Round Mull Race 2000

Patchy winds, sunshine and shortened courses again!

18 monohulls and 3 multihulls racing as three classes, with Fly once again the smallest and slowest rated boat in the faster of the two monohull classes.

Friday’s first leg from Oban to Tobermory starts well as a gentle beat, and we could well be leading boat somewhere off Lismore Light, but holes start to appear, the breeze starts to fill from behind (the worst thing that could have happened), out come the kites and we eventually have to settle for 5th in class at the shortened finish at Loch Aline.

Saturday’s second leg from Tobermory to Bunessan starts with the fleet following the committee boats under engine in a search for wind, of which a little is supposedly found somewhere off Ardmore Point. Fly’s splendid tactic of sailing a little higher than most off the spinnaker start (the triple theory being to stop the sails flapping uselessly, increase boatspeed and sail straight past all the boats staying too deep a hundred yards below) unfortunately results in giving most of the fleet a good two or three miles’ start and, by the time we do really get going, the damage is done. A nice wee sail down to Bunessan in the end, but 9th (last) in class without even having to check the results to know!

After a party aboard the rather nice motor yacht Gin Genie (mothership to one or two of our lucky competitors) and half a meal ashore, Fly’s skipper proves to be temporarily indisposed (so did they spike my drinks or just give me far too much?), but not before reminding everyone that our leg scores from last year had gone 5-9-1 and we were on for a final leg win again. Four o’clock in the morning, and one hell of a commotion proves to be a drunken fishing boat returning a senseless crew member to my yacht. When I quietly explain that, yes, we’re grateful to them for bringing him back but, no, we’re not having a party on Fly, things start to get ugly. Half an hour later, two young Mull lads in a dinghy try to board Fly to beat us all up or something, our insensible zombie springs to life and starts to threaten them back, and sparks fly till everyone calms down (colourful language all round).

Sunday morning, about four hours later, and the fleet is once again on the move under engine (the first time we’ve ever failed to start from Bunessan since I’ve been taking part). Wind is eventually located in the Sound of Iona, and an entertaining little beat takes us through the narrow rock-strewn passage past Tinker’s Hole and out through the Torran Rocks. The Mull shore provides most of the best breeze for the next few miles, but one or two boats do surprisingly well by standing well out. Just like last year, however, what should be a glorious downwind ride all the way back to Oban starts to peter out in a dying breeze, with a shortened course finishing at Frank Lockwood’s Island and many retirements. A couple of miles from the finish, with Fly still gently moving along as Impalas can and the lead boats visibly (and quickly) coming back to us, a miraculous repeat of last year’s leg win suddenly begins to seem possible. About this time our zombie finally returns to the land of the living (having missed the best bit of the entire race) and we are the first to set the kite as the wind begins to fill and free for the final mile or so. The tricky and exasperating conditions have taken their toll, with only the three trimarans, five ‘fast’ and two ‘slow’ yachts making it to the finish, but Fly (although beaten on handicap by the two surviving ‘slow’ yachts) takes the final leg for the fast class in an incredible sea of deja vu.

The main trophy for the weekend goes to Graham Anderson and Northern Comfort (Comfort 30) from the slower class, with the fast class going to Billy Forteith and the Beneteau half-tonner Scorpio (an absolutely cracking race boat, currently for sale at a very reasonable price). Fly finishes fourth in class, which is pretty good after Saturday’s disaster, and certainly proves the importance of finishing every leg come what may in a race which is decided on aggregate time. Don’t know who won the multihulls, but the light conditions just didn’t give them their usual opportunity to disappear over the horizon.

My next race is as crew for Alan Wardrop on Comedy of Errors this coming weekend, after which I have crew problems of my own to resolve for West Highland Week as my one confirmed crew member dropped out today. In the meantime I’m left wondering whether or not to send off my entry form for the event that I love above all others, and whether the money that I don’t really have this winter would be better spent on a new racing main for Fly or a single-handed dinghy!

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