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Sailability Scotland SCIO Challenger Travellers at Lochaber Yacht Club

by Stephen Thomas Bate 11 Oct 2017 11:50 BST 7-8 October 2017
Sailability Scotland SCIO Challenger Travellers at Lochaber © Sailability Scotland

We are a charity that organises racing regattas for the Challenger class of boat and have been sponsored by Tunnocks this year. Many thanks go to Tunnocks for their support and to Lochaber Yacht Club who hosted the final regatta of the series.

Competitors travelled from all over Scotland to compete in this regatta and it was a long drive for two intrepid sailors who live in Dumfries and Galloway. Here is their story:


After a pleasant drive up from Dumfries and Galloway, we arrived at Lochaber around 16:00. Ronnie Cameron, a fellow sailor, had already arrived and was busy building his Challenger.

Introductions made, old acquaintances restored, we assembled our two Challengers in dry conditions. We then headed off to a caravan, which would be our home for the weekend.

After a quick shower and change, we enjoyed an evening at The Lochy, situated between Banavie Railway Station and the Caledonian Canal. The highlight was a steam train passing slowly over the canal suspension bridge and station.


We arrived at 09:30 to flat calm at Lochaber. After rigging the Challengers, I had some spare time, before the planned 11:00 start. I gave my boat, Skean Dhu Too, a wash to get rid of some of the travel grime.

The Commodore raised the AP flag, announcing that wind was due. After a half hour wait, the decision was made to have an early lunch. Hopefully, the wind would arrive.

A fine spread was set before us by the jolly kitchen ladies. Lunch over, the planned start was 13:00, with 3 back-to-back races.

The weather was superb. Sun was shining, it was warm, and barely a cloud to be seen.

Race 1
We all got onto the water. Unfortunately, the wind had dropped. We found ourselves fighting the ebbing tide. It was futile, and we were drifting backwards. The RIBs towed us back to the slipway; AP flag raised once again.

After a 1/2 hour wait, the AP flag came down. We finally got to race. The wind was no different, but now we were sailing on slack water, so were able to make progress. I was racing well, but did not hear the announcement of a shortened course. I was heading to the leeward mark in the lead. I saw Duncan Greenhalgh way over on the port side. When he went through the line, I realised what had happened. Fortunately, I was able to tack onto starboard, right to the pin and secure 2nd place.

Race 2
The 2nd race was in the same conditions as race 1. I managed a great start and was leading the pack to the leeward mark on the 2nd lap. Unfortunately, Alex Hodge and I had taken it to port, when it should have been to starboard. I was well in the lead. Instructions were shouted on the water about 'unwinding', a rule that I was not familiar with. The result was that I received a 20% (1 place) penalty and relegated to 3rd.

Race 3
The wind had now shifted 180 degrees, so the same course was reversed. I had a good race, but could not quite catch Duncan, and finished 2nd.

After the first day, I was 2nd overall. Duncan leading.


Race 4
The wind and rain had come in overnight. We were starting in 15 knots and heavy rain.

I completely missed the starting sequence. What I thought was the siren for 5 minutes was actually the start siren. I could not see the flags from out on the water, and I was caught around 200m from the start. Over the race, I slowly reeled in Dorothy Bennett, but could not quite catch her, and had to settle for 4th.

Race 5
I had my best start of the series and was leading all the way round to the leeward mark. As I tacked, my mainsheet became tangled in my gybe lines. By the time I unravelled everything, I was 4th crossing the line. Again, I had reeled in Dorothy, but she just pipped me on the line.

The results collated, Hamish Loudon gave out the prizes. Well done to Duncan Greenhalgh, who came first overall. Not bad for his 3rd Challenger regatta. Alex Hodge was 2nd, and I was 3rd.

Packing up
Challengers packed up, it was now around 16:00. Duncan and I had decided to stay over in Fort William, to enable us to enjoy a leisurely drive home on the Monday.

It was a great finale to the season and I am already looking forward to the 2018 season. If you would like more information about the Challenger Class racing in Scotland please visit