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The St Kilda Challenge

An annual international yacht race from Lochmaddy, North Uist to St Kilda. Comann na Mara in conjunction with associated Partners.


Inaugural St Kilda Challenge hailed as great success as Moonstruck Too takes victory

After 100 nautical miles and almost exactly 23 hours at sea, Moonstruck Too, Gordon Lawson's J122, took victory at the inaugural St Kilda Challenge.

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After 100 nautical miles and almost exactly 23 hours at sea, Moonstruck Too, Gordon Lawson's J122, took victory at the inaugural St Kilda Challenge.

Organised by North Uist's Comann Na Mara, the challenge brought together 27 yachts from all corners of the UK and beyond to a far nook of the Western Isles with a long-held and shared common goal - to reach the alluring, mysterious, rugged cliffs of St Kilda.

Of those 27 boats, 15 of them went in the racing fleet and the remaining 12 cruised in company.

Despite having been at sea for such a prolonged period, it was a nail-biting finish between Grant Kinsman's Sigma 400 Thalia and Port Edgar Yacht Club's Moonstruck.

The fastest boat on handicap, Moonstruck was the only one of the racing fleet to make the return journey in under 24 hours - 22 hours and 59 minutes to be precise. Dublin Bay-based Thalia, meanwhile, sailed in after 24 hours and 31 minutes.

Thus ensued several hours of nervous waiting for the final yachts to arrive and the much-anticipated results - and when they came, they were exceptionally close. In the end, Moonstruck prevailed with a tiny corrected time margin of five minutes and 50 seconds over her rival. An astonishingly tight result after such distance, and so many vagaries of tide, swell and fickle breeze; a real testament to a very long night of grit and determination in some very difficult conditions. And Fraser Gray's First 40.7 Pippa VI from Helensburgh rounded off the top three with a respectable time of 24 hours and 57 minutes.

In all of the hundreds and hundreds of hour of planning which had gone into this short 24 hour race, it had been expected that the yachts would probably have to dig deep to overcome some perilous seas and howling wind - so typical of even summer weather in this notoriously exposed and blasted outpost of the UK. There were strict guidelines in place about how much wind could actually thwart even a start. Inclement weather could have seen the flotilla shorebound while the racers were set free to pit their wits against the elements. They could all have made the journey for nought.

What had not been expected was yachts peaking at a mere seven knots, struggling against a sometimes unpleasant swell, crews toiling from fatigue and occasional seasickness as windless conditions made pacey progress impossible.

"Sailing in conditions like that is much harder than racing hard in heavy weather," said race officer John Readman. "It is very hard work to keep morale up and attention span lively when you are wallowing in the sea like that with barely a breath of air and no real sign of any to come."

Of the 15 racing yachts which started, seven of them judged that discretion was the better part of valour and joined the cruising flotilla - allowing the luxury of switching on the engine. Of the cruisers, just a single one - Sea Fever - actually made the determined journey to St Kilda under sail.

And yet, despite a voyage which had clearly taken its toll and after a well-earned nap, there was universal praise ashore from the participants - both the racers and the cruisers.

In the flotilla, those unknown to one another have now enjoyed an experience which has turned them into friends. For all of them, getting ashore on Hirta - the main island of St Kilda, and the only one which was inhabited - was the stuff of dreams.

Rachel Vejar and her husband Alvaro from Inverness joined Mick and Sally Ineson from Yorkshire on their boat Casares for the journey as part of the cruise in company. The two couples had never met before - Rachel and Alvaro were introduced to Mick and Sally the day before the challenge began. And were invited to join them.

"We tried sailing but there wasn't enough wind," said Rachel. "The boat is a cruiser and without a spinnaker we were hardly getting anywhere.  As the main objective was to land on St Kilda we just motored there.  My husband and I both felt seasick due to the enormous swells, he spend most of the time below deck, but was still really happy to have made the trip.  

"We loved the journey, and like many people, going to St Kilda has always been a dream of mine.  It was great to just land on the island and have a walk round."

Her story mirrors that of many others having experienced the grandeur of St Kilda and the pleasure of sailing in company.

Phrases like 'a mission accomplished' and 'a real sense of pleasure and achievement' pervaded across Lochmaddy's packed marina. It was an epic in ways few had considered, but an epic nonetheless.

Most regattas are run by yacht clubs or sailing organisations - the St Kilda Challenge, however, was run not only be sailing experts, but by a whole community. A community which had a vision many years ago and has worked tirelessly to bring it to fruition. The committee vessel was local fishing boat Harmony. The 'guard ship' for the starting line was Leverburgh Lifeboat.

The shoreside events explored the rich cultural heritage of the area and produced a festival to remember. Born and brought up on North Uist, internationally acclaimed Julie Fowlis was proud to return to her roots at the weekend giving a fabulous concert treat. There were plays and films, there was music and food. There were friendships renewed and new ones forged.

It was, plainly put, a success.

"We are exhausted but thrilled," said Comann Na Mara chairman Gus MacAulay. "The intention is to make this a biennial event, so we will start planning for 2018 shortly.

"In the meantime, though, we know that we have done a good job because the participants have told us so. After so long waiting for this to happen, just to hear that everyone enjoyed it has made it all worthwhile.

"There was great camaraderie among the sailors and a tremendous buzz on North Uist. We simply could not have asked for more and I would like to thank all those who helped and collaborated to make it happen."

The challenge brought the windswept St Kilda island group into focus - helping to highlight the UK's only dual World Heritage Site, recognised for both its natural and cultural significance, in what will be the 30th anniversary of it receiving its designation in 1986.

Sailing's governing body RYA Scotland was involved with Clyde Cruising Club providing race management expertise, and CalMac  offering significant support as proud prime sponsor. Collaboration partners on the event advisory board also include Ocean Youth Trust, Sail Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, University of St Andrews, Scottish Natural Heritage, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Harris Tweed and Harris Distillery.

But perhaps the greatest achievement of the St Kilda Challenge was for a small community in what cannot be described as anything other than a remote area, to pull together a dream so fascinating that the rest of the country (and a few more besides) wanted to join them.

Pictures courtesy of Island News and Advertiser and Rachel Vejar show:

The fleet in calm waters (R Vejar)

Moonstruck Too racing (Island News and Adv)

Gordon Lawson on Moonstruck Too receives his prize from George MacDonald and Gus MacAulay (Island News and Adv)

Looking down on the flotilla in Village Bay on Hirta, St Kilda (R Vejar)

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Racers and cruisers head for UK's remotest outpost

And they're off! Racers and cruisers head for UK's remotest outpost in St Kilda Challenge

At 9.30am today (Friday June 10), 27 yachts left the Sound of Harris in Scotland's Outer Hebrides with their sights set firmly on the St Kilda archipelago - a return journey of some 100 nautical miles.

The St Kilda Challenge is the brainchild of North Uist's community organisation Comann Na Mara and today's starting gun on this first ever edition of the event marked the culmination of years of work on the part of the committee to bring the dream to reality.

Read more.


Yachts arrive ready for inaugural St Kilda Challenge

Eyes west! Thirty yachts arrive at Lochmaddy to take part in inaugural St Kilda Challenge. A fleet of 30 yachts has arrived at the North Uist village of Lochmaddy in Scotland's Outer Hebrides in advance of the inaugural St Kilda Challenge. Find out more.


St Ayles Skiff Racing

St Ayles Skiff Racing


A festival under canvas

lochmaddy campsite

Why not enjoy the event in true festival style under canvas!

Good news for anyone wanting to come to Lochmaddy for the St Kilda Challenge and unable to find accommodation close by - Lochmaddy's football field is being made available for campers.

Just turn up and create a tented village. Toilet facilities can be found at the hall nearby, and showers and toilets can be found at the marina.

Now you can book all those concerts!


Onshore programme announced

Open the PDF document below for full details of our onshore programme.

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Massage at Lochmaddy Hotel

Just the thing for aching muscles once you've sailed into Lochmaddy before the race... a Massage at Lochmaddy Hotel!

This service will be available at the Hotel on Thursday 9th and Friday 10th June between 10:30 - 17:00h

Cheryl Taylor, a complementary Therapist, can provide any of the following:

  • Massage
  • On-Site Massage
  • Indian - Head Massage
  • Reflexology - (Hands or Feet)

Please phone Cheryl on 01870 603754 before Thursday 9th June to Pre Book or call into the Hotel on Thursday 9th and Friday 10th June.


West Highland Offshore Series

West Highland Offshore Series 

We are delighted to announce that from 2016 the St. Kilda Challenge will be a regular feature on the West Highland Offshore Series (WHOS) qualifying races.

The WHOS is an annual series of nine regional races with five to count towards overall Champion. Free to enter. Top three awarded prizes.

Billed as Scotland's only season-long, passage race sailing championship, the series will collect results from nine keelboat race events and use the five best results for each boat to derive a winning yacht for the season.

Five west coast sailing clubs have come together to create the series with races starting in Gairloch, Kyle of Lochalsh, Oban, Plockton and Portree and, best of all, it costs nothing to enter. Participation in any of the qualifying races automatically enters the yacht... no paperwork, no fees, no hassle - just enjoy the racing and the stunning Scottish west coast scenery.

The races included in the series are:


  • Oban to Glencoe Passage Race
  • The St. Kilda Challenge
  • Midsummer in the Minch
  • Gairloch Boat Club Big Boat Race


  • Round Mull Race
  • Over the Sea to Skye (part 1)
  • Over the Sea to Skye (part 2)
  • Round Raasay Pursuit


  • Frithard Trophy


  • Last Gasp Trophy


For further information on the race series and how to be part of it please contact - westhighlandoffshore@gmail.com



Crew Wanted - exciting opportunity


An exciting opportunity for those wishing to do some more sailing after the St. Kilda Challenge. One of the skippers taking part Patrick Bird will be sailing his Arcona 400 - Sea Fever, first from Loch Maddy to Orkney and then on to Norway.

Contact Alistair Carter

Email: alistair_carter@btinternet.com            Mob: 07415377751



Crew Available - Experienced, for either race or flotilla


Fiona Lamotte is an experienced sailing having completed the 1987 ARC race and sailing a lot on the West Coast of Scotland. Fiona is looking for a boat to crew on for either the race or the flotilla.

Contact Alistair Carter

Email: alistair_carter@btinternet.com            Mob: 07415377751



Crew Available - Experienced sailor, available at short notice


Richard Bramble (49 years) Experienced dingy sailor and crewed for Sigma 33 yacht (albeit over 20 years ago), fit and energetic having twice kitesurfed solo to the Monarch Isles in 2015 and training for a kitesurfing crossing to St Kilda for 2016. Would be available at short notice if needed.

Contact Alistair Carter

Email: alistair_carter@btinternet.com            Mob: 07415377751


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