Yesterday I had a “day off” and took part in the Isle of Bute Sailing Club Round Bute Race. I was invited to crew on the 37 foot Jeanneau yacht “Phantom” – as part of a crew of six. In previous years, the competitors have struggled to get round the 45-odd mile course due to lack of wind.
This was not to be such a day! The forecast was for strong Westerly winds – Force 6 to 7 (30 to 35 knots to the uninitiated). Weather forecasting has moved on since the days of Michael Fish – so it was pretty accurate. That said, 20-odd intrepid crews gathered at the start line off the West Bay in Rothesay just before 9.30 am on Saturday morning.
After a few flags and guns (normal stuff, really) we were off. The start of a yacht race can be very exciting and”shouty” – but on this occasion was was fairly calm.
We then headed off to the first turning mark in Rothesay Bay. Here , the trick is to get the inside track and try to force the other guy out- however, when the mark is two tons of steel (rather than a floating bouncy castle) skippers were more careful!
Round we went in 4th place,and set off for Bogany Point, our next mark. Here again, common sense prevailed, and there were no expensive crunching sounds.
Once round this corner, we set off for the south end of Bute – Garroch Head. The race then broke down into a tussle between individual yachts, maneuvering for position. The promised near-gale hadn’t appeared at this point. However this was not to last. As we came around the south end of the Island, and emerged from the shelter of Bute the whole fleet was hit by very strong winds,and increasingly large waves.
This became a much more serious proposition – some yachts retired,and one boat lost her mast and had to be towed in to Largs. Thankfully, no-one was injured.
The fleet battled on up the West side of Bute – the opposition now the wild sea and howling wind. The Kyles of Bute were reached with relief by all crews – certainly our lot began smiling again!
Once through the Kyles, the wind eased and went behind, and we were able to get our spinnaker (balloon-shaped colourful sail) up for a few minutes. We don’t have any photographs, because we were all a bit busy – particularly as the wind then got up (rapidly)!
When we cleared the Kyles of Bute, we headed for Rothesay Bay, and the finish line. The wind wasn’t done with us quite yet, and we were knocked down by a squall just before the line. Unsurprisingly we don’t have any pictures of this either…!
We crossed the line in 5th place, but finished 10th overall (yachts, like golfers, use a handicap system) in about 5 hours 40 minutes.
We were very relieved to be back alongside at Port Bannatyne Marina – and thence to the social at Isle of Bute Sailing Cub. But that’s another story!
A cracking day (and evening) was had by all – many thanks to the club and all competitors for a super event. Roll on 2018!