A CHARITY set up by a Helensburgh man to help people with autism access sailing and yacht racing has secured its best-ever finish in one of the biggest events in the Scottish sailing calendar.

Murray MacDonald and his Autism On The Water crewmates, who are based at Rhu Marina, finished fourth in their class at the 2024 Scottish Series regatta on Loch Fyne in their Impala 28.

Fourth-place finishes in the first two CYCA2 class races on the event’s opening day on Friday were followed by a retirement in Saturday’s first race – and then by a fantastic second-place finish in the second race on day two.

Day three featured a passage race from the regatta's base at Tarbert, on the loch’s west shore, to Inchmarnock off the west coast of Bute, and another fourth place finish for the ‘AOTW’ team, just two seconds behind the Mustang 30 of ‘Sleipnir’ and her crew.

The last race of the weekend was held on Monday and saw Murray and his crewmates match their second place from Saturday to confirm their fourth place finish in a highly competitive field, with the AOTW team ending the event just six penalty points adrift of class winners Arcade – who the AOTW team managed to beat in the finishing order in two of the regatta’s six races, demonstrating how far they’ve come since they first competed in the event seven years ago.

Murray, who has been taking part in the Scottish Series for 17 years, said afterwards: “We’ve been coming to this event since our beginning, and very often we’ve either been last or in the bottom part of the fleet.

“Of course, our aim always when racing is to raise awareness, but we also have a competitive streak and we like to do our best.

“This has been the best ever Scottish Series for AOTW. The charity has raced since 2017 at this event and I personally have competed since 2007. We’re just so happy.

“We had plenty positives, and little negatives, and raised so much awareness of our charity, with multiple people taking details on how to get involved with our community sailing.

Alongside Murray, the AOTW crew comprised boss Euan Aitken, Manuel Lombard, Max McCarroll, Alex Spence and Dougie Reid, while the team’s sponsors and corporate supporters included Corner House Tarbert, N orth Sails, Owen Sails, Bainbridge International Limited, Studycat and Marlow Ropes.

Murray also singled out crew boss Euan for his contribution, adding: “He has been amazing. Euan, or Shug as we know him, has given so much to the project and to see his efforts be so rewarded has been amazing.

“He is also a personal friend, and I, as the chair of the charity and an individual with autism, am grateful for the contribution he has given.”

Autism On The Water organises free sailing trips from Rhu Marina for people with autism and their families or carers during evenings and weekends throughout the summer on board the charity’s Achilles 24 yacht, while the Impala 28 that Murray and his crew sailed in the Scottish Series at the weekend is also used to compete in the East Patch Racing series every Wednesday evening during the summer.

Find out more about the charity and its work at autismonthewater.net or see the 'Autism On The Water' page on Facebook.