Sailing to Win

During that first year, the 1989 season, members were trying out ideas, chiefly of a social nature. Ideas of acquiring boats produced results, with two Mirror dinghies in operation in the second year, 1990. We kept the boats above the slipway opposite the butcher’s shop, storing the masts and sails behind Clisham, Douglas Gunn’s house. With Douglas as commodore, and Stan Forrester as secretary, both of whom knew what sailing clubs normally had on their programmes, the aim of starting dinghy racing was firmly in the club sights.

For the time being, we had regular dates, once a fortnight, taking the dinghies out, learning how to handle them, and teaching junior members to sail. Stan’s inflatable dinghy with its 2 h.p. outboard provided ‘rescue boat’ cover.

By the end 1990 plans were laid for the Club to start racing in 1991, with races mainly for Mirror dinghies, but with members’ craft joining in on a handicap basis. The committee made plans to acquire a safety boat at a cost of about £3000.

With a third Mirror dinghy added to the fleet in 1991 – the loan of Marsh Arab from Derrick Allen – racing possibilities were improved. The addition of a Skipper dinghy sailed by the Carters added to the interest.

The first of our buoys used as racing marks were obtained, with the help of David Murray and Tony Wells – many of them are still in use.

A start was made with training during that year. Joan Maxwell gave us two weekend sessions early in the year, while Marcus Given, Roger Coppock and Stan Forrester added training sessions during the summer holidays.

The pattern of sailing, in general once a fortnight, with additional dates during holidays continued for the next two years, 1992/1993.

Much discussion in committee, and at the bar after our meetings, revolved round the subject of the class of boats, which should become the Club standard. Topper dinghies were the up and coming boats. After trials hiring dinghies from Highland Regional Council, we opted for the Topper class, acquired four boats for the 1994 season, and moved the site of our operations to the shore at the foot of Murray Square.

Dinghy racing was now a major feature of the Club activities.

In that year, 1994, twenty races were programmed, but only ten were actually sailed, on account of inclement weather, lack of sailors or lack of officers and rescue boat operator. At last we could award the R.N.L.I. Shield, which had been presented to us in 1992 as a trophy for the Club, Adam Macdonald being the winner of the series of races. 

The Club was able to increase the racing activity in 1995, with the dinghy races being run as two half-year series. A total of 24 races were in the programme, all those in the spring series being sailed. In the summer series one race was abandoned on account of weather, and two as a result of interference by other activities. We now had a second trophy. Maria Carter won both series and took the RNLI Shield and the Bank of Scotland Rose Bowl, the first time the latter was presented.

With members acquiring their own boats, we were able to launch eleven dinghies for one of the summer series races.

Some of the junior members were gaining considerable experience, and the committee decided to run two classes of race. ‘Club Races’ were planned for all the more experienced sailors, adults and junior members. ‘Junior races’, for the junior members only, were intended to allow the less experienced to compete within their own age group.

This pattern was to continue to the end of the 1990s. Usually about thirty races were scheduled during the season. In some years, additional dates were set for practice sessions, to allow elements of training, tuning of rigging and trying out different boats.

In 1996, an exceptionally favourable year, 31 races were planned – only two were cancelled. Conversely, in 1998, of 30 races in the programme, only 17 were sailed.

Statistics on the racing during this period are in appendix C. The winners of the trophies are listed in Appendix B.

Commonly the competition was very close and results were often decided on very small margins. In the club series in 1996, Maria Carter took first place with Jonathan Coppock and Steve Patch sharing second place, only 4 points behind. In the junior series of the same year John Murray beat Neil Sproule by ½ point, with Jonathan Coppock only 4 points behind.

In 1997, Neil Sproule won the Rose Bowl in a well-fought out series. The top five members had scores all within ten points of Neil’s 61½.

In 1998, in the club series, a tiebreak was needed to give Neil Sproule first place over Norman Macdonald.

In 1999, even the tiebreak could not separate the winners of the club series, John Murray and Steve Patch being equal first.

In 1998, the Graham Family Trophy introduced a new element, as it is awarded to the family, sailing as such, in boats with two or more on board. The Patch Family were the winners, three other families being possible contenders.

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