Scottish Two-Handed Race 2002

(Copied from Flypaper, 2 September 2002)

To be subtitled ‘Fly versus the elements. A three round, no holds barred, bare knuckle contest with the Isle of Arran and Millport Bay!’ Read on to find out why:

Some things take some getting used to...

Like Fly being the smallest and second slowest rated boat in the Two-Handed long course.

It was a tough old beat over to the Cock of Arran and we’d lost touch with most of the opposition before we got there. Starting with full main and no.1, we reduced progressively to two reefs and no.3 before being suckered by a brief lull into returning to full sail and working our way down and up through most of the possible combinations again. With conditions gusting to near gale strength and no real substitute for boat size, it was hard work and we did wonder how the lads on the Projection 920 Tartan Revolution were coping, but a tangible reward was waiting with a progressive freeing up past Loch Ranza and Catacol and the chance to fly the kite with style down the Kilbrannan Sound.

Round 1 to the elements (throw in as much wind and waves as you can on the nose and watch the little boats bounce)!

With superb, sunny reaching conditions marred only by the lack of big enough waves to reach frightening speeds, we flew down the west coast of Arran at a steady 8, 9 and 10 knots with at least seven boats (three or four fairly close and the others in the far distance) still visible and some coming back to us. By the time we gybed round Iron Rock Ledges buoy for Pladda, we’d caught the First 35s5 Corvi and could identify the next two boats with some certainty as Moody 33 Hot’n’Tot (the only slower rated competitor) and Sigma 33 Sanjoy. By Pladda both Twig and I could have sworn that we should at least catch Hot’n’Tot (albeit with next to no chance of saving our time) and possibly even Sanjoy on the fetch home, but here the conditions would have to dole out their first little sting in the tail! So Sanjoy appeared to escape clean up the Arran coast, Hot’n’Tot seemed to lose a little time and Corvi and Fly found themselves wallowing in an unavoidable, windless, bloody great hole.

Round 2 to the elements (if you can’t stop the boat with too much wind, too little is a nifty trick to pull)!

If the big hole in the wind was annoying, it did at least allow us to carry out some running repairs to the rig. Having popped the main’s full-length top batten out of its plastic luff housing on an otherwise textbook gybe at Iron Rock Ledges, it was a gilt-edged opportunity to drop the sail and fix it... except that the batten had subsequently popped itself into the main track and stuck halfway down the mast when we tried to take it down, resulting in a quick trip aloft for Twig to fix the darn thing. (Mental note to ask for a full-length batten pocket for our full-length batten to prevent what was hopefully a bizarre one-off from ever recurring!) Some consolation, however, was taken from the thought of how much fun a trip aloft to free the mainsail might have been if finishing after dark in a windy Largs Channel...

By the time the wind had returned enough to let us get going again, Sanjoy and Hot’n’Tot were little more than specks on the horizon and Corvi was close enough for a chat about their missing spinnaker pole (an early casualty of the race). So off we set for the Cumbraes with the breeze building enough to justify a change back to the no.3 some time after dark, Corvi progressively dropping astern again, some brief confusion over what must have been a firework display somewhere up Dunoon way and renewed hope of making it back by about 11pm when we found ourselves once again unavoidably and completely becalmed coming through the Tan.

Round 3 to the elements (let them enjoy a good view of Millport in the dark for an hour or more when almost everyone else has finished)!

This time the loss of the breeze looked like it really might be terminal and the awful thought of retiring rather than bobbing about off Millport all night did occur, but something useable started to come back in the end and we set off ghosting up the home stretch to cross the finish line about five minutes past midnight. So we might have settled for fourteen hours had we been offered that to complete the course before the weekend but, allowing a guestimate of a good hour-and-a-half becalmed in unavoidable places, we could have easily matched Hot’n’Tot’s time of something over twelve-and-a-half hours and beaten more than just Corvi (who finished about thirty-seven minutes behind us) on handicap. Hats off, however, to Tartan Revolution’s gobsmacking nine-and-three-quarter hours to win, which is apparently a new course record and must have brought out the odd grin once they got the kite up! Finally, and despite the frustrations of being amongst the few to really suffer (?) from too little wind, we’d admit to having a lot of fun too and have every intention of returning for another dose next year!

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