England Tops in the Western Isles
The SALC Home Internationals Boat Championships are an annual boat competition fished between Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales for the write to be named the Home International Boat Champions. The event is hosted each year by the individual countries competing in turn and in 2013 it was Scotland’s opportunity to host the event.
Historically Scotland have hosted the event at ports such as Arbroath or Scrabster on the Scottish mainland but in recognition of the Stornoway Sea Angling Club’s fiftieth anniversary, the clubs strong historic connection to the Scottish angling scene and the excellent fishing on offer the Scottish Federation of Sea Anglers asked the Stornoway Sea Angling Club to host the event in conjunction with the Federation. The club gladly received the offer and planning for the competition began in earnest in autumn 2012.
Stornoway Sea Angling Club
To sum up Stornoway Sea Angling Club in a paragraph is difficult but to give those who do not know the club an idea of its history I have provided a short summary here. Stornoway Sea Angling Club was founded in 1963 by a small group of people who had an interest in angling. The club has grown over its 50 years through the hard work of its membership, from building a single storey clubhouse in the 70’s and on to a 2nd storey extension in the 90’s with bars, kitchens and a dance floor. The club is now regularly packed out at weekends with members and non-members a like enjoying live music. Through the week, the clubhouse is also used as a function hall for members and external organisations.
On the fishing side the club has held major competitions such as the European Sea Angling Championships in 1976 and 1980. The club has also held the Western Isles Open Sea Angling Championships since 1964 which is one of the most prestigious and best attended competitions in Scotland. The club now also has its own 34ft charter boat which is used by club members as well as being available for commercial charters. With a clubhouse and charter boat and a large membership Stornoway Sea Angling is almost completely unique and the club members should be proud of their achievements over the last 50 years.
To the Event
The competition itself is a 3-day event with one day of practice and two days of competition. However as most of the anglers coming to compete had never fished in the waters around the Western Isles before, they all arrived in Stornoway several days early to get some extra practice in. From the Monday to Wednesday all the teams headed out to the fishing grounds off Carloway to hone their skills.
The three charter boats that were to be used in the competition itself were available to the teams in advance of the competition and were the SYSAC II owned by the Stornoway Sea Angling Club, the ORCA III owned by Angus Campbell and the Lady Nicola owned by Andy Holbrow. During these practice days the anglers had some of their best fishing of the week with ideal fishing conditions, a steady breeze and small tide. One of the best catches of the week was a 6lb Tub Gurnard caught by Colin Thomas from Wales, an absolutely cracking fish and one of the prettiest things I have seen being caught in the sea.
On Wednesday night the opening ceremony for the competition was held in the clubhouse and was attended by all the anglers and team managers in full national uniform. They were treated to a buffet meal and speeches from the Scottish Federation Secretary Ian Napier and club chairman Donald Morrisson. All the teams were wished good luck and told to enjoy the venue. In advance of the competition all the teams were briefed with as much local knowledge from club members as possible to help them in unfamiliar ground and with the competition starting the next day, most of the anglers headed back to the hotel for an early night and a clear head in the morning.
Competition Day One
With the anglers split between three boats, they departed Carloway pier at 9am on the Thursday full of excitement and determination in anticipation of a fierce competition. With the waters off Carloway holding such large numbers of fish, it was anticipated that anglers would have to catch high volumes of fish to win their boats, requiring a hard days shift hauling up haddock, whiting and gurnards amongst other species from 30 fathoms of water. This indeed proved to be the case but with almost no wind and a small tide the fishing was slightly slower than expected. A good drift is usually needed over these grounds to cover different pockets of fish. However, after a hard day at sea it was Ireland who came ashore in the lead with 436% points to England’s 432, Scotland’s 403 and Wales 397.
Fishing had mainly been concentrated on the soft sand marks approx. 2-3 miles offshore and catches mainly included haddock, whiting, gurnard and megrim with some ling, spurdog and cod thrown in. The Irish team had obviously used their practice days wisely and had no troubles getting to grips with new fishing grounds.
Competition Day Two
Although Ireland were in the lead after Day 1, the scores were tight and any of the teams could still win the competition. The conditions on Day 2 were even more settled than on Day 1 and although this meant a flat calm see (good for those who get sea sick) , it was going to make the fishing more difficult. With the boats hardly drifting at all, the fishing was more difficult than the day before with anglers having to pick out smaller fish to keep the catches coming. In fact the drift became so slow it became necessary in 30 fathoms of water to cast traces away from the boat and slowly work them back to entice a take. Therefore with a tight scoreboard and less fish coming aboard, the competition aboard ship was intense and the anglers who mastered the conditions best were likely to win. On the way back to port it was evident from discussions aboard each boat that the English team had come out on top of Day 2 but had they done enough to overturn the Irish lead from Day 1?
Results and Prize Giving
With much debate on the pier after Day 2, it was thought that England may have won the overall competition but it was back to the clubhouse to confirm the overall scores. Sure enough the winners of the SALC Home International Boat Championships were confirmed as England, with Ireland in 2nd place, the Scots in 3rd and the Welsh in 4th. It had been a tightly fought contest with good fishing despite the challenging conditions and congratulations were forthcoming from the organisers and the other teams to the victorious English squad.
The English did an excellent job over the entire week of the event and it was obvious from watching them that they had a very strong team unit and ethic which helped them quickly adapt to fishing a new venue in changing conditions. Although it has to be said that all the teams put in a huge amount of effort and fished extremely well throughout the competition.
After the results had been calculated, the teams were all treated to a meal in the Caladh Inn which had been their accommodation for the week. This was followed by the official prize giving ceremony. Compliments must go to the staff at the Caladh Inn who looked after all the visiting teams exceptionally well during the week and on the night of the prize giving.
Reflections on the Event
Team England-“Having won the competition, the England Team were always going to have fond memories of their visit to the Western Isles, but it was much more than that. Despite there being less fish than expected due to the late arrival of summer, the fishing was still superb with some of the team catching their first ever ling and haddock and all catching their first ever megrim. The competition was superbly run by all concerned and their friendliness, helpfulness, honesty and fairness was a great credit to them. The boats and bait supplied were excellent as were the skippers and crews. Finally, a special mention must go to the Stornoway Sea Angling Club, celebrating its 50th year. The facilities were excellent with the beer and, especially the food, being most welcome. We arrived as strangers and left as friends. Here’s to the next 50 years.” Richard Russell (England Team Manager)
Team Ireland -“Thank you for the opportunity to thank you and the members the Stornoway S.A.C. for a wonderful weeks angling. From the very start when the venue was picked the club members have been nothing but helpful, honest and hospitable. The Ladies in particular come in for particular mention for their hospitality and excellent cooking. Firstly, it was above and beyond the call of duty the assistance you gave us in taking delivery of our gear and the safe storage of same. The Hotel and Staff were excellent as was the food. To get down to the angling , without exception the boats and Skippers were excellent , good Skippers who knew about angling and anglers needs , and boats suitable to the job . The people we met from the Island were very welcoming and interested in us and reminded me of the people of West Cork and Kerry with their friendly and welcoming attitude. As I have previously said the honesty of you your club and the Scottish Team was refreshing i.e. no phantom zones, we were given accurate information on species and sizes of fish to expect, and the event was run to perfection. Stornoway S.A.C. should be proud of how they ran the competition. In finishing, I can say no more than it is my intention to get back to Stornoway to fish the Western Isles myself in two years time. I know I am speaking for the whole team when I thank you all for a great week of properly organised angling.” Yours in angling Pat Wright
“P.s. it was not an idle invitation if any of your members should come to Cork please contact me and I will do whatever I can to make their visit as good as mine was to your corner of the globe.”
Team Wales – “As ever it was a great honour to represent Wales as a member of the Welsh national Boat team this year and a Privilege to get the opportunity to compete in the 2013 Home Internationals at Carloway on the dramatic coastline of the Isle of Lewis. On behalf of our team I’d like to thank the organisers, skippers and the Stornoway Sea Angling club, for the very warm welcome and great assistance we received on our Visit. Our practice days were fish filled with a wide variety of fish and some wonderful specimens and having seen a great Many, large Tub gurnard caught off the North Wales coast, I can honestly say that the one my Team mate landed in Cliff bay was the largest I have ever seen and was easily nearer 6lb than 5. The sight of it with its huge paddle fins spread in the clear waters will remain with me for a very long time. You certainly have great fishing and again on behalf of us all, would like to say ‘Diolch yn fawr’ Thank you very much for your hospitality and we hope to see you all again in the future.” Jonathan Law
Team Scotland – “Always fiercely contested, the Home International Boat Championship is a highlight of the angling year, with the victorious nation strutting full bragging rights. Sanities where questioned when Stornoway/Carloway was announced as the base and venue for the 2013 International Championships, but every single member of the boat squad had no doubt where the very best facilities and fishing were to be found. Staging the event in the Western Isles was logistically challenging, but fantastic efforts by the members of Stornoway SAC delivered the best and most worthy Championships I have personally experienced across some 25 years of involvement. Factor also that this was the club’s 50th anniversary year and planets start to align. Many can attest that more than one recent Home International Boat Championship has not been harmonious or fished particularly sportingly. Blame or ill-feeling can be levelled at persons, or attributed to a pervading and incongruous ‘win at all costs’ mentality, but it holds that some recent events remain memorable for the wrong reasons. As the hosts of the 2013 event Scotland were determined to return the Home International Boat Championships to its former prestigious standing and to restore a reputation for fair play. Stornoway SAC were the chosen custodians of the Championships and proved a credit to Scotland, the SFSA and the famous Angling Club. Visiting teams had unfettered access to up-to-date fishing information, practice boats and anything else they requested that it was within the organisers’ ability to provide or arrange. Practice sessions and the event proper went off without a hitch, and the atmosphere and interaction among all involved was as friendly and respectful as I have encountered during a Home International. Conduct from the teams was impeccable and an absolute credit to all. Scotland, who are re-building and growing a new boat team squad, did not take the cherished win, but we fought every inch of the way and will be stronger for the experience. England proved the most effective fishing unit over the piece and took gold. We again congratulate them on their success. Every member of the 2013 Scotland International Boat Team is proud to have been part of this event and indebted to the hard work and professionalism of Stornoway SAC, and the wider circle of people involved. The team especially recognises the selfless efforts of Donald Morrisson without whom this championship would have been improbable. The Stornoway example of how to properly deliver a major event is now the benchmark legacy. It is tough act to follow, but my hope is the spirit and manner in which this Championship was fished can be replicated and relived at all future Home International Championships.” Steve Souter – Scotland International Boat Team Captain
Stornoway Sea Angling Club would like to thank the Scottish Federation for holding the SALC Home Internationals Boat Championships in Stornoway in 2013. The club truly enjoyed welcoming teams from Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England to the Club and the Western Isles as a whole. We really hope that all the competitors enjoyed not just the fishing but also the whole experience of visiting these Islands.
We can only compliment everybody who travelled here to compete and can safely say that you will all be warmly welcomed back to our club again in the future and we look forward to seeing you when you do. We are also humbled by the thanks we had from everybody involved and especially the Scottish team who presented us with a commemorative plaque. We have had a very successful 50 years and we hope to have many more to come.