Sunday, 26 September 2010

The 1929 Racing Season, Part 1

As soon as the railways and fleets of steamers were established the Firth of Clyde became the playground for the people of Glasgow, rich and poor alike, who would go "doon the watter" to resorts such as Dunoon, Rothesay and Largs.

In the illustration above a party of cheery souls from Paisley in a charabanc are about to descend the Haylie Brae into Largs for ice cream and folly.

Meantime a fellow on his motor bike is zooming North from West Kilbride towards Fairlie, where his boat is moored, while his pal from Glasgow has just passed the Cloch Lighthouse in his red sports car.

An elderly lady is being taken out for a drive from Dunoon down to Toward Point, while a young couple have hired bikes to cycle round the Big Cumbrae and a local worthy is sculling off the North of the island.

A family on holiday at Port Bannatyne are out in a rowing boat off Ardmaleish Point. My late father recalled that on such a summer's day in the 1920s a whale appeared alongside the boat and alarmed the family, until my great-aunt, recently returned from her exploits in South Africa and quite fearless, sang to it and made it go away.

Most important and certainly more relevant to this post the five original Islanders are engaged in close competition between Cumbrae and Bute.

The Firth of Clyde must be one of the finest stretches of water anywhere for tactical yacht racing. It contains a network of sea lochs and some lovely islands against a mixed backdrop of hills and coastal towns. While relatively sheltered the Firth has to be treated with respect, as the hills cause plenty of wind shifts and squalls, while the tide creates interesting sea conditions and has been responsible for many races being won and lost.

By the 1920s the racing season was well developed, with the organisation shared among a number of yacht clubs based at the main centres. The racing was a spectator as well as a participant sport and many of the folk who went doon the watter would have known as much about the yachts as present day fans know about footballers.

The Glasgow Herald newspaper (it had not yet started to pretend it was a national daily and dropped the "Glasgow" in its name) reported on the racing in all the classes and what follows has been compiled from its archives. 

The sailing season started formally on 24 May 1929, but only Westra, Cara and Bernera were ready, so they decided to wait for Sanda and Stroma before inaugurating the Class.

The following weekend Sanda and Stroma were still not ready. Maybe they were trying to get their new Watermotas to start. In any event the others went ahead on 1 June 1929 at the Royal Gourock Yacht Club.

The paper reports:-

"The new class replaces the 19/24s, whose first race was exactly 32 years ago at Greenock...Westra, Cara and Bernera turned out....Westra won by 1 minute 26 seconds from Cara.

They impressed as smart, roomy and desirable little racing cruisers. The two other boats, Sanda and Stroma will join the Class very shortly....On the opening stretch to Hunters Quay Westra opened up a promising lead from Cara and Bernera, but down wind to Rosneath Patch Bernera ran past both leaders and Cara also overhauled Westra. In beating back to the home mark Bernera did not do so well and Westra soon worked into the lead again and showed the way to Cara to the finish."

On Saturday 8 June these three boats met again at the Clyde Corinthian Yacht Club regatta at Hunters Quay. There was a nice Southerly breeze. The paper reports:-

"Cara got her first premier flag, beating Westra by 3 minutes. Bernera was badly tailed off."

The course was from Hunters Quay to Inverkip, then to Cove, back to Hunters Quay, then to Kilcreggan and back, a total of 14.5 miles.

On Saturday 15 June four of the boats were at Rothesay for the Royal Northern Yacht Club regatta. The course was from Rothesay to the Gemlyn Bank at Skelmorlie and back, then to Toward Black Buoy and back, a total of 13 miles. The results were

Westra 2hrs 34 mins 27 secs
Cara 2 hrs 34 mins 47 secs
Stroma 2 hrs 36 mins 21 secs
Bernera 2 hrs 36 mins 50 secs

Thus less than two and a half minutes separated the fleet after 13 miles!

On Friday 21 June the racing was back up the Firth at the Holy Loch Sailing Club

Only two Islanders appeared and Mr W Bergius' Tringa, "the only one of the old 1.75 rater class forward" was invited to join them. The results were:-

Tringa, special prize 8 hrs 15 mins 38 secs
Westra winners prize 8 hrs 15 mins 40 secs
Cara second prize  8 hrs 18 mins 26 secs
 I was interested to note that the prizes for these races were in cash, usually a first place made £4, second £2 and third £1. Most of the yachts would have carried a paid hand, so these prizes would have financed his bonus for winning.

My next post will describe the mid-season events.

No comments:

Post a Comment