Sunday, October 28, 2007

A sunbeam shines down on memory lane.

One of the great pleasures of paddling at the recent Stornoway Storm Gathering was to be able to paddle with Duncan Winning OBE. It was a nostalgic trip for Duncan as he had last visited Loch Roag over 40 years ago. He was very keen to find a particular shell sand beach which was hidden away in the fastnesses of Loch Roag. He and friends had been lucky to find shelter there and camped while a great storm blew over night. We stopped at many beautiful white sand Hebridean beaches but none was the right one. At last, just as the day was fading, we found Duncan's beach. It was a wonderful moment.

Jeff Allen and Duncan about to walk down a sandy memory lane.

I have known Duncan for four years. We have phoned, exchanged letters, visited each other's houses, attended symposia in Skye and Jersey but this was the first time I had had the great pleasure to actually paddle with him. He is a font of knowledge about KAY-ak-ing and as he has paddled in Greenland I suspect his is the right pronunciation.

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In 1965 Duncan surveyed and made drawings of a kayak that Ken Taylor brought back from Illorsuit (Igdlorssuit) in Greenland. It had been made for Ken by local kayak builder Emanuele Korniliussen. Geoff Blackford built a ply wood version from Duncan's drawing and called it the Anas Acuta. In 1972 Valley started to commercially build a GRP version of the Anas Acuta which is still in production today. By coincidence, I delivered a brand new all black Anas Acuta to Si (aka Sgian Dubh) on Harris on my journey to the Storm Gathering.

Ken Taylor in the Igdlorssuit kayak. Ken and Duncan were fellow members of Garnock Canoe Club.

Andy Spink's Valley Anas Acuta on Scarp.

Recently Duncan and Gordon Brown visited Greenland and managed to track down Emanuele's two sons, one of whom is still building kayaks. Unfortunately they are only scale models for tourists. Undoubtedly the current "British style" of sea kayak has its roots in the Igdlorssuit kayak drawings made by Duncan.

Duncan Winning OBE paddles a boat influenced by his drawings of 1965; an Island Kayaks Expedition. Listen to Duncan in one of Simon Willis's excellent podcasts.


  1. Great stuff, thanks for sharing.

    Mark R

  2. I agree! Nice to hear about the early days of our chosen sport and realise the boats evolved to what we see today. Thanks!


  4. A sadly mispelled (best not go there, but it sounds painful but an anas acuta nonetheless.
    It is not mine i hasten to add, just thought it was topical and I hadn't seen one or heard of one before i saw the ebay advert and then one turns up on this excellent Blog.

  5. Duncan is indeed the grandfather of Scottish Sea kayaking and true gentleman. He is a font of knowledge on the history of our sport in Scotland.

    The Anas Acuta was the first sea kayak I ever owned. I bought mine for a mere £100!

  6. Thank you Mark and Michael :o)

    Anonymous... Thank you but Yikes! that sounds painful. Being a doctor, I know something that might help; it's an ointment called Anasol!

    Cailean, either you are much older than you look or you got a real bargain! A friend on the Solway has got a very, very old Anas Acuta; the gloss has long faded to matt. It's a bit slower than my Nordkapp LV and it's easier to lie on the back deck for rolling. It's a nice boat and I appreciated being able to paddle it side by side with the Nordkapp LV and feel the newer boat's ancestry.

    You are so right about Duncan. :o)