THE HENLEY WHALERS - English Raid - 8th - 12th August 2016
Blairvadach Outdoor Centre
Welcome to Blairvadach

Click any picture to enlarge

Ah! - Those drying rooms!

Statistics & Tracks - Click here.

Raid Pennant 2016
Monday 8th Sept - Arrival. Registration. Dinner at Blairvadach Outdoor Centre.

“Why do they need such large drying rooms?” was the question that some of the "Henley Whalers" raised whilst we were being given a guided tour of the Blairvadach Outdoor Education Centre, in Rhu, just outside Helensburgh, the base for this year’s English Raid.
Having already sailed in the Venice Lagoon and at the Douarnenez Festival in Brittany earlier in the year, some crew had got used to warm (and dry) weather sailing.
But this was Scotland in August and we soon discovered why the two very large drying rooms were required!

BV Boat Park
Boat Park at Blairvadach Outdoor Centre

After 6 English Raids; in the Solent (twice), Norfolk Broads, Stour & Orwell, Falmouth and Plymouth; the search had been on for another suitable area. Google maps soon drew attention to the Clyde; admittedly not English waters, but boats designed and built by Fife, Mylne and Watson had shown what wonderful waters for sailing these were (and still are).

A chance conversation brought the lucky break that was needed to help organise an event in an entirely new area. Peter Proctor, lives in Rhu and is a member of the Royal Northern and Clyde Yacht Club. Peter’s help was invaluable in establishing contacts with committee members of the RNCYC and other local clubs, hotels and catering establishments.

Many of the crews of the 18 boats that registered were old friends from previous Raids all over Europe. We had three Dutch crews and also one German crew who brought their boat all the way from County Kerry in Ireland.

Raids are intended to be “sail-and-oar” events although many of the boats do carry outboards. Those that don’t, range from Geoff Probert's 8.7m New Bedford Whaleboat replica “Molly”, to the tiny 4.7m “Huibertje”, a Dutch flat-bottomed Grundel complete with lee-boards built in the 1950s. As is now customary, Bay Raiders (built by Swallow Boats) were the most numerous class, but we also had a number of double-enders plus a Winklebrig, a Drascombe Coaster, an Orwell Corinthian and a beautiful Herreshoff-designed Haven 12.5.

The good fortune of being able to book the entire Blairvadach Centre which meant that everybody had beds, showers, access to lounges, meeting rooms, the previously mentioned drying rooms, but most importantly all the great breakfasts and packed lunches together with our opening evening meal provided by the Centre and their very friendly and helpful staff.

Dirk B 1
Courtesy of Dirk B
Click any picture to enlarge

Tuesday 9th.
Morning - The briefing could be summarised as “We are sailing to Loch Long. Just keep turning right. Try not to run aground on the corner. Lunch is at Cove Sailing Club. Oh, and by the way, there are no nuclear submarines to watch out for today.”
The Faslane nuclear submarine base is just 3 miles further up Gare Loch from where we were based, and checking with the Queen’s Harbour Master each day is required due to the size of the submarines and the moving exclusion zone that accompanies them when they are in the area.

Nathia & Homer
Nathia & Homer
Lunch - A very warm welcome awaited Raiders at Cove SC where the bar was opened up especially for the event. The stunning views from the terrace were unfortunately marred by the classic “four seasons in one day” that Scottish weather provides on a regular basis. Being experienced Raiders we extended the lunch hour! Cove SC Lunchtime
On Cove Buoys
On Buoys at Cove

Afternoon - Cruise to Rhu Marina.
The entire fleet was based here for the duration of the Raid, and made most welcome by all the staff. A BBQ here that evening allowed crews to bask in the evening sun and enjoy the views. That was the last time we saw it.

Statistics & Tracks - Click here.

Viewed from Cove
View from Cove
Dirk B2
Enjoy the sun!
Courtesy of Dirk B


Fleet James Watt Dock
Fleet. James Watt Dock

Wednesday 10th.
The destination was the James Watt Dock near Greenock. Almost a quarter of Britain’s sugar refineries used to be in this area with over 400 ships a year arriving from the Caribbean. The dock is home to the Titan Cantilever Crane and an enormous warehouse known as “the Sugar Shed” both of which are Grade A listed structures.

Fleet James Watt Dock Lunch - Packed lunches were consumed in the shelter of the historic warehouse, then some crews located a nearby bar - useful both for drying out and re-hydration! Titan Crane
Titan Crane
Sugar Ship
"Sugar Ship"
Afternoon - On the way back after lunch, we chose to sail as close as we dared to “The Sugar Ship”. This is the partially-submerged remains of a Greek sugar-carrying vessel that foundered in 1974 and is now home to a large number of cormorants and other seabirds and marine life. Whilst the sailing was a delight, with favourable winds and flat waters, wet is good description of the day and the crews soon realised quite why the drying rooms were so large and so warm. Ah! - Those drying rooms!
Cormorants on Buoy

Evening - A wonderful dinner at the atmospheric, magnificent Clubhouse of the RNCYC rounded off the day. The trophies and half-models that line the walls had the overseas and home crews enraptured.

Statistics & Tracks - Click here.


Thursday 11th
Morning - The plan was to sail to Holy Loch and have lunch at the marina there. However, the weather was cold and wet with very low cloud and thus many crews decided that museum visits in Dunfermline or distillery tours were more appealing. In the end, only a handful of hardy crews decided to undertake the days sailing itinerary.

An interesting challenge when nearing the entrance to Holy Loch was spotting exactly where it was. The rain and low cloud had combined to such a point that although we knew it was there, we just couldn’t see it!

Molly Crew Sunbathing
Holy Loch
Holy Loch
Lunch - Once we finally made landfall, a sympathetic café owner allowed us to take over some tables and chairs but when we left there were large puddles everywhere from where we had discarded our waterproofs.
Holy Loch
Holy Loch
Click any picture to enlarge

Afternoon - Our sail back was enlivened by a local man who lives on the other side of the Loch. He had seen us enter the Loch and thought that "Molly" looked so lovely. He therefore waited until he saw us set sail again and jumped into his motor boat in order to take photographs of us. A decent wind and flat waters meant that “Molly” was exceeding 8 knots, but he had both hands holding the camera. Did he have an auto-pilot?

Boats returned to Gare Loch and slipped out at Blairvadach Outdoor Centre.

Statistics & Tracks - Click here.

Thursday 11th - Evening - Final Dinner, and prizegiving at Rosslea Hall Hotel, Rhu.

Everyone who took part in this year’s Raid said that they had a great time both on and off the water despite the weather. Did I mention that it was wet? We will have to go back there again sometime as the waters and scenery are magnificent as was the welcome that we received from everybody.

(Material heavily plagiarised from GP's report)

Where in 2017? - Watch English Raid website - Suggestions welcome.

Molly's tracks
Molly Tracks

Other folks pictures, sailing and/or social:-
Dirk B (of Dorestad fame).
Madeline P. (you may need to create a DropBox account).
Paul W (Under construction)

Got any Contributions? Text or pics?
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Previous English Raids - 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 (password Molly) & here.

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Molly's tracks
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Molly's ER 2016 tracks:-
Tuesday 9th Sept. BvOC, Cove, Rhu.
Wednesday 10th Sept. Rhu, JW, Rhu.
Thursday 11th Sept Rhu, Holy Loch, BvOC.

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