The Great Serpent Online Photo Competition with the Winner and captions

Updated 11/11/20

The photo competition is a usual addition to the Annual Dinner goings-on but with the inevitable cancellation of that this year and like so many other things we have moved it online, hopefully for this year only. Despite the limitations on sailing in the season just ended we have 6 entries which are presented unattributed to the photographers and although some have been submitted with titles those have been amended to remove clues to the location in the interests of preserving anonymity. All members are encouraged to vote for their favoured choice and to do so please email Graham Gillies with the number of your selection by Monday 9th November. The winner will be announced as soon as Graham has completed the abacus work and a presentation bottle will be forwarded.  At that time the images will be attributed properly on the website. Here they are for your careful consideration. Remember to click on the image to see it at best resolution. 

and send your choice to Graham :  gwagillies@gmail.com

 And Now -Graham has done the tally and presents the results which are presented here along with the identity of the photographers. 


Number 1.  Runner-up   'Settled Morning at Ormidale'    This tranquil image is Graham Gillies' submission depicting 'Silverjack' on her mooring.  Modesty allows him to only hint that this is runner up by a narrow margin. 

Number 2. 

This is from Tom Hutchinson. His suggested title is ' ‘Social distancing on the water  - no COVID up here'   Rather him (or whoever it is up there)  than me. Is it another go-fast tweak?  We can only guess. 


Number 3. A pretty 'Sunset on Kilchoan' by Caroline Hutchinson 


Number 4.  'Are you sure this is the way in?'  This nicely detailed and evocative shot was taken by Gavin Kenny on this year's summer cruise and depicts the approach to Tinker's Hole on (he says) a surprisingly sunny day. 


Number 5.  Winner (by a narrow margin).    Acarseid Mhor, North Rona.  This is Charles Sutherland's effort taken with his obsolete phone on an idyllic early evening at the start of the Mhojo Mhor (ex Jomora) boy's cruise this August. 

Number 6.    Seamus Lalor didn't get Emma Louise launched this year hence his boatyard photo entitled Lockdown Blues.  To me the contrasts and hard shadows are in keeping with that lockdown feeling 


Serpent 2020 Covid Compliant Frostbite Race


The Serpent Yacht Club was determined, if it was at all possible, to run at least one event in 2020. It was decided that the Frostbite race was the only possible remaining event as that race does not usually involve any organised apres-sail social activity.  Consequently the date was brought forward to October 3rd and arranged in great detail to be fully compliant with the government guidelines for sporting events as interpreted and promulgated by the RYA.  Stewart Toy was encouraged to volunteer to be the club Covid Officer for the event and this turned out to be a not unduly onerous task given only four entries of lightly crewed yachts. As can be seen from the photos, wind was in short supply.  The post race comments received here were of a general admiration of Tulla Mhor's new post World Arc laminate sails and a unanimous wish that next year we may have sailing with proper Serpent sociability. 

 Tom Hutchinson has kindly written the following race report.   


Frostbite Race 2020

Over the preceding week the weather forecasts alternated between gale force winds and little wind. Luckily the latter prevailed and four boats lined up at 11:00am off Largs sailing club. Three of the boats were crewed by the husband and wife teams of Stewart and Catherine Toy, Peter and Marian Jennett and Dugald and Val Glen, with the Gillies brothers accompanied by Tom Hutchinson, sailing on Silverjack. 


Stewart and Catherine Toy undertook the duty of start boat on Katya and set the most appropriate course round the Cumbrae Island leaving it to port. The start was challenging with little wind and a strong north going tide which caused Silverjack, helmed by Tom Hutchinson, to drift across the line early. After being recalled by the officer of the day Silverjack restarted and with Exody and Tulla Mhor [with a beautiful set of new sails] headed towards HUN1 at a snail’s pace. Tulla Mhor reached the mark first and picked up stronger winds which promptly disappeared as the rest of the fleet struggled on. Katya, having completed duties as start boat, set off 12 minutes later joined the three slower boats as they drifted onwards towards the mark. Katya was forced to take avoiding action to prevent the tide pushing them onto HUN3 as the tide turned at the north end of the island.

Both Exody and Katya then picked up a small breeze and rounded HUN1 shortly followed by Silverjack and the rain.

Tulla Mhor, having disappeared over the horizon, finished racing at the TAN SPIT BUOY with the rest of the fleet arriving considerably later in light winds.

The results were as follows:-



Tulla Mhor

2 hours 9 minutes


3 hours 4 minutes


3 hours 9 minutes


3 hours 12 minutes

All crews expressed their delight at being able to race again in a club event, unfortunately without any social interaction being allowed before or after the race.

Big thanks to Stewart and Catherine for starting the race and providing Covid risk assessments etc. Also to Graham and Charles Sutherland who organised the race and to everyone who turned up on the start line. Let’s hope we can race again soon.

Tom Hutchinson

Committee member and tea maker on Silverjack [promoted after my disastrous start]



Lockdown Gallery

The Committee in its wisdom decided that as Serpent events in 2020 were inevitably to be curtailed*, a selection of photos from past club activities should be presented on the website to remind us all of to what we have to look forward.

Now adding the lastest submissions at the top of the page. Remember to click on the pic for a better view.

Here are 3 from the 2016 Frostbite race: The late Neil MacDougall assisted by Don Gillies at speed in  Camus Bosta, Martin Yuill going well in Pondskater, and Exody leading Camus Bosta into the Tan.

Now 2 photos from Tom Hutchinson

 Above a 2014 start at Rothesay. Tom comments 'Who says we are not competitive'  and below Martyn Webster in Shona soon after the start of the 2016 Portavadie race. We will miss Shona and Martyn in the Serpent events. 

Here are 3 from Stewart Toy - the Loch Riddon BBQ in 2017.  Maybe not perfect BBQ weather but happy faces nonetheless as is usually the Serpent way.

The first submissions were from the irrepressible Trevor Watson and are from the 2013 Round Shuna Race. Do click on each photo to enlarge it.

 Nobody was ever fooled by Out of The Blue's attempts to look casual by fishing off the transom.

 Troikka doing what she did best in very light airs. Looks like only 2 on board. What were we doing wrong?

The next three are submitted by Dugald Glen and are from the opening muster Tarbert race in 2008.

  On board Tulla with Iain and Pamela Sinclair as guest crew.

Here's a super shot of Troika the SJ320 under full sail with George and Julia Hannah on board. The SJ was an enormously fun boat.

This looks like it must be a sail change about to proceed on Troikka. No roller headsail here.

Now a couple from Graham Gillies:

With a threatening sky backdrop the sun catches Exody in the West Kyle, May 2017.  The race had been stopped already and we were sailing on to Tarbert.

   This is the Serpent fleet in the Kyles in the Postavadie race 2016.

A few people shots as taken by the race secretary. Most will have been on the website in the past. (Note: If anyone is unhappy with being depicted in any please inform me and they will be removed.)  The first 2 are from 2017 when Anne & I were guest crew on board Katya for the round Shuna race. Judging by the woolly hats it must have been chillier than it looks.

Catherine is certainly sporting some impressive headgear as Anne shows off her racing crew pose.

The Croabh Muster barbecue team who have done a splendid job over many years.

The next 4 are from the Tarbert muster 2016 where clearly there was a good turnout for the pre- dinner drinks party.


Appreciation of Douglas Clow

 Members will be saddened to hear of the death of Douglas Clow (79).
He was a valued member of the Serpent Yacht Club and one of its staunchest supporters for over 40 years.
Douglas’s passion for sailing started when he raced dinghies at Monklands Sailing Club. After he got married to Margaret and their family arrived, he realised a bigger boat was needed. In true Douglas style, he sourced a hull and deck and proceeded to build, not just one, but two boats at the side of his house in Lesmahagow. The first was “Phaeton’ –an Elizabethan 30 and the second “Ambition” a Warrior 35.
His last boat was, Guilty, a Gibsea 39, in which he competed very successfully in Serpent and Clyde Cruising Club events. He also spent many happy holidays with his family and friends on the Clyde, the West Coast and further afield, often in the company of other Serpent yachts.
Douglas’s company, The Clow Group, is one of the largest independent manufacturers of ladders, steps, brushes and access equipment in the UK today.
Many will wonder how Douglas was accepted as a member of a club for medics.
My Dad, Jack Edgar, was Douglas’s GP when the Clow family lived in Lesmahagow. Dad had been helping Douglas finish off his boats when he got a notification about the Serpent Yacht Club starting up. He asked Douglas if he would be interested in them entering a race together. Douglas agreed.

Quite quickly, Serpent members realised what an asset Douglas was to the club, not just for his great knowledge, sailing expertise and enthusiasm but also the fact that his firm had accounts with chandlery suppliers and offered favourable rates on marine equipment as well as on paint brushes, ladders and scaffolding from his own company. Honorary membership of the club was extended to him and he subsequently joined the committee and served as Treasurer.
My memories of Douglas will be of him always sailing impeccably turned out in his shirt and tie, always smiling, being very competitive and doing outrageous things to win e.g. keeping his spinnaker flying when all others had lost their nerve.

He will be sadly missed. Our thoughts go out to Margaret, Douglas, Cameron and Kirsten and their families. 

Catherine Toy
Past Commodore 


As we near the next decade

A Happy Christmas and successful sailing in 2020 to all Serpent members.

Here is advance warning that the AGM is to be held on 12th February in the Newton Mearns church which is not far from where our present commodore has his HQ.

At the AGM the star attraction will be a double act by Stephen Pickles and Trevor Watson on the subject of Ataraxia's summer cruise to Norway and the Lofoten Islands.  This promises to be most informative and entertaining and you can get a glimpse of a preview by going to Trevor's blog which was compiled during the voyage.  We are assured that they have lots of photos, those on the blog  being merely a sample of what is to come. Definitely something to make AGM attendance unmissable.


Important Notice - Serpent Yacht Club GDPR Policy

In order to comply with the provisions of the 2018 Data Protection Act we are required to inform members that by renewing your subscription you are consenting to your details being held on the SYC electronic records and paper files as set out in our Data Protection Policy which can be viewed on this, the club's website.  The permanent link to the document is on the right hand side of the screen under the heading 'Pages' 


Frostbite Race

Report by Graham Gillies
It was a thin but hardy turnout for this year’s Frostbite Race. Potential participants may have been discouraged by the arrival of the remains of Hurricane Lorenzo with its potential high winds and torrential rain. In the event, the three participating yachts were met on the day with fresh winds and dry conditions.
The easterly wind at the start near Largs Yacht Haven provided flat water and unsettled skies. The choice of sail setup was a tricky call in the minutes prior to the start with wind speeds varying from 10 to 30 kn. 

Aquaholic made a perfect start crossing the line just seconds after the gun with Tulla Mhor crossing the line close on her heels. The chosen course was a clockwise circumnavigation of Great Cumbrae, a modest challenge for those global circumnavigators. Silverjack joined the pursuit 10 minutes later once they had stowed the starting paraphernalia.

The wind lightened as they approached Hun 9 buoy at Farland point allowing some close sparring between the leading boats. It was soon a hard gybe round the mark at Portachur.
The wind lightened a tad in the lee to the west of Cumbrae but remained steady and Tulla Mhor’s long legs increased the gap from Aquaholic. Her handicap of 6.5 required Tulla Mhor to maintain a fast pace.

To the north of Cumbrae, the wind strengthened and sheets were hardened up for a close fetch to Hun 1 with a light chop now affecting the speed. Tacking round the mark, it was a gusting 25kn close haul to lay the finish line. The race was completed by lunchtime with one gybe, one tack and as yet no rain; allowing the fleet to scamper home and pack the sails for the winter layup before the promised downpour.

                                    Silverjack easing the sails as they approach the finish.

Tulla Mhor took line honours with Aquaholic winning on corrected time.
Here are the results with corrected times.

Aquaholic   1hr 12 mins  11secs
Silverjack    1hr 14 mins  39 secs
Tulla Mhor  1hr 16 mins  55 secs.