Tiree Wave Classic and Coll Challenge
In endurance sports, they say that if you’re not living on the edge then you’re taking up too much room. The annual invasion of the tiny Hebridean island of Tiree by windsurfers from all over the world (including many top-ranking professionals) brings with it some of the most focussed, single-minded athletes you could ever wish to meet. But even though these surfers (or should it be sailors?) come to compete against each other they do it in a spirit of camaraderie and community.
They also like a bit of fun, which is as well because after the first day of the Tiree Wave Classic, sanctioned as a World Cup event since 2007, the Isle of Tiree decided not to live up to its reputation as one of the windiest places in the country.
For most of the week the little island, 14 miles long, 6 miles wide, was well and truly becalmed. Nice if you live here. Nice if you’ve come on holiday with the family. Not so nice if you’ve travelled, say, thousands of miles to get to the Tiree Wave Classic only to find there is not so much as a breeze and very little in the way of waves.
Timo Mullen (Ireland) effectively won the Wave Classic on day one of the competition. But these bare facts don’t paint the whole picture. The Tiree Wave Classic is so much more than a competition. Many ancillary events play an important part in making this 23-year-old competition a hit with islanders and competitors alike. For instance, the Tiree Team 15 Junior Racing Event, held at Loch Bhasapol, was a great success. 17 rounds of racing were completed with the junior racers prior to finally announcing the winners of the event. William Angus MacLean, of Wild Diamond Windsurfing, said ‘Overall the day turned out to be a great success, even with the light winds that we had over the course of the day. This is an event which we hope to grow for next year to involve more young windsurfers in racing and give them the opportunity to interact with the top stars in the sport.’
The highly anticipated Coll Adventure Challenge had to be ‘tweaked’ in view of the lack of wind. However the brave souls who took part were enthusiastic and the large crowd of spectators did their utmost to cheer them on. After a 6k run on the beach the competitors raced paddle boards in Gott Bay (instead of windsurfing to Coll). After the paddle board heats were over everyone piled into a Rigid Inflatable Boat to be ferried to Coll for the mountain bike stage. This was the second year in which this very special triathlon has featured at the Wave Classic and hopefully it is now a permanent feature. George Shilitto won the C.A.C. in spite of falling off his bike while going round the half-marathon course on Coll.
A host of peripheral events and activities ensured noone would be stuck for anything to do. This included a community drinks reception in which the public were extended a warm welcome to come along and find out more about the Tiree Wave Classic. In addition, the Tiree Lodge Hotel ensured there was something different on every night including two full to capacity gigs by local bands Trail West and The Defenders. And this is where the bit about ‘surfers liking fun’ comes in. There’s no doubt about it: if you want to be in the middle of a great party you had to be at The Tiree Lodge Hotel in the evening during the Classic! And whether you approve or not there’s no denying the fact that the photo-shoot at Gott Bay of three naked windsurfers certainly got the island into the news. There’s something about the combination of the words ‘nude’ and ‘windsurfer’ which causes internet search engines to go into overdrive. My own blog – Isle of Tiree Diary – had hundreds of hits within hours of my featuring a link to an internet report on the subject.
And so, the Tiree Wave Classic is over for another year. Undeterred by the unseasonably good weather here’s hoping these good natured, dedicated sailors – or is that surfers? – will come back next year. We’re looking forward to it already. And some wind to go with it, hopefully!