Sailors to descend on St Kilda for daring yacht challenge

FAMED for its wildness and wildlife, St Kilda is to play host to determined sailors desperate to tackle the UK's most remote outpost at sea.

Moonstruck Too, winners of the first St Kilda Challenge. Picture: Contributed

Run for the first time in 2016, the St Kilda Challenge was the first yacht race ever to sail to this archipelago on the fringe of the UK, covering more than 100 nautical miles of open sea.

Bolstered by excellent feedback from competitors and visitors alike, organisers Comann Na Mara and race managers Clyde Cruising Club has taken the plunge to commit time and funding to a second event next year – vowing to make the challenge biennial thereafter.

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Stunning images reveal hidden marine life near St Kilda
Comann na Mara's modern marina at Lochmaddy. Picture: Contributed

Comann Na Mara chairman Gus MacAulay said: “We have had exceptional courage and support from the community, participants and those who were sorry to have missed the first event.

“I was quite overwhelmed at the end of the first event to hear so much positive feedback, so for me and the other organisers there was only ever going to be one outcome – to keep forging on with the next St Kilda Challenge.

“We are truly excited about making the event bigger and better for 2018 and look forward to welcoming many more people to North Uist before sending them on their way to the great adventure of the St Kilda archipelago.”

Stuart McMillan MSP, chairman of Holyrood’s cross-party Marine Tourism Committee, added: “I was delighted to be launching the event. Next year is the second St Kilda Challenge and clearly it is a race that requires tremendous skill and ability.

Overlooking Village Bay, St Kilda. Picture: Contributed

“It also helps keep Scotland in the international spotlight. I extend warm wishes to everyone who is taking part.”

The inaugural event was won by Gordon Lawson’s J122 Moonstruck from Port Edgar Yacht Club, after a gruelling 23 hours at sea contending with unexpected conditions – including a surprising dearth of wind.

The second race was launched on board Tall Ship Glenlee in Glasgow today.

Last year’s event was a welcome economic boost for North Uist, with 30 yachts bringing dozens of crew ashore, while the cultural festivities on shore also attracted further visitors to the island’s main town of Lochmaddy.

Comann na Mara chairman Gus MacAulay confirms second St Kilda Challenge at launch with the Tall Ship Glenlee in Glasgow. Picture: Contributed

Accommodation, local services and attractions, as well as food, drink and craft producers, all reported a significant rise in trade.

The 2018 edition of the St Kilda Challenge already promises to build on the strong foundations of 2016’s inaugural event, with the addition of a third fleet.

Already, indications are that there will be a substantial increase in participants.

Comann na Mara's modern marina at Lochmaddy. Picture: Contributed

In addition to the racing fleet, which uses the islands of St Kilda as turning marks on a 100-nautical-mile long course, there is also, rather uniquely, a cruise-in-company fleet which leaves the start line at the same time, but has the ability to anchor in Village Bay at Hirta on St Kilda to go ashore – the 30-strong entries for 2016’s event were split half and half between the racers and the cruising flotilla.

Both will assemble in Lochmaddy and set off from a start line in the Sound of Harris.

A third fleet of racing yachts will set off from Rathlin Island in Northern Ireland in 2018, participating in a 200-mile-nautical race, again using the St Kilda islands as a turning point, before finishing up in the Sound of Harris – this fleet will include Scotland’s Clipper 60 ‘Taeping’.

Already the commitment for this additional strand has been welcomed by Comann Na Mara and has garnered significant support.

Further expansion of the shoreside festival is also promised, including a greater role for Scotland’s mobile cinema the Screen Machine.

Race organisation and management will, once again, be carried out by Clyde Cruising Club – Scotland’s largest yacht club and organisers of the premier Scottish Series regatta.

Overlooking Village Bay, St Kilda. Picture: Contributed

CalMac continues to offer support and other sponsors and collaboration partners for the event include RYA Scotland, Event Scotland, Sail Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Scotland’s Clipper 60 ‘Taeping’, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Salar Salmon, The Hebridean Smokehouse and the RNLI.

Comann na Mara chairman Gus MacAulay confirms second St Kilda Challenge at launch with the Tall Ship Glenlee in Glasgow. Picture: Contributed