Scottish Cruising Musings April 2024

Peter Robinson, the new Director for Cruising and General Purposes Committee provides an insight into his passion for sailing and combining it with his professional insights.
11 Apr 24
Peter Robinson Director for Cruising and General Purposes

So the start of April has arrived and with it the normal anticipation of the sailing season ahead.  For me, this is predominantly focused on racing the Hunter 707 ‘Braveheart’ from Port Edgar.

Images to illustrate Peter Robinson Cruising Musings April 2024

This year appears to have been a slow start, I was surprised at the significant number of boats still awaiting the final touches before being launched, but then the weather this spring has been far from conducive to boat preparation – March has been twice as wet as normal, February not much better and April so far has been damp to say the least – weather is something that sailors are very much attuned to, climate a little less so, more on that later on. 

So, what brought me to taking on the role of a Director for RYA Scotland?  Sailing has very much been a passion since I was very young and my recent career has provided me with an insight into the benefits that we can all gain from being in, on or near water in terms of health and wellbeing, to which the RYA Scotland Strategy ‘People, Places and Communities’ very much struck a personal chord.

I started sailing at the age of six in the ubiquitous Mirror Dinghy, a result of my elder brother’s primary school teacher taking him out in a GP14 and, as they say, the rest is history.

A similar story as for most, a lot of dinghy sailing through my childhood and teenage years, then to Edinburgh University and sailing on Linlithgow Loch in the middle of winter, racing amongst others Glasgow Uni at Hillend and latterly Lochwinnoch, Dundee at Forfar and spending my 21st birthday trying to race Aberdeen at Peterhead at the end of January – these were definitely years that made all of us a little hardier, although sometimes there was less sailing with prizes being won in the bar.

I met my wife, Sara, at the University Sailing Club – she also grew up with Mirrors having also built her own. I became a dinghy instructor, which allowed me to teach abroad and one summer sailed from Hartlepool to Ibiza with my brother in a 27 footer – 6 days becalmed in the Bay of Biscay was lucky as I would discover later on.

Images to illustrate Peter Robinson Cruising Musings April 2024

20 years ago, Sara and I bit the bullet, quit work for 2 years and completed a circumnavigation aboard ‘New Horizons’ a Bavaria 42 we purchased from Ardrossan and sailed out of Troon beforehand. To say this defined me would be an understatement – seeing a 40,000 mile ribbon of our planet and of what and who it comprises was a true privilege – as for the other face of Biscay, that’s a whole story in itself.

Professionally, I am a Chartered Civil Engineer and Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers.  I have been fortunate that I’ve worked on projects both at home and overseas, whilst always working based in Scotland.  My work is focused on flood risk management, waterway and coastal engineering.  My early career involved working on the Millenium Link and a recent spell in my career included being Head of Engineering for Scottish Canals, providing a unique insight into some of the worlds oldest operational infrastructure – both their challenges and opportunities.

Images to illustrate Peter Robinson Cruising Musings April 2024

I currently work for a global consultancy and along with the themes above, I have a strong passion relating to Climate Change and Sustainability – this brings me back to the aspect of weather versus climate and sailors awareness of short and long term changes.

The climate is changing, of that there is no doubt.  We are already experiencing the changes and seeing the impacts. The winter of 2023/24 brought that very much to the forefront of Scotland’s communities.  This year was the stormiest since named storms were introduced; Brechin was tragically flooded, much of the east coast severely damaged, specifically Fife, Montrose and North Berwick making headlines. Globally, we have witnessed an incredibly strong El Nino event, with sea temperatures soaring, ice melt in Antarctica accelerating and the global sea level rise noted to have accelerated as a result over the last 12 months.

Yachts lying on the beach after a summer storm - Climate Changes

Whilst this may seem very much doom and gloom – it is a reality that we need to recognise. As sailors, who are often more sensitive to the changes, we need to highlight the challenges that will come, inform policy to minimise the future change, but also to ensure that we can collectively adapt.

Then, there are all the small incremental activities that can be done, which lead to a bigger cumulative benefit.  This brings me onto the Green Blue – the RYAs initiative to ‘make the environment second nature’.  Not only do we all need to be more aware of our individual impacts, but we are a fortunate group of people who have access to the water, share a passion for our seas, oceans and coastlines but also have a reliance on our built infrastructure which faces the threats of increased storms and sea level change.

Images to illustrate Peter Robinson Cruising Musings April 2024

I would recommend everyone to engage with Green Blue, whether it is to consider what actions you can take as an individual, boat, club or community and share these with RYA Scotland and others.

Reflecting on 5 weeks in post….  Day 2 was attending my first meeting of the Cruising and General Purposes Committee – a pleasant surprise to see a few familiar faces from old colleagues and competitors all with a shared passion for safe and sustainable access to the water.  I was struck by the breadth of experience and discussion; RYA Scotland is clearly operating across a very broad field of which not many people would realise.  The team are now working on responding to the Scottish Government consultation on Climate Change Adaption, the next thing on my to do list, which I very much look forward to contributing to.

Finally, here’s to a season of fair weather and plenty of miles under the keel and I hope to meet some of you on the water – a new challenge awaits me this year as ‘Team Braveheart’ will be trying to complete the Scottish Islands Three Peaks Race next month! Sailing in Scotland can be as good as anywhere in the world when we get the right weather…..

Images to illustrate Peter Robinson Cruising Musings April 2024

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