22nd May 2018
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Irvine gets ready for Round Britain Race

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Andrew Wood (left) and Leslie Irvine in front of the yacht. Click on image to enlarge.

When Leslie Irvine takes part in the Shetland Round Britain and Ireland Race this summer he will end up circumnavigating the country not once, but twice.

The intrepid fan of boats will sail his vessel Streamline to the starting line in Plymouth directly from the isles, and will sail her back up again once the race is finished.

To do that, he may be counting on better luck than when he last took place in the event.

In 2008 Mr Irvine’s co-skipper suffered an injury after falling down a hatch, leaving Mr Irvine to cope on his own until a stand-in crewmate could be found.

But that has not put the intrepid sailor off taking part in the gruelling 1,800 mile-event again.

This year he hopes to raise money for charity – sponsor money raised from the event will be given to help leukaemia and lymphoma research.

Efforts are well underway to prepare Mr Irvine and his trusty 32-ft vessel for the challenging race, which will pit up to 60 competitors against each other in difficult tide conditions as they sail round the British coastline.

Streamline, which took part in last year’s Bergen to Lerwick races under the name Vandal, is currently resting at the pier at Streamline from where – thanks to a sponsorship deal – she gets her new name.

Sailing by his side will be friend Andrew “Woody” Wood, who step­ped into the breach when Mr Irvine’s last co-skipper suffered his mishap, and accompanied Mr Irvine on parts of last year’s Bergen-Shetland race.

Clearly, the two work well together.

“I suppose it really started in 2006, when I took part in the last [Round Britain and Ireland Race] along with Dick Koopmans, who is the designer of the boat,” said Leslie.

“We had a good race, and then on the last leg, Dick had an accident and fell down a hatch. I ended up doing the last couple of hundred miles with Woody here.”

Andrew added: “I got a phonecall at about three o’clock in the morning from Leslie saying ‘I’m stuck in Dover, Dick’s just fallen down the hatch, can you get yourself up here from Cornwall?’”

It is, perhaps, just as well he made the effort. Mr Irvine’s vessel finished first in its class, despite enduring difficult weather conditions and the obvious crew problems.

So is the thought of doing it all again not a daunting prospect?

“I suppose you always think a peerie bit about it, but you just have to try and play safe,” said Leslie. “I think it’s quite a challenging event because it’s not like an open-ocean race where you get away from the land.

“There’s a lot more navigation involved with tides, and you have to make the best you can of it. Last time it was about 18 days of sailing, with eight days of compulsory stop-overs.”

Andrew, meanwhile, said one of the main challenges they would have to deal with was a lack of sleep.

The crew will struggle to settle down to rest in the cramped confines of Streamline’s cabin for just three hours at a time.

To check on the trusty crew’s progress during the race, log on to www.vandaloceanracing.com.

About Ryan Taylor

Ryan Taylor has worked as a reporter since 1995, and has been at The Shetland Times since 2007, covering a wide variety of news topics. Before then he reported for other newspapers in the Highlands, where he was raised, and in Fife, where he began his career with DC Thomson. He also has experience in broadcast journalism with Grampian Television. He has lived in Shetland since 2002, where he harbours an unhealthy interest in old cars and motorbikes.

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