Zippy’s zephyring in Zscortland.
Greetings from Zippy Zero, traveller and adventurer. I’ve just got back from a long weekend in Largs, Scotland. It was their Regatta
Festival and 95 boats entered the event!
We travelled North from West Kirby on Friday morning and I was
launched by late afternoon for a perfect breezy practice before the
racing started on Saturday
By evening, the locals came over to enjoy the party sponsored by the
fabulous Saturn Sails at their loft and my fellow Zeros and I shared a
few tins of WD40 which were on special offer. Slippy Zippy, yum
The next morning dawned warm and sunny. There were 4 races
scheduled and they started on time, despite the lack of wind. By the
first mark, the wind had made a radical shift and the race was
unexpectedly abandoned, because of a foreseeable breach in time
limit. What a shame, as we were second at the time. We sailed back to
the start boat well inside the time limit to make a point. The race was
then re-started, most bizarrely, on a fetch to the windward mark,
which had been moved closer to us. It was quite an exciting mark
rounding. We came away in third place but lost out on the second lap,
when the wind had shifted again and the boats behind us put the extra
tack in early.
The second race started with a 90-degree shift on the line. We were
stuck at the start boat end, unable to cross the line on starboard and
then got caught up in some very slow traffic to net a very large score
of 17 th on handicap in the 24-boat class.
The final race was light and shifty (did you spot the theme?). We
managed a third, so a better race for us. It was the last of the days’
racing as the wind disappeared and I went back to my boatpark bed
with a confused head after such tricky sailing. Still, it was a good
turnout for me and my fellow classmates; 40% of the handicap fleet
We left the racecourse in the dying breeze, with the late summer sun
shimmering over Great Cumbrae – our circumnavigational challenge
for the next day. I had done my research about this mystical Island
and a few things were worrying me. It started off most re-assuringly;
Apparently Saint Mirren had been here many many years before and
rid the Island of snakes. All good so far. More interesting snippets
- Cumbrae can experience gale force winds from the Atlantic at any
time of year. These can be severe and destructive.
- Just South of the ferry slipway lies a WW2 wreck, the Catalina
- Cumbrae lies close to two nuclear power stations. The waters are
host to the UK’s nuclear deterrent Vanguard class submarines
carrying trident missiles.
- Local marine life includes seals, dolphins, basking sharks and
So far, that’s a lot of stuff for me to bump into on my 11-mile race
around the Island. Anything else? Then I read about the 4.5 billion
year old crocodile, who had its face painted by a Mr. McBrown,
allegedly after a lunchtime toddy some 100 years ago. It is widely
photographed, mostly with brave humans standing on it, whilst
feeding small children into its gaping jaws.
My dreams that night developed into terrifying images of a Zippy-
chomping beast lurking in the shallows to snag me on the rocks.
The next morning we set off in very light airs, leaving Great Cumbrae
to port. The start was a little confusing because the postponement was
put up after the start gun. Several boats including me, went back to re-
start. One of our |Dzeros made a slow drifting bid for the Island,
crossing the main channel and braving the adverse tide. The others
drifted up the Largs shoreline hoping for wind whilst Owner just
bobbed around near the start line trying to get away anywhere.
A slight breeze filled in from the Cumbrae shore and the leading
DZero took off and was looking very small by the time we got
moving. The wind continued to build and, by the time we turned
around the North side of the Island, we were flying along in a very
pleasant breeze on a tight fetch looking out for submarines, sharks,
wrecks and Crocodile Rocks. By the next turning mark, the wind had
dropped again and we ran along the far side of the Island. After a
while, a peculiar tidal rip appeared, which was not on my list of
hazards. Some boats went wide of it and others ahead hugged the
Island shoreline. We opted for the Island and found a great back eddy
current which swept us the rest of the way along the Island to our next
turning mark; the South Cardinal, which stood guard at the South end
of the Island.
Here, the wind shifted once more before petering out mid channel. At
the end of the wind supply lay a raft of floppy-sailed craft of various
sizes and personalities. Amongst them, I could just make out a small
grey triangle of sail belonging to local Dzero sailor Billy Mc Carlie.
A tiny breath of wind filled in from the South inshore, so we
continued to hug the Island and rode the zephyr, closing in on the
leading DZero, who was doing the same thing. I could by now clearly
see the dual transoms of another local sailor, Martin Latimer and his
boat who had chosen a route slightly further offshore. He was chasing
the darker line of water up ahead, which signalled the return of the
Northerly wind we had started in. But where would it fill in first?
Leading Dzero sailor Alistair Mc Laughlin’s guess was correct and he
ended up laying the finish line in one tack. Martin tacked off to find
the inside of the wind bend, whilst other Dzeros Glenn and Billy both
lost out, beating up the middle to the finish. Meanwhile behind me,
Stuart Moss’s Dzero headed for the Largs shore; I heard his boat was
hedging its bets and staying on the homeward side of the channel.
We completed the race after a hot and mostly windless epic in 3 hours
44 minutes, some 20 minutes behind the race winner Alistair (Storky),
giving him the overall first prize in the weekend’s Regatta Series.
The wind shift favoured the leaders, as it dropped away after the first
boats completed the race. The final finisher, a Laser Radial,
completed just short of five hours to a loud hooting of guns and
cheers from the race team.
A most enjoyable and well organised Regatta. Love the Scots. Great
racing, great food, great socials.
We’ll be back.
Zippy Zero 187
Sailing photos taken by Marc Turner. Many thanks.