Are racing crews losing the knowledge of how to anchor? Here's a welcome antidote

I really like it that the Shetland Round Britain & Ireland Race stops at the Hebridean island of Barra, just as it always has.

Other race organisers might have looked again at the pilotage details and reconsidered the anchorage at Castlebay, which is rather exposed to the south and has quite poor holding. They might have considered the regular four-yearly fun and games involving dragging boats and thought: “Let’s go to somewhere with a marina.”

The RB&I is a true test of racing skills and, increasingly unusually, of good all-round seamanship. Competitors have to think about being prepared for their 48-hour stop at Barra. The 12 moorings there are on a first-come, first-served basis so there’s every chance crews will have to lie to anchor.

However light they’re’re trying to keep things, they have to have an adequate anchor and enough chain to ride to safely in a big blow.

It had not really occurred to me that the knack of anchoring, the choice of location, the important experience of how your boat will behave at anchor, how it will swing relative to other moored and anchored yachts and in response to current and wind changes is becoming something of a lost art in racing circles.

But of course it would be. The RB&I crews have to be prepared and equipped for this difficult stop, but most other race crews don’t have to give the stopping and staying put element of seamanship much thought.

Even here there has been a bit of a learning curve by the sound of it – have a read of this report. The  Barra lifeboat crew have been busy helping with, as the coxswain put it, their ‘floating anchors’. With over 50 yachts in the race, a certain amount of anchorage action is almost inevitable.

These stopover skills, let’s call them, are a great feature of this race. There should be more of it around.