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More Uphill Work for Round Ireland's Pam Lee & Cat Hunt

16th October 2020
As merry as grigs – Cat Hunt and Pam Lee in cheerful mood early this morning as their Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta rides on the flood tide with a good breeze past Rathlin Island, with Islay distant on the horizon As merry as grigs – Cat Hunt and Pam Lee in cheerful mood early this morning as their Figaro 3 Iarracht Maigeanta rides on the flood tide with a good breeze past Rathlin Island, with Islay distant on the horizon Photo: RL Sailing Team

Female Two-handed Round Ireland Record Day Four 1500hrs:  The North Channel is one very unforgiving bit of water to go sailing on. It only gives you the gift of a fair tide for just long enough to begin to think that the dark cliffs of the inappropriately-named Fair Head and the gloom-inducing Mull of Kintyre aren't such oppressive bits of coastline after all as you buzz merrily along in the morning sunshine. And then the tide turns. The wind shuts down. And in near calm, you can appreciate only too well the sheer unfeasibly enormous vastness of this bulk of water moving in the wrong direction, struggling as you are to squeeze enough speed out of your boat simply to hold your own until the tide turns again. Meanwhile, the steep coastline becomes spookily claustrophobic.

We left round Ireland two-handed record challengers Pam Lee and Cat Hunt this morning as merry as grigs after they'd swept in past Rathlin with a grand fair flood tide at sometimes better than 12 knots over the ground. And we hoped that there was still enough life left in the flood to carry them well on their way towards the South Rock off the County Down coast, where tidal streams start to be less dominant.

But was not to be. At least they'd got a far as Glenarm, and south of the very worst of the foul tide. But the new ebb soon built up to strength, the wind – such as it was - drew more from the south and eased, and speeds of 2 knots or less over the ground became the order of the day.

Sailing Magenta Round Ireland Tracker

It will be 6 o'clock this evening before they have significant tide in their favour, but then it's good news, as every bit of southing they make taking them closer to the Irish Sea's relatively tide-free western sector. And it all brings them closer to the bit of more active weather that's distantly developing to the far southwest of Ireland, and should be preceded by a decent sou'easter which might even be the leading wind to bring them into Dublin Bay to complete the circuit within four days – deadline is 0745 tomorrow (Saturday).

But for now, they can have to live with seeing the Antrim coast in slow detail, and imagining life in Glenarm Castle up on the heights. It's the stronghold of the Mac Donnells, the Earls of Antrim, who were originally the Lords of the Isles in the Hebrides, but moved their HQ south when they found the real estate was of better quality in Ireland.

However, they never lost their love of the isles, so by tradition, each deceased member of the family is buried upright in the family graveyard on top of the hill so that he or she can look out over the coasts and islands and waterways that were their extensive domain.

But once upon a time, a notably unpopular member of the family died, and none of his relatives could be bothered to come home for the funeral. So the faithful retainers of the descendants of the Lords of the Isles struggled on their own up the hillside with the loathed one's very heavy coffin and buried him head down.

WM Nixon

About The Author

WM Nixon

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William M Nixon has been writing about sailing in Ireland for many years in print and online, and his work has appeared internationally in magazines and books. His own experience ranges from club sailing to international offshore events, and he has cruised extensively under sail, often in his own boats which have ranged in size from an 11ft dinghy to a 35ft cruiser-racer. He has also been involved in the administration of several sailing organisations.

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