The first ever Clyde Classic Regatta and Design Symposium took place at the weekend, centred on the lovely old clubhouse of the Royal Northern & Clyde Yacht Club at Rhu. The event was inspired, organised and run faultlessly by Gordon Drysdale. It was an utterly brilliant idea to combine sailing in a wide variety of leading designs with presentations from experts in a number of fields and to set the whole thing in such a place.
I first crossed the portals of the RN & CYC, then just the RNYC, with Spratt & McGlurg over fifty years ago in a bygone era when boys only spoke when spoken to and the yellow oilskins hadn’t changed since before the War. Today one still has the same feeling of awe at the building and its contents - the paintings, the full models and the almost unlimited display of half models showing the talents of designers today both known and unknown. The Club is now unique in Scotland and deserves to be preserved at all costs as a national artifact.
What luck to receive an invitation to such an event! I put out some feelers as a result of which my old chum Iain set about persuading people that I knew the waters of the upper Clyde “like the back of my hand”. Know, yes, but last sailed on around 1975. The result of this relatively innocent deception was a berth on the Ayrshire Lass as one of two superannuated hands and the ship’s navigator.
The Ayrshire Lass has been around the Clyde since 1887. Through a good bit of the last century she was the command of the astonishing Liz Todrick, shipwright at McGruer & Co, who lived in a cottage above Clynder with no electricity and a goat for company. Her rigger colleague and my pal Iain Gillies told me that she could sometimes be seen on calm nights rowing the Lass for miles back up the Gareloch to her mooring. Advancing years overtook both and Liz couldn’t be rebuilt, but her yacht could be and was, in Ireland by Michael Kennedy, courtesy of Paul Goss. Liz lived long enough to go out on her former yacht in its reincarnation. In her nineties and blind she was able to steer by feel and sense required corrections to the sheeting.
On Saturday Paul wasn’t around, which was of course a pity but perhaps as well, as bus-pass-entitled lawyers would perhaps not be his first choice to crew his Victorian racing cutter. Getting out of the cockpit onto the foredeck was perhaps more of a challenge than staying on its varnished surface once up there and if invited again I’ll take a small rope ladder with me - see above photo.
Our race was enjoyable and we took a sort of scenic route from the start line at Rhu past Rosneath and then along the shore almost to Kilcreggan as we inspected various buoys looking for the right one to turn. Fortunately, word of my local knowledge had spread and most of the competition followed us, adding a good couple of sea miles to our track. At the back of my mind was the idea that the mark was painted red, so it was a surprise to eventually find that it was green.
Our hosts, Theo and Andy, were incredibly polite and wonderfully fit and competent, giving Martin and myself an excellent day out and a blast of fresh air away from our respective dusty purlieus. There was no real damage done to the result, there being only ten seconds on handicap between the Lass and the Tringa, a more modern racing machine from 1902, whose skipper Helmut had relied on my local knowledge.
|Martin at the helm|
|in contemplative mood|
|the ubiquitous Winifred was there|
|we should have followed the local guys|
|the lovely Gylen 2, built by Adam Way|
|David Ryder-Turner's design Amber|
|Scottish Islander Isla looking great|
|Ayrshire Lass, William Fife II, at rest with bowsprit housed|
|Wliiam Fife III's Tringa, stunning recreation by Gisela und Helmut Scharbaum|
|Adam admires Helmut's artistry|