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FOUR SEASONS: GREENING SAILING

Published: The Scotsman (TSMAG) 9 October 2010

I’VE never given much thought to the environmental impact of sailing but I suppose I’ve always assumed it must be relatively green – after all, what could be kinder to the planet than getting yourself from A to B using an entirely renewable resource? As it turns out, however, not even sailors are perfect. The other week, Four Seasons caught up with celebrity yachtsman, Tom Cunliffe, who will be familiar to TV viewers as the presenter of the recent six-part BBC Two documentary, The Boats That Built Britain. He is scheduled to give a talk in Glasgow today, as part of the annual conference of environmental charity The Green Blue, and he’ll be encouraging his fellow boat lovers to start cleaning up their act voluntarily – before the Government gets involved and starts ramming new laws down their hatches.

Boat-related issues currently causing environmentalists to tear their hair out include water pollution (particularly engine oil and the toxic chemicals used for hull de-fouling) and a lack of facilities for recycling old boat parts and batteries.

“We have to be realistic,” says Cunliffe. “Sailors are an independent bunch of people – that’s why they do what they do – so if you start wagging fingers at them and producing huge swathes of legislation to make them clean up their act, they’re not going to react very favourably.

Clearly there is a problem. We are messing up the environment, the whole lot of us – I don’t think there’s very much argument about that. But if we police ourselves we’ll be doing the planet a favour and we’ll also be keeping the legislators off our backs.” To find out more, visit www.thegreenblue.org.uk

THE North Sea can be a fickle mistress. Twelve months ago, when Dunbar-based Coast to Coast surf school held their first retro surf contest at Belhaven Bay, they were blessed with beautiful little waist-high waves fanned by a light offshore breeze – ideal conditions for messing around on the funny-looking boards of yesteryear.

There was a real party atmosphere in the water, with competitors taking it in turns to attempt noserides, handstands and fin-first take-offs. Writing in this slot, I likened the scene – without irony – to Malibu Beach, California.

Fast-forward to this year’s event and things looked very different. Howling gales out in the middle of the North Sea had kicked up an unruly 15-foot swell that made the first day of competition a complete write-off. Things had calmed down a bit by day two, but the waves were still in the six-to-ten foot range and seriously lumpy, thanks to a brisk onshore wind.

The men’s final saw last year’s second place finisher, Tim Christopherson, pitted against Damon Hewlett, Niall Shiells and Andrew Leiper. Hewlett started strongly, with a huge snap on an eight-foot left, but then struggled to catch more waves. Leiper also seemed surf-starved, leaving Shiells and Christopherson to duke it out for first place.

Shiells sliced razor-sharp cutbacks on a couple of fast righthanders, but Christopherson secured the win by catching one of the biggest waves of the day and riding it flawlessly all the way through to the inside. In the junior division, Max Ferguson Hook, 15, just about exhausted his bag of tricks to take first place, beating Adam Walker, 11, and Angus Welsh, eight, surfing in his first contest but not remotely fazed by the stormy conditions.

SCOTLAND’S premier windsurfing contest, the Tiree Wave Classic, starts today and runs until 15 October. However, according to Gordon Ritchie, director of Dialogue Marketing which owns the event, it almost had to be cancelled this year due to reduced public sector funding. “Two and a half months ago it wasn’t looking possible,” he told me, saying he and his team jumped through “loops and hoops” to ensure its survival. The local community must be relieved, as the Classic gives the island economy a hefty shot in the arm. Tourism bosses must be pleased too: it is to be broadcast to 800 million households worldwide by 1080 Media Organisation, see www.tireewaveclassic.com.

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