Having first been inspired by the knowledge that a local yacht had competed in a major yacht race, crewed by Roger Kennedy and Roger Buxton and then seeing a video film about the race, ‘The Round Britain and Ireland Yacht Race’, the seed had been sown, the challenge started to smoulder in my mind, could I one day equal their achievement?
It was some years later, whilst taking part in Scarborough Yacht Clubs overnight race to Hartlepool, drifting backwards with the tide, that idle chatter with a new crew member led to a discussion on ambitions and I voiced my dream to take part in this race. ‘Sounds great’ said Emma, ‘what’s stopping you?’ ‘Well for a start it’s a two handed race, so I would need someone with time on their hands for all the practice that would be needed and secondly I’d need a different boat to ‘Scallywag’!
OK said Emma we’re half way there, but would you really sell ‘Scallywag’?
‘Scallywag’ was a Spray motor sailer which I had lovingly spent every spare minute, of five years of my life building and whilst I had many enjoyable trips to Holland, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Poland and many more local trips up and down the coast, she was definitely not a racing yacht and if I was to move on, she would sadly have to go. Emma being a new comer and novice to sailing also had a lot to learn!
With ‘Scallywag‘ on the market we scoured the internet for a suitable replacement and visited several local yards looking at and checking out what we could expect to buy with the money raised from her sale. At the same time we practised all we could and to be more competitive, we crewed on our good friend, Martin Donnelly’s Starlight 30 ‘Trystar’. We will be forever grateful to Martin, who made us the most generous offer to take ‘Trystar’ out when ever we wanted. We could now go out mid week and make the most of his generosity.
With spring almost here, we continued our search for a new boat but with no sale yet, our hands were tied. It was a chance remark to a friend, John Reevly which altered everything, as John was sailing out of the harbour on his summer cruise to the Faeroe Islands in his newly acquired Sigma 36 ‘Ruffian’ I shouted ‘you’ve got the wrong boat there for what you want, you want a boat like ‘Scallywag’, I’ll do you a swap!’ much to my amazement, John turned around and said if you are serious when I get back, you’ve got a deal!’
The word excitement didn’t begin to express our feelings, we had always admired ‘Ruffian’ but never even dare dream that one day we could own a yacht of her calibre, just absolutely perfect for the job in hand!
But did John really mean it or was it just a few words spoken in jest? Four to five weeks went by as we continued varnishing and re-caulking the decks of Scallywag to get her in prime condition for sale, when a shout of ‘Aye Aye’ alerted us to John’s presence ‘let’s ‘ave a look at her then’ and after a brief look around the deal was done! Ruffian’s up in Shetland, if you want her, you’ll have to go get her’
Just perfect, we will be able to count bringing her home as our qualifying passage.
Now we have the boat
On the 13th June we set off by rail and later by ferry to pick her up, we arrived in Lerwick and took a taxi to a small, beautiful marina at Vidlin where we met up with a friend of Johns, John Robertson, who had sailed to the Faeroe’s with him and had looked after the boat for him in his absence.
‘She’s a bit of a funny starter so I’ll come down at dinner time tomorrow, show you around then we can go for a sail if you want and then you must come for supper’ The people of Shetland are so friendly
We spent the first night on ‘Ruff’ in our ‘oilies’, dodging the drips and sailed her to Lerwick the following day to be nearer the local chandlers for spares etc.,and after a few days we set off for home The first decent sail we had in Ruffian was bringing her home from the Shetland Islands to Scarborough in which we discovered two things, firstly, the pure delight of sailing such a fast, sea friendly boat and secondly, all the leaks !! With our first North Sea Race only six weeks away, work began on fixing all the small problems we had encountered thus far (the bigger ones would have to wait!!).
With Emma, Pete and Emma’s son, George’ as crew, the first North Sea race didn’t go exactly to plan as Pete, worried that we would be caught out by strong tides, elected to take an inshore route via North Smethick cardinal mark, whilst everyone else sailed out to sea! Bad decision aggravated because we didn’t put the kite up when we could have done saw us playing catch up most of the race and finishing in 36hrs 36mins 36 secs, (well at least that was consistent!) Winning isn’t every thing, it’s the taking part that counts (if you believe that, you will believe anything) but we still had an enjoyable time cruising the Dutch inland waterways before setting off for home
The rest of the season was spent overhauling, replacing and repairing as much equipment as possible, in between racing, practicing and generally getting to know her.