Round Shuna Pursuit Race 2001

Few short delivery trips could compare to last year’s thrilling night sail, but a daytime passage from Loch Leven to Oban can still be interesting! Fly left Bishop’s Bay under engine at about 5pm on the Friday, with Tomy leaving Dunstaffnage a little later and the plan being to meet up and sail or tow (sparing us from that noisy, uneconomic outboard) as appropriate. Twig phoned from somewhere north of Shuna (the Loch Linnhe one!) to say that it was quite rough and towing looked out, but thought I must be pulling his leg when I told him (from somewhere near Eilean Balnagowan) that it was flat calm and I was motoring. So we towed a short distance before casting off rapidly when it blew up again, and Fly took off like a scalded cat on the fetch under full sail with just me aboard. With calmer conditions in the Lynn of Lorne, however, Al jumped ship to join me and we left both boats at Dunstaffnage for the night after a truly comical passage.

Saturday’s feeder to Craobh was grisly, being wet, windy (in the wrong direction) and misty, with the breeze swinging through improbable angles to make the starting area a nightmare. David and myself found ourselves outnumbered two-to-one by Carol, Iona, Gill and Jennie to make up a pleasantly ‘girly’ crew for Fly, with the true men (headcases) Sandy, Al, Colin and Thomas taking to Hutch and Twig (smart man!) sticking with the comfort of Tomy’s wheelhouse. Although Fly made reasonable progress to somewhere between Kerrera and Insh, our peel to the no.3 led to half a poorly secured no.1 (for which I take full responsibility) in the water and an interesting experiment in sailing quickly sideways with no rudder control for several minutes! So we still finished in front of everything slower, but not by anything like the margins we needed to beat most of them, and can’t say we enjoyed it at all. Meanwhile Hutch had been delayed by a misty diversion up Loch Feochan, finishing even further down than we did but probably doing quite well to get there at all! Nuff said about Saturday...

Sunday’s pursuit race was much more fun, with a brighter day and more moderate breezes. Like last year the fleet split pretty well fifty-fifty for choice of direction, with Hutch (bolstered by the addition of Twig), Fly and most of the Oban contingent taking the clockwise route. Although Fly was passed on the beat by a high-pointing, fast-footing Amber Haze — and up the west of the island by Farr Out — we caught and passed several other Oban friends by the end including Spring Run, Hutch (hah!), Saorsa and Allegro to finish (at a guess) somewhere about the top half. For once the fleet converged evenly, with the choice of direction perhaps having less effect on the result than the start times. So, having conspicuously failed to threaten any of the prizewinners from Classes 2 and 3 (not least Alan Armstrong’s overall winning Northney 34 Reiver of Lorne), it was some consolation to stay in front of most of the faster boats to cross the line in company with second Class 1 boat Iona of Rhu.

If Saturday’s feeder had been filthy and Sunday’s pursuit race solid rather than spectacular, the weekend finished in a blaze of glory with a terrific run home. Leaving Craobh just behind a reefed Highpointer (looking much slippier since West Highland Week) and ahead of Hutch, we caught Highpointer in time for a cracking photo session at a very rough exit to the Cuan Sound. With the wind freeing to a broad reach and certainly below twenty knots for a while, my call for the kite brought back the big gusts soon enough and we took off on a thrilling ride from Seil to Kerrera in a good twenty-five knots of breeze. Making a steady nine knots or so most of the way and twice surging into the high tens, we’d surely have topped out at something even higher if we hadn’t been impeded by the drag of the open outboard well in ‘cruising’ mode. Speculation about the probability (100%) of the boys setting a kite on Hutch later proved to be well-founded, with Twig no doubt intrigued by Al’s explanation of the L-shaped vent in the middle of the sail! But the last word should go to Jennie, who couldn’t keep the grin from her face when giving her verdict that ‘today [Sunday] was wicked’!

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