Orkney Turning Second Skiff


orkney readyOrkney Rowing Club are busy building two St Ayles skiffs over the winter.  Recently they welcomed members of the 1st Kirkwall Company Boys Brigade. The visitors heard a little about the Rowing Club and how club went about building the St Ayles Skiffs.  The members of the Boys Brigage asked a lot of questions and showed an interest in the boat building project. While they were they were able to contibute to the build by helping to turn the second skiff. They were very keen and made a splendid job of helping us turn and reposition the hull for the next stage of the build.  Of course it is traditional to toast the boat once it has been turned and they also helped with that.  A club spokesman tells us:  “Hopefully we will get them out rowing once the boats are finished and in the water.  A big thank you from Orkney Rowing Club to all that helped.”

orkney lift

orkney over


orkeny up

Pictures from the Orkney Rowing Club facebook page.

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Provisional Schedule for Skiffieworlds 2016

The World Championships for the St Ayles Skiff will take place at Delamont Country Park, Strangford Lough, in July 2016.  Keep and eye on the Skiffieworlds webpages for updates.  That page carries the following provisional schedule of races.  There may be a small amount of shifting about depending on final entry numbers in some classes.

Sunday  24th July:  Launch and Opening Row in Company

Monday 25th July:  Mens 40+ Heats; Womens 60+ Heats & Final; Mixed Open B Heats & Final.

Tuesday 26th July:  Mens 60+ Heats & Final; Womens 40+ Heats & Final; Mens U17 Final; Mixed U19 Final; Mens 40+ Final.

Wednesday 27th July: Mens Open B Heats & Final; Womens Open B Heats & Final; Mixed 60+ Heats & Final.

Thursday 28th July: Mens 50+ Heats;  Womens 50+ Heats; Mixed Open A Heats; Mixed U17 Final.

Friday 29th July: Mixed Open A Final; Mens Open A Heats; Womens Open A Heats; Mixed 40+ Heats; Mens 50+ Final; Womens 50+ Final; Womens U17 Final.

Saturday 30th July:  Mixed 50+ Heats & Final; Mens U19 Final; Womens U19 Final; Mixed 40+ Final; Mens Open A Final; Womens Open A Final.  Followed by Row In Company to Strangford/ Portaferry and Closing Events.

There will be plenty for accompanying friends and families to do when they are not watching the skiff races with the Strangford Lough Festival going on at the same time.  Activities can include:  Sail the Tall Ship Johanna Lucretia in and around the Lough (departures from Portaferry, advance booking essential), Park walks, steam train rides, huge playground, face-painting etc. at Delamont throughout the week .    Music and craic in villages around the Lough throughout the week.  Maritime village and Artisan Food Fair at Delamont Country Park.  Open Day and Marine Discovery for all the family at Queens University Marine Lab. Castle tours, shore walks, open air music, food stalls and of course rowing and sailing have- a-go sessions and the prize giving!


Rowing in the Narrows

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Western Australia: 2 Skiffs Launched!

Launch Day #1

Western Australia now has its first (and second) St Ayles skiffs.  Ripple and Dotsie were launched at Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club on Thursday 28 Jan 2016.  The club have done an excellent job building two skiffs together, each with a lovely finish, and all just after 6 months since the two kits arrived.   The club was formed in the 1890s and building the skiffs has brought the club back to its roots, with rowing having been an important part of club activities in the early years.





The members also looked to the history of the club for inspirationin naming the skiffs.  In Ken Tregonning’s history of the Club he records that in 1924 Jack Norris, one of the great pre-war champions of WA Yachting, bought four 16 foot skiffs from Sydney to sail at FBYC. They were named AtalantaShadowRipple and Dotsie. It was felt that the first two were maybe a bit grand for a couple of rowing skiffs and so have settled on Ripple and Dotsie.

The day after launch day was a busy one for the skiffs, and the Freshie Skiffies.  The skiffs were invitedto be part of the Opening of Elizabeth Quay in Perth.  This is a project that has cost $440 million so was a pretty big deal with huge crowds attending. Elizabeth Quay is a project to create a new waterfront for the City of Perth. Plenty of folk there to see the skiffs and hear their story, so hopefully others in Western Australia will be inspired to become involved in Skiff Building.




There are already two more skiffs in build in WA. A group from Rockingham is building skiffs for use by Navy Cadets who in the past would have rowed 27 foot whalers.  So well done and good luck to the freshies, and welcome Western Australia to the world wide community of St Ayles skiffs.



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Reminder re Racing Rules: Kit to be Carried

Further to the post on measurement rules, do please check the “Rules of Racing” on the Documents tab of the SCRA website for other important information before the seasons racing starts. These five essential items should always be carried whilst racing.
(a) A waterproofed means of communicating with the shore (preferably a working hand held VHF radio, which failing a mobile phone with list of essential numbers for the event).
(b) At least two means of efficiently bailing the boat.  (These should be tied into the boat)
(c) Personal Flotation Devices for each crew member. These must be worn by all crew members at all times.
(d) A length of rope of at least 14mm diameter and at least 8 meters in length, securely attached to a strong point in the bow of the boat and capable of being used to tow boat with crew.
(e) An Anchor, together with a suitable chain and line of minimum 30 metres, giving a combined minimum weight of anchor, chain and line of 7kg, all as suitable for use in the conditions and area of use

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Check Measurement Rules to Ensure Your Skiff is Race Ready

As the winter months are continuing, New Year has past and rowing has not quite begun in the evenings, many people are taking the time to pay attention to any work needed on their club’s St Ayles Skiffs. It is also a prime time of year to remind the boat builders about the measurement rules governing SCRA races (including the Skiffieworlds in July!)



The measurement rules in full are available on the web page:

Please do read through them all (even although they  are quite long for a afternoons 5 minute read at work).  For the sake of this post however may we bring these highlights to your attention:
2.1.2. The weight of the hull with all seats fitted but other fittings and equipment removed must be no less than 150 kg
Your boat is unlikely to be underweight.  Simple way to check: two bathroom scales, one under either end (make sure you don’t support the boat in anyway) add the two readings together.
FAQ: What if my boat is underweight?
Answer: you will be given a weight to carry to make up to the minimum weight, evenly distributed in the skiff.
FAQ: What if my boat was underweight in previous years?
Answer: It is likely that re-weighing the skiff now with added water (due to the wood soaking water over time) will take you over the minimum weight.
2.2.1 The timber to be used for the hog and keel, and gunwales shall be of Larch or other timber of a greater density. 
2.2.2 Polypropylene or other plastics are permitted as a material for keel bands if preferred to brass or other metals. 
2.2.3 Rocker is not allowed on the keel. The keel must be flat for its whole length between the stems.
FAQ: The timber we used was less dense than larch, what do we do?
Answer: Depending on the place and how the material was used an exemption may be given to the boat. Please contact the SCRA secretary to ask for an exemption certificate.  For example using yellow pine/white pine etc would not give the same strength and therefore more would be needed.
FAQ: How do I check my keel has no rocker?
Answer: lay the skiff down on solid, flat ground and check the keel touches the ground for the entire length.
2.3.2 In fitting the planking, “geralds” should not be longer than 250mm. 
2.3.3 The fairing of plank edges on the outside of the hull shall be to a radius no greater than 3mm. 
2.4.1 The width of the outer face of the stems fore and aft must be at least 1.125  inches and the stem (both fore and aft) must have a moulded depth from their outer face to the planking of between 2 and 3 inches. 
FAQ: How do I know if the geralds are longer than 250mm?
Answer: measure using a tape measure from where the plank joins the stem/stern to the point in which the edge of the plank is fully shown. If no sanding of the plank edge has been done it should be 9mm, ie because the planks are built from 9mm plywood.
 FAQ: what do I do if any of these sizes aren’t correct or I am unsure?
Answer: Contact any of the SCRA  measurement  representatives for your local area. They will try to measure and assist you and if need be can help apply for an exemption.
2.5.2 Gunwales must contain a volume of timber equivalent to the gunwales shown in the plans and provided this rule is complied with spaced gunwales are permitted.
FAQ: how is this calculated?
Answer: There is a excel spreadsheet with explanations for calculating the volume within the welcome pack (link below). Again contact the SCRA if you are unsure and we will guide you in the right direction.  https://www.dropbox.com/sh/jgffn0oj14m7id9/AACOivsT-nfRvWxw5OFAQfCWa?dl=0
4.3 Rudders must have an underwater wetted surface area of 850 cm² calculated against the expected waterline of a skiff with a normal weight crew rowing in salt water. 
FAQ: I have built my own rudder but want to check it is compliant?
Answer: if you send a picture of the rudder, as fitted to the skiff so that the skiffs planking can be seen, on squared paper to the SCRA they will check the rudder. You can also trace the rudder onto squared paper and count the number of full squares. The rudder must be built from wood.
5.2 The maximum fore and aft width of a thwart shall be 10 inches.
 FAQ: Can i move the seat position?
Answer: yes, seats are allowed to be moved further apart than that in the plans. They do however still need to be fixed AND made from wood.
6.2 Footrests, where used, must be made only of timber or plywood, with other materials allowed for fixings such as screws and nails but not for adjustable parts of the footrests such as sliders or runners. 
FAQ: we used alloy sliding seat runners for adjustment is this okay?
Answer: No.
7.1 Oars shall be made of timber. Plywood is a permitted material for the blade of the oar. The use of plastic sleeving, facings or wear strips on oars to protect wooden parts from wear is permitted.
7.2 Oar blades must not be “spooned” or of the “chopper” style. 
7.3 Blades to be symmetrical about a horizontal plane through the shaft axis, i.e. the top of the blade should be a reflection of the bottom.
FAQ: Is a plastic washer allowed on the oar pin to stop wear?
Answer: No, these must be removed for racing. They are also not allowed in the tops of wooden rowlocks.
FAQ: Does the forward face of the blade need to be flat.
Answer: No the forward face of the blade can be curved to accommodate the spine of the oar as long as the side of the blade facing aft is flat.
I think my boat may not comply with certain rules, what will I do?
Before cutting the boat to bits contact a SCRA measurement representative who will check if the item you are concerned about is at fault. They will then try to assist you on a suitable method of fixing the problem or may help you apply for an exemption which will be given a time constraint depending on the nature of the exemption requested.  The secretary of SCRA can put you in touch with the appropriate person in your area.
Boats will be checked randomly over the summer, especially in the run up to and at the Worlds in Northern Ireland. However the main responsibility is on the users of the boats to ensure that they comply with the rules, rather than on anyone else to pick up on non-compliance.  All clubs entering the worlds will be asked to confirm that their skiff complies (or that exemption certificates have been granted for every aspect of the skiff that does not comply).  The SCRA want to promote a fair and balanced sport, which is the purpose of the measurement rules.  If boats are not compliant with rules they will incur penalties.  However please rest assured that nearly every boat already does comply with the rules.
January into February is a fine time of year to have a quick look at the rules in detail, check the boat over and put your mind at peace for the summer ahead.


“Pulling for Victory”

girls for victory

If you want to pull for victory, it would be a better idea to do so as part of a crew with other like minded (and probably determined) rowers in a St Ayles Skiff, rather than struggling on your own in a wee “flattie” in a big swell.  Our recent survey found that more than half of the members of SCRA member clubs are female.  In 2015 SCRA clubs had around 2400 members, with a further 2400 non members having a go at rowing during the year, perhaps through open days or community competitions.  If you are not rowing in a St Ayles skiff already find your local club on our Clubfinder or through our international “links” page.  If you don’t find a club near you, build a boat.  Yes you can.

Image Courtesy of Springfield College, Babson Library, Archives and Special Collections.

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Don’t forget that a good breakfast sets you up for the day.  Enjoy rowing skiffs in company at any time..  Photo:  Simon Cowan.

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Skiffie Worlds 2016 Webpage


Image for Skiffie Worlds 2016

We are pleased to tell you that the web page for Skiffie Worlds is now up and running please check out:


Please let all your club members know, it will be updated regularly so keep dipping in.  Forty Three clubs from eight countries are already confirmed.  We look forward to meeting skiffies from Canada, England, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Australia, USA and Netherlands.   Any others still welcome, but please get in touch with the organisers ASAP.

To enable a race schedule to be published the organisers are still waiting to hear from some clubs as to which categories they will probably contest.  If you have not done so already please let them know. The categories are Women, Men and Mixed in the following:

Under 17  Under 19   Open A   Open B  40+   50+   60+

So there are 21 championship categories all together, but clubs should note that it is each club’s eight highest scoring events only which will count towards the overall championship.  This is a change from last time, when every race counted, meaning those who had travelled a long way with a smaller team were disadvantaged, and clubs might have been making their best rowers row in every category available to them, rather than encouraging their second best rowers to participate.  Now you do not need to aim to win all 21 categories to win the lovely trophy:

We are delighted to say that Stena have provided a 15% discount to all Skiffie World 2016 competitors  on all sailings for this event and details have been mailed to all clubs.  Also note that trailers go free on all Tuesday and Wednesday sailings on Stena which may suit some of the boats travelling across. Stena have confirmed that there is still plenty of availability.  Information on how to book Stenaline ferries, including a code, has been sent to your club.  The discount is available on all Stena Line Irish sea routes.

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Fixed Seat Rowing Technique

Nothing is new in this world, and lets face it (regardless of what we tell our admiring friends) rowing is not that hard to get a hang of, although no doubt all of us could improve our technique to make rowing faster, easier, less injurious etc.   The following illustration from the 1937 Edition of the Admiralty Manual of Seamanship gives as good an illustration on fixed seat rowing technique as you will find anywhere else today.
abc how to row


We row pretty much the same way, although now we generally do so fully clothed.  We hope.

The notes on style in the chapter reinforce what is shown in the illustration.  Highlights include:

  • Straight Back:  …. erect but not stiff… swinging from the loins only at the hips and not from any point in the middle of his back as a secondary pivot.  [this] eases the respiratory organs by opening the chest cage.
  • Swing:….The time occupied coming forward should be the body’s rest; an erect head and open chest will enable the heart and lungs to work freely and easily.  Any tendency to rush the swing must be checked……  As the body swings the hands should be at the same time streatching and reaching out as if constantly striving to touch something which is as constantly evading them.
  • Use of the Arms:  The arms must be straight when swinging back.  They must be considered as merely connecting rods between the body and oar.  The use of the biceps in rowing should be discouraged, as the [rower] who finishes [their] stroke by the aid of the biceps infallably dog ears [their] elbows and sticks them out at right angles to [their] ribs, giving a weak as well as a cramped and ugly finish….. It is important that the oar should be pulled into the chest and not the chest up to the oar.  This latter will certainly shorten the stroke prematurely, and spoil the rhythm of the swing.
  • Hanging at the Chest:  The oar must not hang at the chest. The hands must come away quickly, otherwise it will be necessary to rush forward in the swing to make up lost ground. This spoils the swing and taxes the endurance of the [rower] ………

Feel free to add your views on good technique in the comments below.  Crown copyright has expired on the 1937 Manual, so feel free to share the illustration.

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Regatta Organisers Course 2016


Is anyone interested in joining a Regatta Organiser’s course?  This event was very popular when it was held it in 2014, and as then, the venue is Loch Insh, near Aviemore.

The outline plan is to have a workshop on the afternoon of Saturday 12th March, looking at such matters as categories, courses, racing rules, umpiring, starts, taking entries, results, publicity… anything else you will need to know to run a successful event.    Hopefully, having done some planning the day before, we can hold a successful and enjoyable mini-regatta the next morning Sunday 13th.  Feel free to bring a boat!  We should be able to accommodate everyone who would like to come, and more than one representative per club will be welcome.

Accommodation ranges from £17.50 if 4 sharing to £22 per person based on 2 people sharing a room.  Loch Insh can provide a 2 course meal £12.95 and breakfast £9.50 per person.

More information will be published in due course, but please express interest in the meantime by e mailing eastervilla@gmail.com .

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