23rd May 2016
Just after we arrived in Troon Harbour a nice varnished boat arrived. It was a Vertue called Cilix. She was built in Holland in 1993 from green oak frames and iroko planking. Alan was the owner and he had sailed from her base on the River Fal in Cornwall. Alan will be sailing around the West Coast of Scotland over the summer. The boat has some lovely features including some bespoke bronzework.. She has a bumkin, slutter rig and deck stepped mast. Alan explained how he can unstep the mast by himself, or at least without a crane. Certainly something I can’t achieve with Sumara’s keel stepped mast.
Keep an eye open for her if you are sailing the Scottish Islands this summer.
Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category
23rd May 2016
This is no normal race and it is well to remember that!
For sailors it is a demanding race which takes in some tricky tidal areas. Unusually for a race picking up the crew or dropping the anchor has to take place under sail.
Equally it is a demanding race for runners. Running up mountains over loose boulders and then across hummocked bog land back to the boats is not easy going.
However it is the combination of the two that turns this into a very challenging race.
Normally before I go for a sail, I take a look at the weather and work out the tides. I then decide the best time to go to catch the all important tidal gateway. I also prefer to sail during the day. Equally, before I enter a half marathon or suchlike I’ll make sure I get a good nights sleep and a decent breakfast with a large dollop of coffee inside me about an hour before the start. The start is generally at a civilised time, about 9 or 10 in the morning.
Well forget all that!
To be fair, the first race around the hills near Oban does start at a predictable noon but after that anything can happen.
Simon and I had a reasonable first run near Oban finishing in about 38 minutes. We then jumped in the little inflatable to row out to Brimble. Our prediction of a slackish tide was not to be correct and I had to row like stink to counter the current. Once clear of the moored boats we were picked up by Brimble and a few seconds later we were in a near collision with a navigational buoy and a catamaran bearing down on us while another yacht tried to squeeze between.
We then had a lovely sail to Salen. It is important to get to the first anchorage quickly because Scottish Power turn off the wind at about 6pm to save energy. Our runners, Grit, Simon and Rob, were landed and running by 5pm on Mull. This allowed them to reach the summit of Ben Mor before dark. The really fast fell runners can get there and back while it is light but that is crazy fast. Sadly the weather was awful and it poured with chilly rain. The summit was apparently freezing cold. Our poor runners managed to get back onboard by 0245 having made the wet descent in the dark. It was a tough 22 miles and they were glad to be back on Brimble for some nosh and a rest.
John and I sailed the good ship towards the Sound of Luing before waking the Mull Runners to take over the watch. Craftily we handed over our watch just as the tide was about to turn foul in the narrow straits. Feeling slightly smug we crawled into our bunks. Sadly our cunning plan backfired as the constant tacking meant I couldn’t get to sleep. We got up as the tide turned again and Jura gradually approached. As Craighouse neared the wind began to drop and we decided to enter the northern approach to the harbour. At this point the wind died completely and Simon, John and I got into the little Seago dinghy to row ashore. The problem was it was about a mile and a half to row. By the time we reached the check point at about midnight I was virtually asleep. We were greeted by “You know you are last – you had better take your Yellow Brick tracker on the Paps” which was a bit unnerving!
However, I would hate this to sound like a moan about the marshals who are basically the most generous kind helpful and wonderful people you can imagine. There is no way an event like this could exist without their dedicated help. As we were the last to start the run, they basically had to wait overnight in the Community Hall until we arrived back safely. And they had to wait over 8 hours!
It was my fault. I was basically too tired to even start the run yet alone complete it. Along the roads and tracks I could slowly jog along but I couldn’t conjure the energy to cope with the foot placement needed for the scree slopes. I was falling asleep as I ran and fell over at least twenty times. I was wearing a heart monitor and ironically it only registered an average of 131 and a max of 157. My normal running heart rates average about 167 and peak around 190. I never really got going. It was such a shame as I had been looking forward to the Paps for a long time but I can’t say this was an enjoyable experience at all.
The one thing that kept me going was Rob had promised to make a big dahl curry for our breakfast and indeed he kept his word. We arrived back on the boat and tucked into a most wonderful creation. There were seconds too! Then I fell into deep sleep as the crew sailed Brimble towards the Mull of Kintyre.
Refreshed after a good snooze on a calm sea I got up just as the tide had turned ready to sweep us around the Mull at 9 kn. John managed to arrange for Wings to be playing at the moment of the rounding! In perfect conditions we sailed towards Arran only to be caught out in the traditional manner by Scottish Power once again turning off the wind in the evening. The good news was that the run would now take place in daylight!
Grit, John, Simon and Rob ran the route to Goat Fell in fine weather and they made it back in good time ready for the final sail. After a slow start the wind gradually built up and we were sailing at 4-5 kn towards the finish. Grit and Simon rowed ashore and ran to the finish. We all retired to Scotts for a few too many beers and a lovely meal.
It was a great pleasure to be part of the race and to sail on a fine ship with such lovely crew. Thanks everyone!
Oh dear, here we go again. This time I am joining the crew of the Good Ship Brimble, a 27ft Twister. There will be more space onboard than Sumara but still pretty cosy with five runners and all the kit. I’ve been a bit disorganised this year struggling to find the time to sort out my kit. When I went down to my yacht to collect my boots, hat, running compass and other gear I found she had been locked in a shed so I’ve had to buy a load of new stuff. There is a strict kit check before each run so there’s no busking it. Every runner also has to take 250g of chocolate on each run. Something to look forward to!
We are getting the sleeper to Glasgow tonight so we will arrive in Oban on Thursday lunchtime. That should give us enough time to get ready before the noon start on Friday. The weather isn’t looking too bright but at least we won’t be rowing again.
It’s Monday mid-day and we have Ailsa Craig ahead on our starboard bow. It is a lovely island. The stone from Ailsa Craig is almost unique in that it does not absorb any water. That is why it is the choice of stone for curling. A set of blue granite curling stones from Ailsa Craig will set you back about £15,000!
The continous rain overnight has stopped and a gentle north west wind has set in. The sea is completely calm and we are making about 3 kn with Jannicke on the helm. Our destination is the Isle of Man about 100 nm away and all is looking excellent. I’m going to hank on a bigger sail soon and try to extract an extra half knot. I enjoyed Troon, friendly marina staff, good nosh in Scotts and also at the first class fish restaurant by the fishing boat harbour. It should take us about 40 hours to reach the Isle of Man at this rate, but we will see.
Poor Sumara was about a day behind the rest of the fleet but we were determined to finish. We had heard that about 13 yachts had retired and three did not start so although we were definately going to be last at least we were going to finish! We had all booked tickets on the overnight sleeper back to London and some of the crew had to get back to work or other arrangements. It was going to be a very tight call. The sail across is about 13 miles (I think – this is from memory). We ghosted out of the northern channel from Lamlash. From the top of Goat Fell we saw ripples of wind on the water further out to sea, so we were hopefull of a fair sail. It was a slow start and the oars almost came out but eventually we caught a bit of wind and Sumara got under way. Now things were looking promising. We booked a cab to greet us at Troon to get us to the station. However soon I could see a smooth area near to the coast and sure enough when we were two miles off the wind died. A short blast of the motor would have got us there in time to catch the train but there was no way after all this effort that we were going to spoil things so out came the oars. We rowed in desperation to try to catch the train but soon we realised it wasn’t going to happen. We were only a mile off. The engine was a big temptation but instead we decided to call the cab firm and get a quote for Troon to London. Gulp! Oh well, it had to be. We rowed on and the harbour entrance loomed. It was dark now. We rowed towards the marina entrance and pumped up the dinghy. A large fishing boat swung around the corner and was surprised to see us. Grit and Rick rowed on ahead and ran to the Marina Office where a slightly bemused member of the staff was surprised to see us. He thought the race had finished yesterday. Not for Sumara!
It was a shame not to be able to celebrate as Sarah, Charlotte and Rick had to jump in the cab. Grit and I stayed behind to clear up the boat. The following day whilst walking down the pontoon we were enthusiastically greeted by Gordon Baird. Gordon gave us a heros welcome although we came last and Gordon came first! We had a lovely chat and coffee onboard his huge catarmaran called Obedient. After sorting the boat Grit and I had a tasty meal in the Marina Restaurant and caught the train back to London. The big adventure was over.
We were the smallest boat in the race and we came last. However we did finish. There were 50 boats due to start the race. Three did not make it to the start start leaving 47 competitors but only 29 finished. Obedient came first in 40 hrs and 44 minutes 22 seconds. We took a little bit longer at 106 hrs 57 minutes. We didn’t bother about the seconds!
Rick has done a nice write up in his local mountaineering newletter. Here is the link.
Sumara was so late arriving at Lamlash on Arran that the organisers had to leave so they asked us to time ourselves in and out. It was a hot day and we were not going to be running in the dark but we stuck to the rules and ran with the full kit including extra thermals, torches and spare batteries. Grit, Rick and I were the runners this time. I was pretty tired after the week’s hectic activity and slowed the team down a bit. Grit was very perky. Rick described her as a metronome. The run in to Goat Fell is a long trek from Lamlash but the climb is very straight forward with a path to the top. On this sunny day it was crowded with tourists. We reached the summit and immediately turned to descend. Rick flew down in his usual style quickly followed by Grit. I was still taking these downhill runs cautiously to avoid stressing my recovering knee. The long run back to Lamlash exhausted me but for some strange reason, as usual, I sped up towards the end. I’m never sure why that happens. I don’t have the timings with me right now but I think it was around 6 hours. We rowed back to Sumara for the final sail to Troon.
Well it wasn’t as long as six hours! It was 5hours, 28 minutes and 13 seconds. The average speed of ascent was 500m/hr with a maximum of 890m/hr. The average speed of descent was 830m/hr with a max of 1830m/hr. The total ascent was 1224m and the highest point according to my £29.00 Decathlon watch was 878m.
By now we knew we were the last boat to leave Jura for Arran. Barbara, who was one of the organisers had politely asked if we were still competing. “Of course we are” was Chatlottes reply. To get to Lamlash on Arran we would have to round the Mull of Kintyre – a notorious headland with fierce tides and overfalls. The wind was now coming from the south east and we couldn’t lay off the course. We eventually had to tack to avoid contravening the shipping lane regulations. Tim had told me how one year a yacht ended up nearer to Northern Ireland than Scotland. How I laughed, but guess what? The wind became very light and the tide turned and the good ship Sumara found herself nearer to Northern Ireland than Scotland! Of course eventually the tide would become fair and we were able to tack in towards Arran. Rick and I thought it best to grab a couple of hours sleep while Sarah, Grit and Charlotte took the last short watch into Lamlash. Sadly it wasn’t to be so easy. The wind turned and headed them and soon they were closer to Ailsa Craig than Arran. We ended up with everyone rowing as hard as they could. I tried pulling in the dinghy. It took a long old time but we finally picked up a buoy in Lamlash ready for the last run – up Goat Fell.
Having been sailing for 26 hours means you are not necessarily in tip top race condition at the start of the run but somehow the adrenalin kicks in and the energy comes from somewhere. Harris, from the nice yellow yacht in Dunstaffnage, had made us a specially decorated tub of nourishing energy giving food and kindly given it to us as a present before we left the marina. Even with Harris’ nosh I wasn’t sure quite how we would pull this one off. At least we were running in daylight. Rick and I cleared the thorough kit inspection and jogged off to the foothills of the Paps. With a combined age of 114 years we were probably the oldest team to run this section, but maybe not.
The cumulative ascent was to be 1740m. Our maximum speed of ascent was 1010m an hour and our maximum speed of descent was 1930m an hour. The Paps are quite steep sided and when you’ve got to the top you need to descend to climb another one and then do it all again. I was beginning to flake out on the second ascent but just managed to continue the top. After that it wasn’t so bad.
My fear of my knee playing up didn’t happen but I was trying to be kind to it on the downhill runs. It was good being with Rick, who was much faster and more experienced than me. I learnt a lot of little techniques and loved running down the scree slopes.
The scree is tough on the shoes. Mine held up fine (Salamon Speed Cross SCS) but Rick’s Inov Mudroc’s really took a bashing. About a third of the studs were torn off the sole and others were about to break loose. He will be taking them back as they were pretty new. I never liked my shoes when I bought them but now I think they are the bees knees.
After 6 hours and 51 minutes we arrived back at the check point, a little worn but not injured, and we were collected by Charlotte in the dinghy ready for the next section.
I confess that we had been a little worried on-board the ship as the runners had taken longer than we expected. We knew one runner from another team had to be air lifted off and we were much relieved when a text arrived from Charlotte saying they were on the road back. Once the tired but very cheery runners were safely onboard at 7am we heaved up the hefty anchor, got the sails filled and made way back down the Sound of Mull.
The big tidal gateway en route to Craighouse on Jura is the Sound of Luing. The organisers had conveniently chosen a weekend with a new moon so it was to be powerful spring tides (and no moonlight!). The tides can whizz through the sound at 7 or 8 knots so there was no chance if we missed the fair tide. Time was however ticking away and the wind was already slacking off. If we were to arrive too late then we would need to head to the Sound of Islay at the southern tip of the island – but that added miles.
We did eventually arrive at the Sound of Luing in time for the tide but the wind had now slackened of to a very light vesper. We needed to man the oars for although we were travelling at 8 knots we had no steerage and if we took too long the Corryvreckan would suck us in and spit us out the other side.
After a while a breeze returned and the female watch even had to change down sails only to find the wind died again and they had to change back up. Rick and I were snoozing below trying to catch some sleep before running the Paps of Jura.
After 26 long hours and 20 minutes we arrived at Jura at 0839.
Charlotte rowed Rick and me ashore. The dreaded Paps awaited!
(Written by Grit Eckert)
Our team set off in good spirit to complete the run that out of all of them was the longest. On studying the map we learnt that it ll be 22 miles.
Charlotte, Rick and I were defiantly up for it. Half an hour into the run we bumped into the first team but they were on their way back.
We were quite lucky with the weather only a little drizzle when we landed.
After about four miles we left the main road to enter the rougher paths that would lead us up the summit. One must always be cautious not to fall into the trap of following other teams however tempting that might be. On that note we made the right decision not to follow a team that had been ahead of us and seemed to be heading up the wrong way.
The higher up ones gets the better the view and on a clear sunny day it is quite breathtaking. However, there is always that risk of danger and as we ascended we made out a loud noise in the distant which turned out to be a mountain rescue helicopter that had to rescue a runner who cracked his ribs while trying to get to the top…oh dear.
As we progressed we were slowly running out of day light, luckily we did made it to the summit with a little left. On descending night fall and we switched on our head torches and another chapter began as navigating became a little harder. We weren’t the only ones struggling, there were other teams in a very similar position. The good thing about darkness is one can see these little ray of lights wondering around in the wild which gives an indicator on the general direction. We struggled on and luckily Rick was brilliant at finding the check points in the dark.
After almost thirteen hours we made it back to Salen where we were greeted by the rest of the team…and for the record we weren’t the last ones to leave the island.