Garelochs @ The Saturn Sails Mudhook 150th Anniversary Regatta (Sat 10th Jun)

Report from Teal.

The Mudhook Yacht Club regatta didn’t happen last year (the ripples of Covid and lockdown perhaps?) but was back this year  – with sponsorship from Saturn Sails – and will hopefully continue to be an annual event. It’s a prestigious old event and the MYC exists largely for the purpose of racing and this event. (Well and quite possibly the odd nice dinner?).

As it was only three Garelochs entered – Catriona, Teal and Athene – due to various commitments. With Carol Rowe guest helming on Catriona. Carol was short of crew for Hermes but wanting to race, so Catriona’s skipper Charles Darley – as usual, generous and endlessly encouraging of anyone wanting to sail – had offered the helm.

The racing takes places in the Upper Clyde’s ‘East Patch’ in the area between Helensburgh, Greenock and the Rosneath peninsula (where the RNCYC bigger yachts race alongside Helensburgh Sailing Club yachts under the combined East Patch Racing Committee). But the Garelochs don’t often venture out of the (often dubious) protection of their hill-ringed loch into these more open inland waters. Perhaps a bit more exposed, perhaps a bit more fetch – but perhaps no worse than a NW wind funnelling down the Gareloch – and often a truer, less shifty wind from most directions. (Of course true Gareloch racing zen masters actually like the shifty gusts of the  Gareloch as one approaches a mark close under a hillside. One must become one with the wind.)

And the East Patch was certainly more exposed; to an unusual north-easterly funnelling across Scotland through the flats of Stirlingshire, across Loch Lomond- and then across the saddle behind Helensburgh (between the hills to the north – Tom na h-Airidh – and east – Beinn Bhuidhe/Ben Bouie – of Helensburgh). The wind was good but strong with some feisty gusts. The sidedecks were wet and the boats needed the occasional pump (sidedecks going under, water over the bow and down the mast, or seams opening up?).

The MYC regatta is always well run and set up for multiple classes – of very different sizes and speeds – so that they aren’t simply mixed in together in the race courses, and often with separated finishing. Four classes, with fast handicap yachts off first, then Etchells ODs (fast modern displacement keelboats), followed by a CYC2 class and then finally the GODs. Although this time the format of the SIs and courses were – ahem – not perhaps as clear as they might have been… as became, and will become, clear.

The first race was selected from one of the standard courses in the SIs with a beat – given the E wind – up to a laid mark just off Craigendoran pier. This remained the windward mark all day. For all the classes, which gave Helensburgh a good view of some of the racing. Then downwind to a mark off the peninsula and then L to a spreader mark via the Sugar Boat and finally back up wind to finish at the windward mark off Craigendoran.

The pin end was slightly favoured and Teal lead in from Catriona and nailed the pin end start. And pulled ahead enough to tack and cross Catriona. Thinking to have starboard advantage on the next cross. But Catriona tacked further up and pulled ahead (superb sailing from Carol, and perhaps too a lane of good wind further inshore – that seemed to be a feature all day – the funnelling effect?). Teal tacked slightly early of the line to try to force Catriona to tack under the lay line. It sort of worked: Catriona made the lay-line but pinching slightly and Teal was able to round on top.

Down to the leeward mark and again neck and neck. Catriona went low and had inside. So Teal slowed, rounded wide, inside and on top. The guest helm perhaps not luffing as aggressively as Catriona’s regular skipper would have liked? At least that was the gist of the shouting from on-board.

A very long reach now to a mark off Port Glasgow now. A massive yellow commercial mooring buoy. Except Catriona rounded an earlier mark and headed back upwind. Teal hadn’t spotted the small print under the courses that indicated the GODs would NOT just be doing course B as marked but legs 3, 4 and 5 of course B! Teal quickly called the RO on the VHF and eventually received clarification – VHFs not being entirely easy on a small boat in a blow – of the small print.  And stopped reaching to Port Glasgow and followed Catriona! So race 1 to Catriona, with Teal rectifying her mistake early enough to take second ahead of Athene who continue to stay in the mix in challenging racing conditions. A good tight race slightly marred.

Races 2 and 3 were all about the start. The RO changed the course to give a simple sausage course with true beats up to Craigendoran and downwind legs to one of the massive navigation beacons in the middle of the East Patch, finishing at a second committee vessel at the leeward mark after effectively two and a half good rounds.

In race 2 Catriona lead in – perhaps conscious of Teal winning the pin first time – but with Teal chasing closely enough to worry her about a hook (and being forced OCS). As it was Teal pulled back and went up for the line at speed and close to windward, eventually taking wind from Catriona and pulled ahead. (Again, perhaps Catriona’s regular skipper would have luffed aggressively? A fine fine skill he has honed over years with a beautiful touch. Much of it fighting the much-missed Iris.) Teal was grateful and pulled ahead. And cemented it downwind. And that was largely that. Athene continued to sail well and stay broadly in touch in the challenging conditions.

Race 3 followed the same pattern after the start; largely all over. Catriona lead in early to win the pin but was just too early – as her skipper graciously acknowledged – and had to slow and Teal, following with good speed, had no real option but to hook her over the line (since getting overlapped to windward would have seen Teal luffed over). Duck on sitting duck, as it were (© Ufo Sutter). Catriona was trapped OCS and had to return. And again, in good true and strong wind, that was that.

The bigger and faster boats did a fourth race but the Garelochs were probably relieved to finish after three after a full-on but fun day. And head back to the sanctuary of the Gareloch in the sunshine and warmth. Passing through another regatta of dinghies from HSC off the main Helenburgh shore.

The sanctuary was illusory; despite being tucked under the shelter of Rhu and the hills, gusts continued to sweep over the moorings.

A superb day on the water, over good courses in good wind. Many thanks to the Mudhook YC, their sponsors Saturn Sails and supporters Boatfolk/Rhu Marina, Neill Ross Photography and Helensburgh SC.

1 Teal (2, 1, 1 = 4 points), 2 Catriona (1, 2, 2 = 5 points), 3 Athene (3, 3, 3 = 9 points) – see also MYC results page on Halsail (all classes)