The Whisky Challenge & St Kilda
Glasgow to Stornoway
April 26 – May 07 2021
Stunning western isles of Scotland
World famous whisky distilleries
The first leg of the Great British Sailing Tour is two weeks of sailing and exploring the wonderful islands off the west coast of Scotland. Up there with some of the most scenic sailing grounds in the world, we can weave our through islands such as Islay, Mull, Rhum and Skye, taking in world-famous whisky distilleries as we go.
This leg is all about short day sailing, beautiful anchorages, wonderful scenery and so much to do and see ashore.
There will be days where our theory will be put to the test in order to catch the perfect state of tide through the narrow channels, and others where we’ll cross the open waters of The Minch to explore the Caribbean-like beaches of the Outer Hebrides.
These waters are also known to be teeming with wildlife, so be sure to keep a keen lookout for basking shark, sunfish, or even minke whales. If the forecast allows, we’ll arrange the great St Kilda Challenge – an epic yet friendly race around the island and back, with a view to anchoring and exploring this remote and rarely visited outpost broaching out into the Atlantic home to some of the highest cliffs in Europe and a puffin or two.
The Wild Islands
Stornoway to Inverness
May 10-21 2021
Rona & Sula Sgeir
This leg departs the already wild and windswept Outer Hebrides, and gets wilder and more rugged from there on in! With a keen eye on the forecast, we’re hoping to sail to Sula Sgeir (gannet skerry) to hike ashore and find the deserted bothy, where rumour has it a bottle of whisky is left for those intrepid enough to make the voyage. Rona, its counterpart some 45 miles NW of the mainland, is the most remote British Island to have ever been inhabited. Now the ruins of a Celtic chapel and scattered Medieval gravestones are home to grey seal and seabird colonies.
We will clear the spectacular Cape Wrath (whose name does not in fact refer to the fury of the seas, instead ‘wrath’ comes from the Old Norse for ‘turning point’) and head towards the Orkneys, whose sparsely populated islands will almost feel overcrowded after where we’ve been. There will undoubtedly be an element of competition over who can make it over the Merry Men of Mey of the Pentland Firth first, a route where careful tidal planning is essential as the race there can sometimes reach up to an outrageous 16 knots! In Scapa Flow we tie up alongside in the quaint Orcadian village of Stromness, with its cobbled streets and village shops, and enjoy a few more days exploring the many islands and anchorages here.
The finale of this exciting leg sees us scream down into the Moray Firth, bound for Inverness in the Scottish Highlands. As the land closes in and dolphins follow in our wake, this historic city will welcome us back to mainstream civilisation!
Offshore to the Oil Rigs
Inverness to Edinburgh
May 24-28 2021
The Moray Firth
Spectacular oil rigs at night
A shorter leg of one week, this is all about offshore sailing and getting out to see the spectacular oil and gas rigs of the North Sea.
70 miles offshore lie the first of the mighty oil and gas rigs. Seeing these extraordinary structures is always a special experience and this leg is a big celebration of the role that North Sea oil and gas continues to play in British life. These mighty structures have been in place since the mid 1970s when the oil and gas boom first began and such has been their success that Aberdeen has become known as the oil capital of Europe.
In this short but exciting leg, we begin in Inverness, at the western end of the Moray Firth. The Firth itself is around 75nm long, so it will be a full day of sailing until the fleet reaches Banff, where we’ll likely stop for the night. From there it passes Fraserburgh and heads out east into the North Sea, bound for the oil and gas fields. The exact route will be weather dependant, but we are sure to see these magnificent rigs, and all the better if it can be at night with their flares burning brightly. Having rounded the rigs, it is a straight sprint back to the coast, with around 150nm to Edinburgh. If time allows along the way, there is the chance to stop in at Arbroath.
This is a fast, exciting leg with some wonderful offshore sailing, night sailing and the chance to see nature in its awesome natural habitat.
Edinburgh to London
June 07-18 2021
The Forth Bridge
The Farne Islands
It’s time to discover some of the lesser known gems of Great Britain: beginning in the Scottish Highlands, we’ll be training our new crew out in the Firth of Forth, home to pods of dolphins and lush green coastline. There are plenty of traditional fishing towns to choose to stop off in for a smoked kipper and wee dram or two – perhaps Macduff, or Fraserburgh – before we round Rattray Head and enter the North Sea proper.
There’s likely to be an overnight passage towards this country’s best kept sailing secret, the empty but beautiful beaches of Northumberland, known for its many castles. Here you won’t see too many other sailing boats leaving the little anchorages free for us to explore, enjoy a swim, and cook some freshly-caught mackerel on the BBQ.
There’s tidal Holy Island, with its Viking history and where the seals’ eerie calls will lull you to sleep, or the Farnes, an island group a couple of miles off the mainland home to hundreds of puffins, eider ducks, and arctic terns. Finally, we’ll charge down the North Sea in convoy, each boat inching ahead of the others as the crews work their magic, until we arrive at the mouth of the River Thames.
There’s not much that beats sailing up this most famous waterway. As we leave the mudflats and sandbanks behind, pass through the Thames Barrier we’ll see the familiar landmarks of the London skyline rise up ahead of us. What a feeling to have raced down much of the Eastern coastline and arrive in such an iconic city, berthing right next to Tower Bridge.
South Coast & Round the Island
London to Portsmouth
June 28 – July 04 2021
Round the Island Race
Setting sail from beneath Tower Bridge, this leg gets off to a huge start, and with our three colourful Clipper 60s in a row there is sure to be a fantastic photo opportunity from the shore with the iconic landmarks behind. As we make our way down the Thames we’ll watch the familiar sights of London disappear astern, and it won’t be long before the bustle of the city has given way to the open ocean as we arrive at the boundary between the river and the North Sea.
As the Tour sets off, bound for the English Channel, this is no easy start: we’ve got wind farms, strong tides, shifting sandbanks, and the busiest shipping lane in the world to contend with, so you’ll be getting to grips with the radar and AIS as well as perfecting your helming.
We end this sail in the Solent, where we can spend any spare days cruising the sheltered waters of this yachtsman’s mecca. Bealieu and it’s Georgian hamlet known for historic shipbuilding, or the Isle of Wight with bustling Cowes and the popular sailors’ hideouts in pretty little Yarmouth. On the Saturday, the fleet takes part in the world famous Round the Island Race, starting and ending in Cowes, Isle of Wight.
This is another wonderful and varied, where we can really open up the Clipper 60s and let them do their thing out in the Channel. There are lots of things to practise with the winds and tides and commercial traffic and it’s always tremendous fun.
South West Pirates
Portsmouth to Bristol
July 07-18 2021
The Avon Bridge
Departing from Portsmouth, a town steeped in maritime heritage, this leg will see us both exploring sub-tropical islands and famous maritime towns. Starting in the Solent, we sail past the iconic Needles lighthouse and head west.
Ahead of us we have the beautiful Brixham, Salcombe, Dartmouth, Helford River and Falmouth to explore. From there, just a few miles further west off the coast of Cornwall are the Scillies, a paradise archipelago of white sand beaches, 140 uninhabited islands, and peaceful coastal walks.
At times we’ll truly feel we’re on the most relaxing holiday, swimming a few laps around the boat in crystal-clear waters and hopping ashore to light the BBQ. This sailing ground is also the perfect place for our instructors to get you navigating between the many shallows and skerries and through narrow rocky channels, and calculating the strong tides we’ll find there.
From here we’ll round the western tip of England and speed north east along the north Cornish coast bound for Bristol. Here we are in the powerful tides of the Bristol Channel and we have to time our passage carefully or we’ll likely go backward! If the weather’s good we’ll land on the mysterious Lundy Island, competing in another shore-based challenge before heading up the beautiful River Avon and into the heart of Bristol. Enjoy the atmosphere of this famous maritime city – we’ll arrive just in time for the Bristol Harbour Festival.
Great West Coast Cities
Bristol to Glasgow
July 26 – August 06 2021
The final leg of the Great Britain Sailing Challenge takes us from Bristol in the south west of England to Cardiff on the Welsh coast, then north to the fabulous Albert Docks in Liverpool, on up to Belfast in Northern Ireland and finally up the Clyde to the great city of Glasgow.
This is all about sailing into these wonderful, historic cities, but there’s some superb sailing along the way. It can get very tactical as we work with the winds and tides heading up through the Irish Sea.
Each city we stop at has so much to offer – Cardiff has its wonderful castle and performing arts centre, Liverpool has become a hot bed of culture and superb culinary scene, and in Belfast, we’ll berth right next to the iconic Titanic Museum. There will be a guaranteed buzz on the dock in Belfast as we stop for a Guinness and relive the thrill of sailing day and night, before proceeding up to the beautiful western isles of Scotland to Glasgow.