Thursday, 27 May 2010

SIPR 1: Oban

This whole island peaks thing started - like many an idea one lives to regret - down the pub. Four pints into a particularly pleasurable evening and Graeme (with an 'e'), a boat-owning work colleague, dangled the suggestion of a daunder round the west coast by foot and boat. Why not? That I'd considered it a year earlier and rejected it out of hand as too tough was by-the-by. Graeme had bided his time and chosen his moment well. It was a particularly pleasant evening, full of possibilities. What could go wrong?

The first inkling that I'd have to up my game came in February. In Oban on business, I skipped away at lunch to recce the Oban dash. Running up Haggart's Brae and Dun Uabairtich was a punch in the guts! My regime - twice a week round Arthur's Seat at lunchtime and the occasional half-marathon - was clearly insufficient. Did I mention I was no fell runner and had never done an event like this before? I started to run the 8 miles to work, and Graham (with an 'h'), my Arthur's Seat jogging partner, agreed to take part too. "At least if we get weather like February we'll be laughing," I said to Graeme. "Are you kidding?" he said. "We'll need more wind than that..."

Oban in February from Dun Uabairtich:

We met Wilf and Leo, Graeme's crew, off the West Highland Line the night before the race. They'd arrived two nights before and had planned to have a couple of days sailing round Oban but this had not been possible due to a lack of wind - and it wasn't looking good for the Friday and Saturday of the race either. "Some of the other boats are rigged up like galleys," said Wilf. "We've been watching them practice rowing." Our only oars were in the dinghy. Modifying Phoebe, a 32-ft Bavaria cruiser, was not something we had considered. Lesson one for the novice SIPR crew. The next morning, as we gathered to run round the Oban route, I tried in vain to spot someone who looked less fit than us. Sinewy, athletic, muscular... the blokes too... "they all look fitter than you," Graeme offered helpfully. We shot off round the course and crossed the start line towards the end of the field, but as soon as the momentum from the engine boost died, we floundered helplessly in Oban Bay, expending most of our effort getting out the way of ferries.

Busy seaway in Oban Bay:

Come on guys - only 20 miles to Salen!

'This is hopeless!' we agreed. But out there boats were heeling over and pulling away from us. We only had to get out of the bay and the wind would pick us up. After further interminable rowing - and now right at the back of the field - we finally caught a breath of wind and escaped Oban Bay three hours after Phoebe had crossed the start line.

Read on for the next installment..


Tim McArthur said...

From Blue Pearl,

Firstly, many thanks for coming over to see if we were alright opposite Loch Spelve. That was kind of you and much appreciated. We had dropped one of our rowing oars over the side and were retrieving it whne the shackle on the main sheet undid itself and the main was thrashing around in the only breeze of the entire race - chaos for a short while. Thank you for your interest.

When you saw us late, we were indeed going backwards in to Corrivreckan but by dint of frenzied rowing got to the shore at the very last corner before being sucked in and dropped the anchor before we disappeared to infinity! A stiff dram and a few hours sleep and we were up and away south again when the tide changed at 02.30 am!! drifting and rowing.

Stopped again when the tide turned again five miles short of Craighouse and anchored to stop ouselves going backwards at 1 knot again.

After an hor and long discussion, we retired, motored to \jura for the runners to run and for us sailors to have a beer or two!

Great race though as ever. back again next year.

Thanks again for your concern. Glad you made it to Largs safely.

Good sailing for the rest of the season.

Kind regards

Tim, crew Blue Pearl

Robert Craig said...

Tim - great to read your account, impressed you got through Corryvreckan without motor or wind. Just shows that every crew had a unique experience of the race. I'm kind of glad we didn't come prepared with oars as it would have been a lot more work than it was!