[Updated below 3 July - found Astor and Kentra] We pitched camp on the CalMac ferry from Colintraive to Rhubodach yesterday, 1st July, as it shuttled across the East Kyle of Bute on its daily timetable of crossings. Loch Dunvegan’s watchful skipper is seen above taking her out of Colintraive at an unusual angle, in order to facilitate passing sails.
With a stiffish breeze from the west, the Fife fleet had a good sail, tacking their way up to the Burnt Island narrows just north of Colintraive. We heard later that one of the fleet had been a bit ambitious on a tack near the Ardmaleish boatyard at Rothesay and had gone aground, needing to be pulled off.
At Colintraive, local boats – like this lovely saiboat above – went tootling down the Kyle to see and greet the fleet.
Then these beautiful classic wooden Fife’s, built at the Fairlie yard on the Clyde, started to come through between the audiences at either side of the narrows, their stern flags showing the international nature of the fleet.
They ranged in size from 24 to 100 feet length overall and, individually and collectively, they looked magnificent.
They don’t point as high in the wind as modern yachts, so they had plenty of tacks to put in on passage to Tighnabruaich.
The puffer – and you can see where the name comes from – Vic 32, based in Crinan, was there in both the East and West Kyles, taking visitors picked up at the pier in Tighnabruaich out to see the fleet – and often obliterating views of the yachts behind her.
As a fleet, the different conformation and rigging of the boats was fun to see, as in this trio with the 1910 8 metre, Truant [back left], the 1898 sloop, Mignon [back right] and, we’ve been told, in the foreground, Gigha, a Milne boat built at the Bute boatyard, a Scottish Isles class.
This gaff rigger is north of the Rhubodach ferry slip, passing a field of sheep in the way to the Burnt islands channel.
Here H12 is Truant, K649 is Sonata, and we now know that the turquoise hull with a ’9′ high on her mainsail, is Gigha, a Scottish Isles class Milne boat.
The fleet tacks into the channel through the Burnt Islands at the north of the East Kyle.
The last of the fleet coming through the Burnt Islands – seen from the viewpoint above the entrance to Loch Riddon as we chased them down to Tighnabruaich.
Leaping out of the car momentarily in a layby, we caught Truant, inshore, leading a group down the West Kyle.
A big yawl in the fleet, Sail No 121, sails past a big ketch already on a mooring and on down the West Kyle, with her support boat and a local pilot in attendance.
The regatta was superbly organised into Tighnabruaich with each yacht met and guided to a mooring or anchorage by one of a flotilla of organising motor boats.
K26 [identity unknown] is well heeled over here as she crosses Tighnabruaich Bay, with the mountains of Arran in the haze beyond.
When many of the fleet got to Tighnabruaich, they carried on sailing for fun – some going on down the West Kyle towards Inchmarnock island off Bute, almost out of sight on the left; while others, like Gigha here, turned and sailed back up the West Kyle, just to keep company with those still on the way in – and to enjoy the spectacular scenery of these glorious sailing grounds.
Here the Coastal Rowing team from Maidens in Ayrshire – in their St Ayles skills, Carrick, are out for a warm up row before the later race between four skiffs in which they came second to – Kyles Coastal Rowers. This was a triumphant win for the home team from Tighnabruaich, with a lot of of admiration from the other teams for the quality of building of their skiff.
The skiffs get set up for the race, starting just below the Tighnabruaich Lifeboat station.
The skiffs race attracted a serious crowd at the Lifeboat station. 100 St Ayles skiff kits have been bought – under the aegis of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association. 50 are already built, in the water and racing – and 31 of those will be at Ullapool next week- from Monday 7th July – for the World Coastal Rowing Championships.
This communal sport has been virtually an immediate success, with communities all around the Scottish coast buying into the fun, the skills, the competition and the bonding of it all. They each build and then race their own boats, from a crew squad of local people. Several Argyll communities are already members of the Association, with a race recently hosted by the Isle of Seil team and Islay’s Festival of the Sea hosting races as well.
Back on land after their practice row and after the race, this was the second placed crew from Maidens in Ayrshire. The reason why we didn’t get the race itself or the Kyles crew is that it was scheduled for 15.00 on our programme but took place around 14.30 while we were wandering around Tighnabruaich taking photographs of the associated festivities.
Post race chill out.
As things started to quieten down on the water, with the action transferring to the shoreside activities – and a ceilidh to come later, the big yawl with the sail number 121, seen above sailing down the West Kyle, had come to anchor. We were intrigued by the flag that appeared at her stern – like the French flag but with some image emblazoned on the white centre panel. [Update 3rd July: Problem solved. We cropped into the photo and blew it up. The flag was GREEN, white and red vertical panels and, with what looks like a coat of arms of some kind on the white panel, is a variant flag of the Italian Republic. We think that this flag had a crown above the coat of arms, which would make it a naval ensign.]
In all the yachts we chased and photographed, we don’t think we caught sight of either of the rwo big 90 year olds that were in the fleet. One was Astor, an 86ft schooner we think came over from America for the regatta. The other was Kentra, the 100 ft gaff ketch built originally for Kenneth Clark, who ‘broke the bank in Monte Carol’ three times, was father of historian Kenneth Clark [who made the unforgettable Civilisation television series] and grand father of the the late Conservative MP, Alan Clark.
But you can’t win them all.
In the space between the arrival of the Fife fleet – with a father heard saying to his son ‘Magic, innit?’ – and the celebrations planned for the evening, Tighnabruaich caught its breath in the sunshine on a day when even the weather delivered better than it had promised.
Update 3rd July – Astor and Kentra found and Latifa revealed:
Hating to be beaten, we did a few more hours reviewing our shots from yesterday – found Astor, the 86’1923 Fife schooner and Kentra, also a 90 years old and a 100′ gaff ketch.
Astor was motoring, not sailing, in the approaches to Tighnabruaich Bay – which may be why we missed her. Here she is, Stars and Stripes on her backstay. We’ve counted 15 on her deck.
This is very like a photograph above, where our text refers to the big yawl with Sail no 121 passing a big ketch already on a mooring. This photo shows a little more of that big ketch, moored south of the Tighnabruaich pier. We thought and have had it confirmed that this is Kentra, with the angle disguising her length. With more digging around we have identified the yawl with Sail No 121 as Latifa.
She isn’t in the Entries List – although she may be the nameless 70 footer in the list – but has obviously arrived for the regatta. Built in 1936, she’s a Bermuda-rigged yawl. The late Uffa Fox described her as ‘one of the loveliest of sailing craft yet seen’. A model of her serves as the wind vane on the spire of Fairlie Parish Church, which testifies to how widely she was recognised as pretty special. She has lived the active sailing life most yachts are built for but do not necessarily achieve, finishing second in both the 1937 and 1939 Fastnets. She went around the world in 1999 with her Italian current owner [hence the flag] Marco Pirri and his family, after being restored in Italy.
Note: Our companion piece on the way Tighnabruaich – and local tourism organisation, Argyll’s Secret Coast, responded to the opportunity of hosting the regatta cruise – is here: Tighnabruaich’s Fife Regatta triumph sees a less secret coast.