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. There were very few boats out, but I did clock a very damp Billy McCarlie coming ashore after an intensive session of DZ capsize practice. These Scots take things too seriously you know.

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 yum.

The next morning dawned warm and sunny. The first race 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 around that mark behind Jon Bassett. 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 behind Alistair Storky McLaughlin and Jon but lost out to Glenn Andrews and Martin Latimer on the second lap, when the wind had shifted again and they both 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. Storky had no such problems and romped away with a win once again, with Jon in 2nd, Glen in 3rd and Ken Hathaway in 4th place.

Photo Copyright Mark Turner

The final race was light and shifty (did you spot the theme?). We managed a third, behind Storky and Jon, with Stuart Moss finishing as 4th DZero behind me.

Apart from our top two DZ’s, the results looked a little different once the rest of the alpha dinghy fleet were factored in, with the light conditions sometimes favouring Laser, Solo and Laser EPS. Still, it was a good turnout for me and my fellow classmates; 40% of the fleet were DZero’s! By the end of the first day, Storky was a clear leader with three 1st places on handicap!

We left the racecourse in a 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 followed;

1. Cumbrae can experience gale force winds from the Atlantic at any time of year. These can be severe and destructive.
2. Just South of the ferry slipway lies a WW2 wreck, the Catalina flying boat.
3. Cumbrae lies close to two nuclear power stations. The waters are host to the UK’s nuclear deterrent Vanguard class submarines carrying trident missiles.
4. Local marine life includes seals, dolphins, basking sharks and porbeagle sharks.

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. Glen Andrews made a slow drifting bid for the Island, crossing the main channel and braving the adverse tide. Storky, Martin and Billy drifted up the Largs shoreline hoping for wind and Stuart and My Owner just bobbed around near the start line trying to get away anywhere.

A slight breeze filled in from the Cumbrae shore. Glenn 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 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 DZ of Storky, who was doing the same thing. I could by now clearly see the dual transoms of 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?

Storky’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 Glenn and Billy both lost out, beating up the middle to the finish. Meanwhile, Stuart 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 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

Full results can be found by clicking here.