The race has several objectives: one is to encourage sailors to appreciate fell running, for runners to appreciate sailing and for both to enjoy what must be some of the best sailing and hill running in the world; another is to help to build the self confidence of the youngsters sailing in the Youth Teams; yet another is to raise funds for various good causes; but the main objective is to provide a challenging experience to sailors and runners who may be too busy to devote weeks to sailing the Atlantic or trekking in Tibet but who still relish overcoming a challenge which is well beyond those normally encountered in our modern well insulated lives.
The race is for teams of hill runners and sailors over a long weekend around the beautiful West Coast of Scotland. The sailing course of 160 nautical miles includes the strong tides and overfalls of the Corryvreckan and the Mull of Kintyre whilst the runners cover 60 miles and 11,500 ft of climbing.

The race is intended to be challenging and competitors need to be well prepared, fit and experienced to complete this course successfully. Senior Runners must be experienced in the hills and all carry specified survival gear. Yachts must have comprehensive safety gear including flares, VHF radio and engines (for emergency use and when the runners are off the boat). Oars and other muscle powered devices are permitted for use in calms; (see AYRS site under index/propulsion for yulohs and other way-out ideas).

Many teams return year after year for their annual battle against the elements over one of the most beautiful running and sailing courses in the world. Perhaps part of its charm is that every year brings its own memorable scenes whether it is getting ahead of your nearest rival by means of a ‘cunning plan’, racing neck and neck with another team under spinnaker, gliding quietly through the water as dawn breaks or encountering whales and dolphins. The mountains offer a wide variety of challenging terrain and the sailing is equally varied so that coupled with unrivalled views of mountains and sea so that each year brings a totally unique team experience for everyone.

Although the race can be extremely competitive, for most people, it is not the thought of winning that brings them back year after year but simply the pleasure of sailing and running in the company of a great crowd of like minded people. We all love the hills and seas of the Scottish West Coast and the race is just an excuse for the annual jamboree when we can celebrate our good fortune at being able to experience this great adventure in these wonderful surroundings and in such good company.

A Brief History of the Race

In 1983, half a dozen boats set off from Troon to cover a similar course to today but in the reverse direction, landing in Brodick Bay for Goat Fell and without the Oban run but we soon decided that it was better to start in Oban and end at Troon. Then one year there was a big Easterly blowing into Brodick Bay and we decided that Lamlash offered far better shelter and also added an interesting run.

As the race grew in size, we added classes and then to reduce the chances of collisions at the start we introduced the idea of getting the runners to run up and round McCaig’s Folly before returning to the beach for a Le Man’s type start from the promenade.

We then added a Youth Team class but as the race got still bigger (and the spectators got older), there was an increasing danger of little old ladies finding themselves carried out to sea in the rush of runners surging along the prom. So we introduced the short run at the start which gives the runners a wonderful view of their waiting yachts as they run along the cliffs above the Sound of Kerrera.

We continue to make minor adjustments to try to improve aspects of the race and it was only the 25 year anniversary event which revealed the fact that dinghies could not be effectively rowed in 50 knots of wind and that to continue round the Mull of Kintyre in those conditions would have been to risk a Fastnet disaster. Global Warming is certainly affecting our weather and so in bad weather, we now allow engines to be used when transferring runners and have built in a shortened course provision to end the race at Jura. We continue to tweak to try to improve the race and suggestions are always welcome.

This is a very friendly event where you will meet some interesting people, see some of the world’s best scenery, and enjoy one of life’s more memorable experiences. But be warned, this race is addictive; some people set their annual calendars by it!


…until the next Scottish Islands Peaks Race!