Windfarms, Yachting on a collision course - this time in Scotland

Argyll Islands
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Britain's Royal Yacht Association (RYA) has taken up the cudgel to support traditional sailing routes when those wanting to build wind farms place them across areas of water frequented by sailing boats. This time the issue is in Scotland, the proposed Kintyre Array of offshore windfarms, which will lie across acknowledged yachting routes.

According to Forargyll, the RYA has written to Marine Scotland, raising a series of issues arising from the Scottish Government’s current consideration of the proposal for the Kintyre Array ‘offshore’ windfarm, claiming the area is 'not, by any stretch of the imagination, offshore. It is simply in the water.'

The Kintyre Array sits at the edge of the North Channel, by the traffic separation zone that manages the busy shipping routes out into the Atlantic. It lies across the entrance to the waterway between the Mull of Kintyre and the chain of Argyll islands from Islay, Jura and Gigha to Mull.

This is the run for leisure craft up to Oban, Loch Linnhe and down the the Sound of Mull to Tobermory, into Loch Sunart or on to round Ardnamurchan Point, the most westerly point of mainland UK and out to the Small isles and Skye or west to Tiree and Coll.

Argyll Sailing - yachts in the Argyll Islands
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These are the legendary sailing grounds of the Scottish west coast, much of them in Argyll, the best in Europe and often said to be the best in the world.

This is Argyll – the seat of the Lords of the Isles, the masters of the waterways, the roads of then, now and again.

The RYA draws attention to the perils the proposed position of the Kintyre Array would cause for navigators and sailors taking this popular route.

Southbound traffic from the west coast sailing grounds, in avoiding the turbine field and dealing with the prevailing weather and sea conditions, is likely to have difficulty staying clear of the fringes of the northbound shipping lane in the traffic separation zone. Much of this traffic is large-scale commercial shipping where lookouts are unreliable and manoevering is slow and restricted.

Leisure craft using this route most frequently come from Northern Ireland, given the coastal proximities and from the Clyde and the southern Clyde approaches.

They round the Mull of Kintyre to take the long and already difficult run up the west coast of Kintyre.

Mid Argyll - a sailing paradise
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As the RYA says, the effect of wind against tide in this area, often strong on both counts, makes for sudden high seas. The great stretch of the Atlantic creates a long fetch, rollers broadsiding on boats as they run on to the lee shores of Kintyre – where, for long stretches there is no shelter to be sought.

There are also two underwater reefs above which the tides cause powerful overfalls – tumbling and disturbed water.

If yachts and motor cruisers take the inside of the proposed array, they risk being driven ashore. If they take the outside, they are exposed to more challenging weather conditions. If they aim to slalom the turbine towers, they may find that the wind direction will not allow safe tacking and they risk collision with the tower platforms.

And then there is the fog that is part of the character of this area. Paul McCartney sang it in Mull of Kintyre: ‘the mist rolling in from the sea’. The impact of fog on the safety of small boats, including fishing and fish farm boats, in the proposed location of the Kintyre Array is unthinkable.

The neatest lifeboat stations – at Portrush in Northern Ireland, Islay and Campbeltown are each 25 nautical miles away. Their speed to the scene of a collision, grounding or sinking in the Kintyre Array area could not be sufficiently fast to avoid fatalities.

For these and other reasons the RYA has asked for this array to be withdrawn on obvious safety grounds

To read the full letter from the RYA, find it on the www.forargyll.com!Forargyll_website, by http://forargyll.com/files/2011/02/RYA-response-to-proposed-Kintyre-offshore-windfarm.pdf!clicking_here.