A chance of a lifetime to Sail Snipes amongst the islands of Orkney
By Sue Roberts
Where the dramatic coastline of northern Scotland ends, the ocean begins and nestled there, a few miles from the mainland, lies Orkney.
In the days of sail, Orkney proved a convenient staging post for mariners traversing the North Atlantic Ocean, which explains why this ocean highway service station remained a part of Norway until as late as 1468, when they were transferred to the Scottish Crown in a marriage dowry. Twenty of the largest Islands are home to 20,000 Orcadians, the majority of whom reside on the principle island, Mainland. Surrounding Mainland lay a scattering of smaller islands; some with lively communities while others are home to a few independent islanders.
All the islands of Orkney are steeped in a mass of history dating from Neolithic times and Orkney is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is so much to see; from the great standing stones of Brodgar and Stenness, magnificent chambered tombs of Maeshowe and Unstan and the fabulous preserved village of Skara Brae. Impressive remains can be found everywhere, in a density unequalled in Europe.
In more recent years military activity has left a great legacy in Orkney. The incredible natural harbour of Scapa Flow was elevated to the headquarters for the Allies’ Atlantic navy in the First World War and the site where the German fleet surrendered and then was scuttled. It is on these historic waters that the UK Snipe National Championships will be staged in 2013.
You may be curious to know why we are holding the UK Snipe Nationals in Orkney. In the UK we have two large fleets of Snipes that have never sailed together and we would like to do something about uniting them. It will be a great opportunity to bring together the Orkney and UK mainland Snipe sailors both on the water and socially off the water! It will also give the UK mainland sailors (and anyone else who cares to join us) the opportunity to visit and sail in such a unique and historic place.
The reason it has not happened before is principally the distance, almost 800 miles from the South East of England. The boat parks of Stromness Sailing Club (SSC) and Holm Sailing Club (HSC) are home to just under 40 Snipes. Of these boats, the majority are used regularly and are mostly Danish Skipper Snipes from the early 1970’s. Club racing takes place in Holm on Tuesday evenings and on Thursdays at Stromness between May and August to take advantage of the long summer nights, with some Sunday sailing continuing into September and early October. In addition, many regattas take place on both Mainland and the surrounding islands over the summer and are supported by some of the Snipe sailors.
Although the drive is long, transport links to the islands from mainland Scotland are very good. There are Northlink ferries from Aberdeen and Scrabster to Kirkwall and Stromness, and Pentland Ferries from Gills Bay to St Margaret’s Bay. There are also flight links from all major UK airports with Flybe, via Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness.
The organising Committee is actively seeking sponsors to help to defray the cost of hosting the Nationals in Orkney. This pioneering event deserves a like- minded sponsor and it is fitting that the first to step forward is the European Marine Energy Centre, the only accredited, grid-connected, wave and tidal test centre for marine renewable energy in the world, suitable for testing 14 full-scale devices simultaneously.
Due to the distance we would recommend you stay for your summer vacation and allow time to experience the wealth of history, archaeology, arts and crafts, incredible wildlife and bird watching, a well-regarded whisky distillery (Highland Park), two local breweries (The Orkney Brewery and The Highland Brewing Company), and wonderful seafood, plus the chance to see sheep that live on the beach and eat seaweed! All of these plus much more can be experienced by visitors to Orkney.
With the local organising committee, Shetland and Orkney Sailing Development Group and RYA Scotland being closely involved, our Nationals in 2013 will be hosted at Stromness from Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th August. This is an open event and anyone who makes the huge effort to get there will be well rewarded with the fantastic Orcadian hospitality and an opportunity to sail a Snipe in one of the most unique places in the World. At present there are 15 crews prepared to travel from the UK mainland to join the Orcadian Snipe Sailors – how about joining us? You will be guaranteed serious sailing and most definitely serious fun in a truly remarkable setting.
If you want any further information please do not hesitate to contact me by email firstname.lastname@example.org