Archive for the ‘Jura’ Category

Scottish Islands Peaks Race

Friday, May 27th, 2016
Sailing from Oban to Mull

Sailing from Oban to Mull

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!

Check Point on Mull

Check Point on Mull

John doesn't like to get cold!

John doesn’t like to get cold!

The secret weapon - Beetroot Juice. Sadly it didn't work!

The secret weapon – Beetroot Juice. Sadly it didn’t work!

View from a Pap in the morning

View from a Pap in the morning

Rough under foot

Rough under foot

Passing the Mull of Kintyre

Passing the Mull of Kintyre

Rowing the boat when the wind dropped

Rowing the boat when the wind dropped

The Goat Fell Runners return

The Goat Fell Runners return

Simon collects the finishing certificates

Simon collects the finishing certificates

 

 

 

The Paps of Jura

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Alasdair and Rick on the Paps of Jura

 

Alasdair on the Paps of Jura

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.

Rowing Past the Corryvreckan

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

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!