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Aurora and Wild Spirit Finish a Race to Remember

Rob Howard / 23.06.2021Live TrackingSee All Event Posts Follow Event
Wild Spirit on the finish line
Wild Spirit on the finish line / © Rob Howard

Wild Spirit and Aurora both finished on Wednesday afternoon, and both skippers had similar things to say about the race.  Paul Jackson and Oscar Chess have done the race before and they got just what they expected from one of the most extraordinary yacht races in the world. They came knowing it would be challenging, tough, unpredictable and would demand all that their teams had to give ... and that is exactly what they got.

Wild Spirit were first to finish, their pink spinnaker coming into view just before 14.00 and Jackson felt they’d been fortunate to get through the Corran Narrows before the tide turned.  He had opted to take an unusual route through the Sound of Islay and to the West of Jura (rather than through the Sound of Jura) and commented.  “In this race I think it paid off. We were rowing through the Sound of Islay, and had more wind once we were through.

“We had such a variety of conditions, and that is what makes this race so different. On an ocean race you might have a gale, wind on the nose or be becalmed, but that’s about it. In this race there is so much more happening.  You have fog and mist rolling off the mountains, shallows and rocks to navigate, tidal gates to contend with and are constantly making tactical and navigational choices. Plus you have to work as team with the runners. ”

His most striking memory was of an epic tacking battle through the Swellies with Aurora, which he said was sailed with extraordinary skill.  “It was like dinghy racing, only with yachts and among rocks in a strong tide!” He said.

Wild Spirit had moved away from Aurora in the later stages of the race, had quicker runners and made choices which paid off better.  Maybe they had more luck too.  On Ben Nevis their runners, Stuart Walker and Dave Robinette, made the fastest run so far in 3 hours and 9 minutes.  The time won them the title of Kings of the Mountains and it will be a hard time for any of the remaining teams to beat.  Walker said he’d had difficulty staying with Robinette and he would prefer to run in a pair where he was the slightly quicker runner!

Aurora finished 4 hours later and Oscar Chess was beaming with relief and satisfaction at finishing the race. “What an epic that was,” he said.  “The winds were totally erratic and we had so much to deal with.  We fell behind after hitting a wind hole before the Mull of Galloway. We used all the rope we had and anchored to hold in the tide, but when the wind picked up it would not come free.  We tried everything to free it, but in the end had to cut it.  The wind picked up strongly for only 20 minutes ... then dropped to nothing and with no anchor we had to row for hours to hold our position.”

Up to that point they were probably winning on handicap, but their troubles were not over. They snagged a lobster pot, wrapped the spinnaker close to the finish, and struggled to make it through the Corran Narrows.   “The tides around the narrows were amazing,” Chess said, “It was flowing strongly against one side of the narrows, but the opposite way on the other!  We managed to get across and the tide carried us through. Incredible!”

As he enjoyed a beer with this crew, while his runners were on a misty and wet run up Ben Nevis, he was joined by Paul Jackson and they compared race stories and experiences.  There was little sign of the fatigue they must have been feeling.  Instead they talked animatedly about the race.  Smiling broadly, Chess just shook his head and said, “It’s a blur, all the experiences are jumbled in my head right now. What a race this is!”

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