This race was first held in 2007 and is run bi-annually. The origins of the race were as a result of a chance meeting at the London boat show in January 2006. The late Peter Turnbull had met some Orkney friends on the Visit Scotland stand and after sampling some of Orkneys finest (Highland Park), the suggestion was made that the club may like to organise a race to Kirkwall. I then became involved and as I don’t drink whisky, was able to have some meaningful discussions about what may be possible. As it was a bit late to get things organised for that season, it was decided to go for it in 2007. The race takes boats out of the Forth, around the North Carr Buoy and to the Finish off Mull Head Orkney. The Finish Line is about twelve miles from Kirkwall.
The first race in 2007 attracted seventeen entries, two of them from Orkney. Unfortunately the weather on the first night was not kind and the majority of the fleet decided to retire, some before leaving the Forth due to a huge thunderstorm that caused much damage onshore, but luckily none of the boast suffered any damage. The second day out saw very light winds and a few of the fleet spent many hours going nowhere. The winner of the race was Exile from Orkney Sailing Club, they had managed to avoid the worst of the weather by sailing well offshore. Seven boats finished the race with a further six making their way to Kirkwall under power for part of the way. The fleet was made very welcome by OSC and a very enjoyable prizegiving was held in their clubhouse.
Kirkwall Marina 2007
The number of boats taking part in 2009 was down a little on the previous race, but ten boats finished the race. The entries included a German boat that had taken part in the Helgoland Race. After a good sail, although a bit slow at times, the wind freshened north of Peterhead, allowing the slower boats to do well on handicap. For most, the last one hundred miles was a fast spinnaker run and then reach, covering the distance in around fifteen hours. The winner this time was Nyvaig from Dunbar Sailing Club. A few of the boats used the race as the start point for their summer cruise on the west coast. Smithereen carried on to Shetland and then headed to the west coast for West Highland week, arriving back at Granton ten weeks and fifteen hundred miles later.
The Fast Fleet soon after the start 2009
Westray Harbour, Orkney 2009
Although the numbers were again down for the 2011 race, all those that took part were determined to get to Kirwall by any means. After a wonderful first evening that saw all the boats out of the Forth by very early the next day, the wind became light and patchy. This meant that those with the patience to follow the shifts and sit out the calms, managed a finish. In contrast to the previous race, it took the boats still racing over thirty hours from Peterhead to the finish. This time around, Smithereen was the winner. Orkney Marinas were kind enough to offer three nights free berthing at Kirwall, along with a discounted rate for those staying on after the race. This was much appreciated by all taking part. Once again OSC made us very welcome, although we almost drank the bar dry at one stage. Both Summer Thyme and Smithereen spent another three weeks in Orkney and cruised to some of the outlying islands. They also made good use of the excellent bus service to see the main places of interest.
Summer Thyme soon after the start 2011