Cumbrae Race Report – 2016

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As part of the summer race series sponsored by Kelvin TOP-SET, Senior Tutor Andrew Morton reports on the 2016 Cumbrae Kayak Race:

Force 4 gusting 5 from the east.  Temp 16C and rain showers with squalls.

A tough race especially at the start and finish.  The wind was easterly, so the east coast of the island was rough and the west sheltered.  The waves bounced off the concrete pontoons at the Centre, so the rebound was crazy and caused all kinds of problems for some; a few folks capsized at the start.  Actually, the start line was changed because it was so rough.  We lined up in the half shelter of the pontoon harbour and set off towards Largs, straight into the wind.  But as soon as we passed the end of the pontoons, we had to turn sharp right and paddle in dreadful rebound for fifty yards.  I had been cursing the weather, because it was blowing a near gale and pouring with rain.  However, it turned out to be to my advantage, because very few others were able to handle the waves.  I was able to turn the corner very quickly in the Marlin and found myself in the lead briefly before Neil Turnbull joined me in his Rockpool Taran which is a brilliant sea kayak in the waves (John Willacy’s choice for all his record sea trips I think).  I matched Neil for a while, then found Calum Urquhart paddling up on my right in his Ski and passing easily across our bows.  I tucked in behind Neil and stayed there in the waves till we got close to the south end of the island.  Calum paddled out in the main channel, whereas Neil and I stuck very close to the rocks. It was rougher there, but I think we got the advantage of eddies.  Calum was nevertheless still a good fifty metres ahead after fifteen minutes.

As we approached the south end of the island, the conditions got easier and the wind and waves began to swing behind us as we turned west.  So I took the opportunity of pushing on past Neil (see photo).  Now only Calum in front, and he was not reading the tidal stream at the first point very well.  So that gave me a few extra metres, and with riding the following waves I was able to catch him in Millport bay.  We chatted a bit as we crossed the bay, until we rounded the second point and headed north up the west coast of the island.  It was relatively sheltered, but the wind had backed a bit round the island, and was more or less in our faces at times.  A headwind and small waves = Morty’s worst case scenario.  So, Calum edged ahead and dropped me.  I kept up the pace into the wind, but was soon caught by Brian Turnbull in his Ski, flying past me so it seemed.  I pulled across to his side wash, but it was useless. Ski side washes are rubbish.  So, I was left with the only option of tucking in right behind him for protection from wind and waves, and a shallow trough to sit in.  This worked and I was able to maintain the pace.  Sometimes my bow would tap his stern to remind him I was still there!  He told me after the race that the taps were psychologically damaging – he couldn’t shake off the ‘limpet’!!  Were we catching Calum?  Perhaps, but he said later that he eased off a bit on the west side, just to keep something in reserve if any of us caught him.  Ah well…

I wondered how Brian would cope once round to the east coast again and into the bigger waves.  I thought I had a chance, so it was important to stick with him, to make sure I didn’t have a lot to catch up.  No sign of anyone behind us, so it began to look as though it was 2nd or 3rd for Morty.  Once round the north end of the island, Brian slowed up, as I thought he might, and I took my chance and surged forward flat out to pass him. Was a bit of a struggle but I wanted to beat him mentally, so I disguised my efforts as a casual cruise!  The waves got bigger as we rounded the last turn, so I gained plenty of ground on Brian in the last mile and finished an easy second.                           

Was delighted with the result.  Got ashore quickly and had a fabulous hot shower before anyone else got out the water. Was dressed so fast that someone at the Centre asked why I hadn’t been racing!                                                                                   

PS.  Fell asleep at the wheel on the way home – fortunately, parked on the ferry – just a ten minute crossing, but old Morty sound asleep, and had to be wakened at the other side!!  J  Great sport.  Marlin brilliant.