Scottish Series starts this weekend
With late entries still trickling in at a rate of one or two each day, the 2002 event total of 192 boats has been surpassed, and so with 194 boats on the start list, the 2003 Bell Lawrie Scottish Series is already shaping up to be bigger and better than last year.
As ever the quality of entries down through the IRC Handicap classes, the Sigma 33 and 1720 divisions is as strong as it has been in past years. New this year will be the Laser SB3 class. The flourishing popularity of this easily transportable sportsboat is reflected in the fact that boats are coming by road from all over the UK and Ireland.
Scratch boat in IRC Class 1 will be Keith Miller's new Swan 45 Crackerjack. Past Swan European champion Miller has been a regular competitor at the regatta with his lineage of previous Crackerjack's, but the Edinburgh businessman and his crew proved they were up to the challenge last weekend finishing second at the Kip Spring Regatta, the traditional warm-up event on the Clyde.
But Crackerjack will face tough opposition in this blue riband class. The pace-setting duel that was one of the highlights of last year's event between the disparate pair Desperado, Richard Loftus' well sailed heavyweight Swan 65, and the Irish Dubois 40 Azure of Bob and Bairbre Stewart is likely to resume, but with the return this year also of Colm Barrington's green hulled Corby 38 Gloves Off the competition is guaranteed
to be close.
Stepping up a 'weight' this season are the double Scottish Series Trophy winning crew of Hamish MacKay.
They will add considerably to the fray in Class 1 with a chartered Race1 Ker 11.3 race boat as they bid to retain the Scottish Series Trophy for an unprecedented third time in a row.
They lifted the trophy in 2001 with the Elan 36 Silver Darling owned by Richard McKenzie and then retained it last year with the Elan 333 Elanor owned by Andy Mitchell.
MacKay is only the second skipper after Simon Pender, who had back to back wins in 1989 and 1990 in the Sonata, then Sigma 33 class, to win in consecutive years.
"I don't honestly think we have a chance of winning it again, even if we won the class with six firsts or whatever, but this year we decided we wanted to see how we get on in Class 1 and we wanted to sail a nice race boat," said MacKay, a past Soling UK champion, Dragon Gold Cup and double Edinburgh Cup winning crew. Also racing in this top class is Jonathan Anderson who has a new Beneteau 47.7, Playing FTSE. Anderson is the only skipper to have won the overall trophy three times, although not in successive years.
Furthest travelled boat is likely to be Bernard Gouy's modified Jeanneau SunFast 40 Inis Mor. Based on the north coast of France, Inis Mor took third in class at Easter's Spi Ouest regatta. They will race in IRC Class 2 and may face up to the newest boat at
the regatta which will be Dubliner Eamonn Crosby's Jason Ker designed Ker 32 Voodoo Chile. The IRC cruiser-racer was due to be launched Monday 19 May and, weather permitting, will head almost straight to the Bangor start line.
"We are very happy to see entries moving in the right direction once again," commented the Clyde Cruising Club's Commodore Peter Fairley, "We have undertaken a considerable amount of research through the winter months to try and establish just what our 'customers' want and we hope that we can deliver that over the next few years. Certainly with such a strong entry this time, we are certain we have something to build on and see the regatta go from strength to strength.
Racing starts with the traditional overnight offshore race to Tarbert from the twin start lines of Gourock and Bangor on Thursday night and continues on Loch Fyne until Tuesday afternoon.
This will be the fourth year of support as headline sponsor of the regatta by Bell Lawrie White, the investment and stockbroking division of Brewin Dolphin Securities.
Course area sponsors this year are Henri-Lloyd (marine clothing), Tunnocks (fine cakes and biscuits), and Talisker (malt whisky).