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!