This is an adventurers classic, legendary amongst the old dogs on the west coast and sailors UK wide -those who enjoy the sleepless 3 day event- that sail up for the event alone.

Here’s a run down of last year’s event.
The race starts in Oban with a 10km run whilst the Stramash of boats career around Oban bay waiting to pick up their runners by man power only, dinghy’s or kayaks.
Once we collect the runner we take the short but tight sail out of the busy bay. If the weather’s right, like last year, it’s kites up and the race is on.
Accors the Firth of Lorn spread the fleet out, tactically looking for the best course in the vast seascape.
Once past Lady’s Rock light house, a major tidal gate, it narrows down into The Sound of Mull where it’s tight ’round the cans’ like racing up to Salen Bay.
Hook down and the runners get ashore for their 40km run over Ben More on The Isle of Mull.
Although we know the runners are away for a good while, we stand like meerkats waiting on them to run down that last stretch of track to the ruined jetty with the hills looming in the background. Once the runners are on it’s a 50NM sail to Jura, where the infamous and seemingly inaccessible Paps of Jura wait to challenge the runners.
Last year we had light wind at the bottom end of the sound of Mull. We weren’t as well prepared as other teams – man and wind power only is what the rules state. Others had paddles and fantastic contraptions to propel their boats. Catching us in the pitch black overcast night we could hear them hot on our tails. Two boats passed us with their 10+ ft paddles strapped to the cleats and guard rails.
We decided to get our dinghy off the deck, strap it to the back of the boat and stick the least tired person in it to “push” from the stern. This was breaking a “rule” that I tend to follow, the ten minute rule, where if a decision is on the fence, give it ten mins and then make the call. Yep, 9mins later we had a force 6 on the nose, fully canvased and wind against tide at the tidal gate.
Helming with my foot I throw my hand out to my crew in the dinghy as my other crew mate mans the sails. Dumping the main to flog it made a difference, but not enough to say that heaving my mate out the dinghy as he skilfully balanced on the sinking bow was easy.
Once aboard he went to the mast and put the imminently needed 2nd reef in the main followed by a reef in the Genoa. At this point we were settled in, plowing on just off the wind a little to break through the overfalls and shifting well. Although we could only see the silhouettes of the surrounding boats and their nav lights we did feel as though we were loosing them, pointing higher, and by the looks of it, sailing faster.
With the SIPR being on the west coast, tidal gates are a big part of tactics. Our major weigh up at this point was whether we head for The Sound of Luing, neighbour of the notorious Corryvreckan, in the hopes to battle the early hours of the opposing tide or to cut our losses and take the outside beat around Jura. The outside rout is longer, but it meant reaching the sound of Islay in time for the tide to turn and pull us round the corner. The inside rout is best but only if you make it at least an hour and half before full flow.
We chose the outside rout.
With the winds sticking to the prevailing direction of a south westerly we pointed high and watched the entire fleet head for the tidal gate. Three of our rivals made it through past Fladda, making it as far as the north east tip of Jura before the Corryvreckan made its presence known, holding them there they had to head east, painfully inching forward to be relieved of its grasp before continuing the battle down the sound of Jura, still a sound that agains the tide can be tedious at best. Seven other boats didn’t make it past Fladda, the entrance to the sound of Luing. Luckily for them there is a temporary anchorage just off Fladda, so temporary in fact that this was the only time I’ve seen it be used.
We on the other hand were charging on. Yes we took the full force unsheltered fetch. Yes it was longer over the ground. Yes it was a wild card tactic, but one thing was clear. We were shifting.
Optimism was high amongst those on deck. The runners below, well, at the time I wouldn’t know, but no news is good news, right? Fast asleep after a run like that, I thought.
After having realised our wild card tactic was paying off, staying in the unhindered breeze of the Atlantic and almost negligible tide, spirits were high.
This is where I was riding the high, thinking we’ve ticked all the boxes, thought of the planning, the training days, the boat prep for race mode, the nav, the tides, the sail choice, the delivery, the celebration dram at the end.
No, I missed a part.
I missed checking up on my crew. A quick head down below to see all was well could have avoided the inevitable.
That hatch slid open.
Abbie, one of the strongest, driven, try hard, supportive, push on, go getting runners I know emerges from below.
White as a ghost. Dizzy. Demoralised. Exhausted.
Any sailor knows it when they see it.
“No news is good news.” – Not the case. Abbie had been below deck in the forward cabin experiencing the full force of the swell and waves. Rolling and tossing her side to side as the spray from each wave falls over the bow. Getting that stomach drop feeling you get in a car over a harsh drop in the road but every 5 seconds as though her bed was falling away from under her.
We applied all seasick tactics we could. Even running off the wind, losing good ground. There were slight improvements but not enough to safely take on the next 50km of running over 4 mountains.
Well, we made the call as a team.
Easing sheets, bearing off and heading for Oban I made the phone call to the race office.
We retired.
Yeah, we retired, but heck it was a bunch of fun! The sail back to Oban was much calmer with a following sea. It made for an enjoyable sail and lifted the spirits of us all as we casually debriefed ourselves before tying the boat up in Oban.
Like I said. That was a bunch of fun!

We’ve entered for the SIPR 2023 race.

Let’s see if the wild card will pay off this time!
Fair winds,