The Ardgour Double (sponsored by Bilgewater Gin) consists of a handicap race from Glencoe to Ardgour (tidal gates at Ballachulish Bridge and Corran Narrows) and pursuit race back to Ballachulish Bay (once the tide has turned). Round Balnagowan requires similar times for high/low water (tidal gate both ways at Ballachulish Bridge), so both were scheduled for the same weekend this year to avoid clashing with other events i.e. Round Mull and West Highland Week.
More light winds, holes and sunshine (what a strange season we’re having!), but six boats turn out for the start of the Ardgour Double on Saturday, including a Tomahawk that’s never raced before. Fly is first out of Loch Leven, hotly pursued by arch rival Fascinator, and an entertaining game of cat and mouse develops in the light headwinds, with the lead changing hands more than once. The course ends with a dinky little ‘round the buoys’ section round the Corran Shoal buoy, a fish farm buoy and the two Corran Ferry moorings and, just when Fascinator should finally be home and dry, she finds herself home and dry in a different sense as she runs onto the Corran Shoal under spinnaker barely 100 yards from her own mooring and not much further from the finish! Profoundly grateful to her for having had the temerity to take the lead just before the Corran Narrows (we draw much the same), Fly drops kite pronto, gets out chart and takes a very roundabout, upwind route to the last mark under consciously depowered white sails.
Barbecue at Corran Lighthouse, where Ken (Fascinator) Grant lives. Have a look at Ken’s recently purchased Flying Fifteen, allegedly rechristened ‘Spider’ for next year’s Points Series!
Pursuit Race back starts well enough, although what was a light northerly is now a light southerly, so we’re beating again. Out through the narrows, neck and neck with Fascinator (we like to start together off the faster handicap), and we quickly run into the rest of the fleet wallowing in swell but no wind just north of Cuilcheanna Spit Buoy. Horrible, even by Glencoe 2000 standards! Boats are slatting about, uncontrollable and pointing every which way and, every time a hint of a breeze develops, it proves to be a false dawn. Eventually however, something useable starts to fill in, the buoy is rounded, a white sail reach turns to a kite reach and Fly gradually pulls ahead to win again.
Sunday’s Round Balnagowan Race promises more of the same, but eight boats are game enough to turn up for the start. A light beat out of Loch Leven suits Fly, who stays in front until she meets a calm patch the width of Ballachulish Bay (i.e. no way round). It’s absolutely roasting! A brief flirtation with an imposter of a breeze over by Sallachan Point results in a tear to our favoured kite on the drop, and the spare is set up ready for the next chance. The forecast force 2 northerly never really materialises, but a steady little southerly (force 2–3, later touching 4) gradually fills in to give a delightful close fetch down to Eilean Balnagowan and a splendid run home. Fly is first to the turn by about fifty yards, but our spare kite is no match for Fascinator’s monster on the run back, and she passes us just north of the island and draws slowly ahead all the way home. Most of the slower boats also come home in fine style in the end, with Dave Hanna’s singlehanded effort (spinnaker and all) to take third place in High Tide more than worthy of mention.
Three wins and a second from four starts in the past week can’t be bad, and the spinnaker will mend. Now all I need is a crew for West Highland Week!
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