deployed in Galway Bay, a semi-enclosed bay on the west coast of Ireland. The system provides surface currents with fine spatial resolution every hour. Prior to its use for model validation, the accuracy of the radar data was verified through comparison with measurements from acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) and a good correlation between time series of surface current speeds and directions obtained from radar data and ADCP data. Since Galway Bay is located on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, it is subject to relatively windy conditions, and surface currents are therefore strongly wind-driven. With a view to assimilating the radar data for forecasting purposes, a three-dimensional numerical model of Galway Bay, the Environmental Fluid Dynamics Code (EFDC), was developed based on a terrain-following vertical (sigma) coordinate system. This study shows that the performance and accuracy of the numerical model, particularly with regard to tide-and wind-induced surface currents, are sensitive to the vertical layer structure. Results of five models with different layer structures are presented and compared with radar measurements. A variable vertical structure with thin layers at the bottom and the surface and thicker layers in the middle of the water column was found to be the optimal layer structure for reproduction of tide-and wind-induced surface currents. This structure ensures that wind shear can properly propagate from the surface layer to the sub-surface layers, thereby ensuring that wind forcing is not overdamped by tidal forcing. The vertical layer structure affects not only the velocities at the surface layer but also the velocities further down in the water column. (C) 2015 Hohai University. Production and hosting by Elsevier B.V.