The forecast for the start of Tiree’s 2012 Regatta, was dreich with showers, and a gusty offshore WNW wind freshening by late afternoon to 20-25 knots. Not the best of forecasts, but at the skippers’ meeting it was decided the forecast was not one that would cause a postponement of the 2 o’clock start.
At the start the wind still had to freshen, but the sun had come out, there were no showers, and a glorious race was in prospect. The forecast had put off a few boats, but among the fleet were 4 of the classic Tiree dipping lugs, which are now a rare sight on the Scottish Regatta scene. The lugs and mixed dinghy fleet made a perfect start but as they rounded the first mark the wind freshened and what ensued was one of the toughest Tiree Regattas for many years.
The dinghies finished the 2 laps of the course in record time, but dipping lugs have a huge problem going upwind and this was causing difficulties. Reefing was essential, but in the freshening conditions proved difficult to execute as wind and tide were building a considerable chop. The pressure on the mast foot of one of the lugs, the Daisy, skippered by Iain Macdonald, caused the mast to snap its securing thwart. It had to withdraw.
From the shore, conditions looked benign but were deteriorating sharply as the fleet attempted to round the last mark to the finish line. This proved problematic, with all bar one of the boats failing to round the mark. Donnie MacInnes, skipper of the Mary was the sole finisher. At the prize giving, supping from the winner’s Quaich, he revealed local knowledge passed on from his father – ‘with the mark in the position it was, then in a very fresh NW, the best tactic to adopt is to head inshore to nearly beach the boat, tack ,and come down around the mark’. This, Donnie had executed to perfection!
The committee, having spent many hours deriving a new handicap system for the Tiree lugs, did not have to revert to a computer to work it all out. There was just one finisher, job done !! Finn MacDonald aged 11, helming his Pico with dad Karl as crew, followed his success in last year’s Centenery Regatta by winning the Dinghy class from Mamie Jean II, helmed by Martin Finnigan and crewed by John Macdonell, who had rushed from the Stramash course to make the start.
Ashore, events were in full swing, but also wind affected. As with the boat racing, there was only one finisher, in the traditional Tiree Raft race, with the crews of the other rafts forced to abandon ‘raft’ , so to speak, at the Harbour entrance, before the offshore wind threatened to blow them off to Mull. The Young Farmers’ raft arrived without paddles, confirmation of their land-lubber instincts!! The sandcastle competition was fierce, with many families putting together some amazing constructions. Some splendidly ‘engineered’ and stunning ‘art-designed‘ castles were on display. Winners were the Macintosh and Larg families respectively. The SUP race with 10 racers was a great success, ending with a 3 man–girl race off, with the Brimelow Family just nudging Helen Thompson into 3rd place. Meanwhile relieved skippers and crews, retired to the bar to reflect on one of the toughest Tiree Regattas in the last 20 years.