26 May DONEGAL and TIREE report Sept/Oct 2017
The hardest and easiest to question to answer is:
“So what’s Donegal like then?”
Hard because every year is spectacularly different.
Easy – because irrespective of conditions, it’s always stunning, challenging, life-affirming.
Sometimes you have to pinch yourself. Am I dreaming?
What makes the good so good is that after a horizontal rain storm, the sun will come out, the scenery will reveal itself and the mood swing is so stark that you start dancing a jig.
We were blessed this year, primarily because we had, as always seems to be the case, such fantastic groups of people; and also because the winds blew and the waves rolled in.
Peter Sewell and his wife Rochelle made it all the way from NZ – kiwis are hard to impress because their beaches are stunning too, but even they gaped at the beauty.
Every week was very different in terms of conditions.`
week 1 had wind everyday bar one but small waves.
Week 2 had more waves, with some great SUP sand SUP sailing finishing with a classic side off day on the beach of Dooey.
Week 3 arguably stumbled on perfection – 2 days of glorious sunshine in glassy, clean head high waves to get throughly warmed up and brush up on wave knowledge – before landing 3 days of 5.0 weather – 2 of them classic side-off riding.
Every day in Donegal is good for something – and the best courses are where we get a bit of everything.
5 days of hooning wind sounds good – you certainly get fitter – but it’s hard to brush up on skills.
Most issues with wave riding and jumping result from a flaw with the basics.
People don’t jump because they’re not planing earlier enough and aren’t hitting the ramps with any speed.
Problems with bottom turns are usually reflected in dodgy gybes – typically sheeting out and/or turning off the tail and washing off speed.
So a day or 2 unthreatened on the flat water lagoon behind Magheroarty beach did wonders for people’s overall sailing .
Likewise the SUPing, where the engine and the balance support is taken away (the rig) , forced people to work on their trim and showed them the importance of working their away into the right areas and taking off on waves in the right spots.
What I enjoyed this year was that apart from a wee storm one Sunday afternoon between courses, we were spared those Windguru purple patches where no one has a small enough sail and they just stretch their tendons for a few minutes before retiring broken to the pub.
With the gear packed up at the end of the sessions, the Donegal day is only half over. My ‘man on the ground’ Brendan Hone, a local sailor of some repute, organises a legendary evening program. The highlight this year was the Dunfanaghy Blues and Jazz festival. Supported by all the bars in this small quaint town (just 15 mins from where we stay), the standard of music is insane – and it’s all free. The gang could not believe what they were hearing – and the atmosphere was fabulously welcoming.
Thanks to all the groups for you amazing commitment on and off the water.
It’s always with a tear in the eye that I bid farewell to Donegal – but with depression after depression lining up in the Atlantic, my following week in Tiree was looking like a proper challenge…
AND SO TO TIREE…
“Careful what you with for…” is what I never tire of saying when it comes to wind.
The drive from Donegal to the ferry hub of Oban was glorious with sun, still trees and clear vistas – but by Sunday morning, all that had changed.
We boarded the Calmac ferry en route to Tiree at 7 am. All was dandy – the breakfast was a treat and the seas were calm as we steamed out of the Sound of Mull.
However as we reached the the Isle of Coll, where the boat was due to make its first stop, the captain was about to ruin our day:
“ladies and gentlemen. We’re getting gusts of 55 knots here at the dock and can’t tie up. I’ve called ahead to Tiree and they’re getting the same. I’m afraid we’ll have to turn back.”
Nooooooo – you complete wuss, we chimed, it’s not that bad!
Indeed the swell wasn’t too bad – but it was the wind direction that scuppered us.
The ferry port in Gott bay faces east so is protected from the swell – however the hammering SE wind blows the boat straight in to the dock and makes mooring precarious.
Every cloud …
So there we were in Oban, stranded in howling winds. It was a shame to waste them so an hour later we sailing with 4.0s off the local beach of Tralee – it wasn’t Tiree but it was a challenge and certainly got the juices flowing.
Best of all, local couple Bill and Di Oliver put us all up in their glorious home. The clinic turned out to be a 2 centre holiday.
As the winds abated to a mere 25 knots, we made Tiree by Tuesday and enjoyed three killer days – the best of which was surely at Balephuil in a north westerly.
There are some beaches where I always have a good sail and Balephuil, on the south of the island, is one of them.
5.3 weather, cloudless skies and punchy head to logo high swell, gave everyone plenty to think about – but at the end of the day one broken mast one blown panel was not a bad return.
As with Donegal, we finished the clinic with a windy flat session in Gott Bay and a chance to hone gybes, tacks, jumps, and for Mike, some loops!
All too soon it was time to catch the boat home – this time a moderate 20 knot westerly blew us gently home and up the sun kissed Sound of Mull back to Oban,.
A month in the North Atlantic is lengthy stint- but it passes so quickly.
If you’re looking to get on one of the Donegal or Tiree weeks, they’re scheduled for the same time in 208 – last 3 weeks of Sept and first week on October.
Details will appear soon