This is a fabulous story – almost brings a tear to the eye. West Highland Yachting Week is under the starting gun (28th July-3rd August) - and it has some glorious surprises in its sail bag.
A little yacht that will be on the starting line in Class 8 will stir some fond memories of thirty years ago – the last tine she was here.
What is even more remarkable is that she has been out of the water for twenty six of those years.
Popcorn, a Contessa 25, is one of the famous trio of racing yachts of Fort William’s Fyfe family that included Bubblegum and Gumdrop.
Although the family latterly raced Sovereign, it was probably Popcorn, Bubblegum and Gumdrop, under the helm of Ian Fyfe, that are remembered best of all.
Gumdrop, the Contessa 35, competed in the Capetown to Rio race in 1976.
Bubblegum, a Bazan 43, raced the Parmelia Yacht Race in 1979 from Plymouth via Capetown to Perth in Australia. This was the longest ocean race at that time.
Bubblegum also did the Whitbread in 1981 and then a circumnavigation – Ian Fyfe was a great ocean sailor.
However, while the other boats were sold on, Popcorn stayed home at Fort William.
Built in 1976, this Jeremy Rogers designed Contessa 25 was always a fast boat and not so ‘wee’ in her former glory days.
Ian’s son Angus did his first West Highland Yachting Week (WHYW) with his father in 1973 and continued to compete for many years. Angus raced Popcorn keenly from 1982 competing at WHYW and the Scottish Series, as well as other regattas, until 1985 and winning many major trophies on the west coast.
Then he married, family came along and Popcorm went quiet.
Angus says Popcorn had been a ‘garden ornament’ with ferns growing out of the hatch for the last quarter century. It was when he was routinely bailing her out he realised major restoration work was required.
He gave the task to Peter Watt of Boat Solutions who undertook the work in one of the indoor units at Creran Marine.
Although the hull was sound the balsa core sandwich and internal bulkheads had to be replaced. This extended too much of the woodwork and GRP. It was a complete overhaul said Peter who re-wired, re-rigged and stepped a new mast on the boat.
It was a sentimental moment for all the Fyfes when Popcorn took to the water once again and sailed to Glencoe Boat Club. Ian Fyfe Snr (92) celebrated the moment, stepping aboard her once again and was delighted to read the old news clippings of her former racing success in the clubhouse. As a fitting return to the racing scene Popcorn won her first race back at the club.
Now Angus and his grown up family will be keen competitors at WHYW bringing the next generation to the event. Angus says: ‘We are all looking forward to WHYW 2012 and the family is amazed that Popcorn is sailing again.’
West Highland Yachting Week is well known as an event with something for everyone – from hotly competitive racing for IRC and CYCA classes, with the spinnaker fleet; to the restricted or white sail fleet with the emphasis on fun and family participation.
The 2012 regatta is celebrating it’s 65th year of racing and is shaping up to be another exciting event. Principal Race Officer is once again Malcolm MacGregor and after a good day’s sailing on the water, the popular après sail social programme provides a range of events for competitors and families.
And that’s the understatement of the year. WHYW requires stamina on and off the water – big time. The scene includes family swimming and cinema nights, touch rugby and a skipper’s reception. Each night there is a headline event for competitors and the final prize-giving is followed by a Scottish ceilidh.
A unique event in the calendar of UK yacht racing, with its mix of cut=throat competitive racing and family participation, WHYW attracts over 130 yachts each August to the west coast of Scotland.
It is run from the ports of Craobh Marina, Oban and Tobermory. Feeder races from the Clyde, from he Isle of Gigha and frm Oban bring yachts to muster at Craobh for the start of the event. This year – 2012 – its the 65th anniversary of an Argyll regatta which has its origins as far back as 1882.