A fleet of 30 yachts is well on the way to one of the furthest outposts of the UK as part of the inaugural St Kilda Challenge.
Organised by Comann Na Mara, the challenge is the first event of its kind to set its sights on the UK’s remotest archipelago.
Approximately half of the yachts are racing the course, with the rest cruising to St Kilda as a flotilla.
Both fleets will use the islands as a turning point, which will take in a distance of some 100 nautical miles return.
Participants travelled from far and wide – from destinations including Shetland, Cornwall and Ireland – to assemble at Lochmaddy yesterday evening.
They then travelled to the start point in the Sound of Harris early this morning.
It is likely that the faster yachts will complete the race within 24 hours of setting off, with the cruise in company yachts taking a little longer.
Ashore in Lochmaddy, a three-day festival is in full swing, with a variety of cultural events underway.
The fleet brings together some interesting yachts, including AJ Wanderlust, Charlene Howard’s 45ft sloop which has travelled far and wide around the world and goes in the racing fleet, as well as 67ft Swan, a traditional Shetland fishing boat owned and operated by The Swan Trust which will take part in the cruise in company – built in 1900, she is also the oldest vessel to be making the journey.
The challenge brings the windswept St Kilda island group into sharp focus – helping to highlight the UK’s only dual World Heritage Site, recognised for both its natural and cultural significance, in what will be the 30th anniversary of it receiving its designation in 1986.
Sailing’s governing body RYA Scotland and the Scottish Sailing Institute, which specialises in the organisation of national and international events in Scottish waters, have been closely involved in the project along with Clyde Cruising Club, and CalMac is offering significant support as proud prime sponsor. Collaboration partners on the event advisory board also include Ocean Youth Trust, Sail Scotland, National Trust for Scotland, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, University of St Andrews, Scottish Natural Heritage, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Harris Tweed and Harris Distillery.