View from the back – first time sailing West Highland Week (first time racing) as a family.
After a great time crabbing and playing cards and looking for Lego Men in Tobermory with some of the other kids we woke up thinking that maybe we won’t come last today, we were wrong. Unfortunately at the start we were just over the line because we were distracted by a passing seal. We turned and back over the line we went, which put us last already.
We were the first class to set off. We thought of this as an advantage, we were wrong. Slowly as the race progressed, every boat passed us with spinnakers of all colours cracking like thunder as the wind came and went until we were at the back, again. There was singing on the rail, sandwiches sat on, Grannies baking and Tunnocks tea cakes – yum.
As the second last boat crossed the finish line, they were only a dot on the horizon. Once we had finished we cheered and were grateful for the cheering too from the committee boat. We thanked the committee for being so patient waiting for us and started to motor to Dunstaffnage where we are looking forward to a BBQ and the rest of our holiday.
Having arrived in Tobermory for lunch time on Wednesday, a good rest was had before races resumed on the Thursday morning.
With around 5 knots of breeze, classes 1-5 were able to set off around the course before we were becalmed on the start line meaning both class 7 and 8 weren’t able to hone their starting routines. Mr Tunnocks had obviously seen this coming as he waited alongside Chico for them to recall the fleet.
A well managed light spell by the race committee saw a restart of race 1 for the Tunnocks fleet. This new batch of wind was steadier and allowed for a good race in light to moderate conditions. A special mention to Gigha being single handedly sailed around the course without a hitch.
The second race saw a 90 degree windshift and Lodestar altered the buoys accordingly. The sail changes became slicker and the shouts from the helm became calmer as winds eased off towards the end of the race. Lady Ex impressively sailed her spinakker through the line to end the days racing with a flourish.
The real race then commenced to grab the last spaces on the Tobermory pontoons. Class 8, however, know when a battle is lost so enjoyed the sail across the channel all in time for the annual class party. Many thanks to Scintilla and Marisca for hosting!
It’s time for Leaky Roof 2’s Thursday caramel log *pun intended!*
As the race started we were dubious of our position but the roof managed to find a reasonable position after a Tunnocks snowball fight of a start. The race officer then decided to pull the plug due to an unfair wind-shift. This allowed the crew time to have a coffee and a Tunnocks Teacake, cause as you know ‘there’s tonnes of taste in a Tunnock’s!’
After a short time the race officer decided to give it another go, the roof had a chaotic restart but managed to dig themselves out and worked hard to claim second place behind Sea-Pie of Cultra.
There was a wafer cream thin chance of us having a perfect start and we ended up pushing shadowfax and ourselves over the start line, because of this we had to jibe putting us on the port tack which actually benefited us in the long run. The rest of the race was mainly traffic management over the four rounds before we bagged ourselves a cheeky first place, you could even say the roof was on fire !
On the way back to Tobermory we put the tunes on, laid back and had a wee ‘daydream with a wafer cream’!
So what’s the story in Balamory wouldn’t you like to know. Well, today was a 23 mile passage race from Oban to Tobermory with an extremely early start time of 07:55 that was as horrible as it sounds but once everyone was up and changed into their water-proofs we were ready to go !
Some misleading information about the position of the start line from a certain team member meant that we weren’t as early as we would have liked, but, we still made it in time.
Leaky Roof 2 had a great start after class 7 had a general recall giving us clear air and plenty of space to work our way up the Lismore shore with Shadowfax and Leaky Roof 2 tacking off early for fresh breeze, this led to them establishing an early lead.
Whilst trying to go round the outside of the Sgair Nan Gael island, we noticed Shadowfax sneaking through the inside of said island and Lismore light, after some deliberation we decided to follow the local knowledge through the small gap without once taking our eye off the depth !
Very shortly after squeezing through we put the kite up and were off to Tobermory where we worked extremely hard to get clean air stopping the big boats from going to windward of us.
Leaky Roof 2 briefly gained on close competitor Shadowfax before they managed to escape again in their own wind finishing first in our class.
Once back in Tobermory we settled down for T and medals. T being Tennents and medals being the extra boxes of Tunnocks Caramel Wafers thrown over to us.
Day 4 of West Highland Yacht Week for Blue Jay, Class 1:
An early start for all classes led to an interesting mix of conditions with wind speeds building and dropping off throughout the day with a building tide against the passage through the Sound of Mull. All onboard shook off the clutches of sleep and put on a happy face ready for racing!
Racing started on time for all classes, bar class 7 who seemed almost too keen to get their pontoon berth in Tobermory… All competitors had passed through Lady’s Rock by around 8:45, after this the pace really began to snowball. With wind just aft of the beam many of the fleet hoisted reaching kites with these being exchanged or peeled for their larger running equivalents as the wind continued to track back. At this stage class 1 began to separate with many of the class heading high to get the early benefit of fresh wind whilst others sailed a straighter course risking the effects of the tide.
The sail through the sound, past Salen, really took the biscuit with a gradual bear away and the first signs of Tobermory appearing off the bow. Most of the fleet chose a shoreline route, sticking to the wafer thin shallows with several gybing battles ensuing. Although the wind looked favourable in the main channel, many yachts stuck to this tactic as they likely feared the deeper water would be like sailing through pure caramel with no hope of rolling across the competition. A few yachts ventured out into the channel and it paid dividends as the wind swung forwards and filled in strongly, giving the boost they needed to pull away from those behind to close the gap to the front runners. After this it was only a short round up outside the bay at Tobermory and across the finish line.
Racing finished in high spirits with all competitors happy with their performance and ready for a well deserved pint in the Mishnish (other brands of Tobermory hospitality are available).
A special mention to Wildwood, with the youngest helm barely able to see over the wheel! They prove that West Highland Yacht Week is still truly a family business. And also to our great friend and crew member Fiona Rae who celebrates her birthday today!
Thanks to all racers, organisers and sponsors for what has been a brilliant week so far with more yet to come!
Day 3 of West Highland Week for Autism on the Water and the rest of the fleet in the Tunnocks fleet saw very strong winds and big seas as well as a return of the rain!
All spinnaker classes had a epic race with the strong winds and big seas making for difficult steering for skippers. For Autism on the Water with Matthew Thomas coach of Team New Zealand Sailing team calling tactics, we had a SUPERB race flying the spinnaker on each leg touching at least 20kts boat speed with the crew sitting well back of the boat and the skippers heart rate 50 times faster!!!
However Salamander along with Cool Bandit and Piecemaker took deserved first three placings with the conditions suiting the boats perfectally. We had a fantastic 4th place which was a very good result for us! We also shout out to our friends on Shadowfax who were leading Class 5 and and entertained the committee boat with a spectacular broach which cost them places! We’ve offered coaching sessions for a decent price! But are impressed with a slick recovery!
For me personally it’s so special for me to have my own boat here. I am so passionate about raising awareness of autism through sailing, it’s a sport that requires serious confidence and problem solving skills. For me that was tested big time and honestly sailing that fast was mind blowing. I want to thank my crew for all their efforts in tough conditions and for helping me embrace the difference as we sail and also our thanks to our sponsors Octopi Engineering for making it possible to be here. Having competed for so many years as crew I never thought I’d see the day I’d have my own boat here racing competively in tough conditions. I’m autistic myself and I certainly have made some dreams come true this week.