As part of the Scottish Fisheries Museum’s open day in Anstruther a few local crews from Pittenweem and North Queensferry joined both the St Ayles skiffs for a very laid back but fun packed afternoon. Shona Muirhead of St Ayles Rowing Club has the following report:
Before the fun started there was a quick row out the harbour to welcome the Museums Fifie and escort her into the harbour then it was time to get down to the fun and games of rowing. First was the chase – our intention was to send out a boat and then start the skiffs in a chase to see who would catch her first. This would have worked but she went off so fast she was half way to North Berwick before the skiffs were even off the beach and as most of her crew are half deaf they couldn’t hear our radio calls. Luckily a local yacht took her place and the race was on. Oh and did I mention that the crews were all mixed up with everyone in each other’s boat just to make it a little bit more interesting. The conditions were quite testing but it was the Anstruthers’ St Ayles with two rowers from Anster, one from Pittenweem and one from North Queensferry who came closest.
Back on the beach it was time for the sprint races in the harbour. This time in their own boats they rowed from the beach out and round a buoy and back to a finish line, sounds easy but not when your blindfolded. This was hilarious, remember the video of the first Anstruther regatta, well it was worse than that. The Anstruther two boats won the heats and for the final we blindfolded only the cox and had a person in bow as a lookout to warn of any immediate obstructions. One team managed this quite successfully, the other must have rowed 3 times the length of the course and went round a few extra buoys before crossing the finish line (and this was with the cox cheating, she could see through the blindfold!) .
Sadly the day had come to an end and had gone by so quickly however this had been a fantastic day for weather and for playing about in boats with great company and everyone there to have a good time.
We are able to report great news that there are moves afoot to establish another Rowing Club in the North West.
There is to be a meeting at the Assynt Leisure Centre, Culag Pier, Lochinver on Thursday 20 June at 7.30 to see if a group can be formed to build and then row a St Ayles Skiff. Local premises have already been offered for the build to take place and for storage of a completed skiff, so the community really is off to a flying start. Anyone who is interested in building or rowing boats in Lochinver should go along to the meeting and/ or contact Janice Mackay on 844073 or by e mail .
Sunday 16 June 2013 brought many of the South East Skiff Clubs together at Dunbar. Skiffies have been so lucky with the weather this year and this regatta was no exception with clear blue skies and a gentle variable wind. The course is triangular and about 1250 m long.
It was great to see two clubs from the Newcastle area joining in the regatta. Byker Rowing Club had brought the Byker Belle to her first regatta, and Gosforth came North with Grace. Other visiting skiffs came from Anstruther, Newburgh, Newhaven, Portobello, Cockenzie/Port Seton and North Berwick, to join host club Dunbar.
Newburgh proved that they are going to be a force to be reckoned with, winning three of the first four races. Their run in open mens, open mixed and fresher’s mixed was only interrupted by Anstruther taking the women’s open crown. Newburgh’s men were followed in by North Berwick in second and Dunbar in third. In the mixed there was a dead heat for second between Portobello and Anstruther. In the ladies North Berwick posted another second with Portobello taking third.
The fresher’s’ race was won by Newburgh, who managed to hold off Anstruther (quite literally at the first buoy) in second. An under 17 crew from North Berwick showed great perseverance to maintain third place round the course.
In the second half of the regatta three of the four races were won by North Berwick, their run being interupted by Boatie Blest, who took the win in Mixed 35+, ahead of Anstruther and Newhaven. In the 35 Men NB beat Newburgh to second and Dunbar finished strongly to secure their second bronze of the day. In the 35 Women it was Port Seton and Anstruther who took the other podium places, and in 50+ mixed second place went to Anstruther, with Portobello third.
Finally there was the punishing Poo Buoy Race. This is an endurance event for mixed crews with the course from the harbour mouth to a yellow buoy in Belhaven Bay. This was won by Anstruther in a course record time of 31 minutes 45 seconds. North Berwick overhauled Newburgh to take their silver. Newburgh held off the rest of the fleet to keep third place.
Great Cakes, Quirky Trophies and friendly organisation topped off a tremendous day. Photo credits: Sandy Wallace (above), Lucy Dunce.
Topher Dawson reports on a row in company that “Ulla” took part in, amid spectacular scenery and in good company:
On 25th May Plockton Small Boat Sailing Club held their annual Lochalsh Row, which is 16 miles from Eilean Donan Castle to Duncraig Castle near Plockton. They race a local class of traditionally built clinker dinghies 15ft long, which have sailing rigs but which also can be rowed by 4 rowers with 4 oars plus a cox.
These boats seemed small compared to Ulla which we had brought with a crew of 5 women and one man, but on a gorgeous day all 7 boats set off undaunted into about 10mph of a headwind and a fine favourable tide under us. The scenery was fantastic, looking back up Loch Duich to the Five Sisters of Kintail and forward to Skye.
As we got into Loch Alsh the Southerly wind increased and it became quite choppy with wind against tide. The leading boat snuck by us in the lee of some islands and we passed under the Skye Bridge just behind, still carried by the tide.
Following the boat with local knowledge we burrowed in between weed covered rocks heart in mouth, around the rocky shore towards Plockton with a following wind of about 20mph and sizeable waves. At one point we were in shallow sandy water wondering whether we would go aground but our luck held out and we rounded the point into the pretty bay at Plockton only 2 and a half minutes behind, having beaten the 4 hour course record by half an hour. When we met our foes at the pontoon someone said. “Look, it’s a bunch of lassies!”
The rescue cover was efficient and plentiful and the hospitality very friendly. It’s a great row and I would be up for it next year. Many people took a long look at our skiff and I think they may decide to build one before too long. Watch out if they do because those boys and girls can row!
There is a report on the event in the West Highland Free Press
Wick Coastal Rowing Club are nearing completion of their first St Ayles skiff. They attended Wick RNLI harbour Day to show the skiff to their community. They were delighted to be joined by Coigach Community Rowing and Bunillidh Rowing Club of Helmsdale, currently their two closest neighbours. The visiting clubs each brought along a skiff which could be used side by side in the harbour.
More photos and information about Wick Coastal Rowing Club on the Wick Coastal Rowing Club Website. Chris Perkins has written about the harbour day, as ever with good quality photos, on the Ulla Website.
The Community of Girvan will proudly launch their first St Ayles skiff on Friday 21 June 2013. The launch will take place at Girvan Harbour from 10.30am as part of South Ayrshire Council’s celebrations to open the new pontoons. All skiffie enthusiasts are welcome!
The Girvan skiff has been built at Girvan Academy by a team consisting of school technical staff, community volunteers, Duke of Edinburgh students and Academy pupils. Some of those involved in the build are planning to attend the World Championships at Ullapool, teaming up with their neighbours, Carrick Coastal Rowing.
For further information on the launch and on rowing and boat building in Girvan please contact David Wilson.
Portland’s second St Ayles took to the water a few days ago, under the name of Doineann. The crew of the new skiff aren’t quite able to make it to Ullapool, but the Rosies are looking forward to their trip to Scotland.
Well done Portland. With two skiffs on the water, there can now be soome even racing, and we’ll hope that there will be more skiffs on Eastern Pacific waters soon.
You may recall a post in February advising that a group had been set up to review the measurement rules of the St Ayles skiff. These rules were drafted before any skiffs had been built. The experience of building and using 55 boats has brought more knowledge on the strengths and limitations of a variety of features. There is little doubt that the rules will benefit from review to ensure that competition remains fair and enjoyable and the skiffs are popular and accessible for all communities.
We are grateful to the measurement group members for taking on what is not a simple task. Their target is to make recommendations on the rules to the SCRA committee, which may then be put before the SCRA AGM in October. Individuals will have the opportunity to comment on proposals in advance of the AGM, both in person and on line. Club representatives will be able to comment at the AGM and ultimately decide upon whether the proposals are adopted.
The desire at the time that the group was formed was to avoid making changes to the rules during the season, other than perhaps to introduce a minimum weight for a skiff. Unfortunately the group felt that they did not have sufficient data to make a reasoned decision on the minimum weight in advance of the World Championships. That has therefore been carried forward with a view to making a recommendation in advance of the AGM.
Two particular matters have been debated recently. The group have looked at long seats, which they considered could lead to a racing advantage, and could change the nature of use of the St Ayles skiff radically by leading to sliding up and down the seat. They recommended that this development should be stopped and that the St Ayles should remain a fixed seat (and stationary backside) class. It is proposed that seat widths be restricted to 10″ or less.
They have also looked at the use of metal fixings in footrests. Although they consider that use of metal in footrests is not explicitly outlawed in the current rules (footrests are not mentioned anywhere) they will be making a recommendation with regard to insertion of a specific rule governing footrests and the materials to be used in their construction to lay before the AGM. This may include a rule that metal should not be used at all in their construction.
The job of the measurement group is not going to be an easy one. Experience tells us that no one likes being told what they can and cannot do to their lovely St Ayles skiffs. We do however want to keep them lovely, keep them as a useful community resource and ensure that communities (especially those joining our activity for the first time) are not disadvantaged before they get to the start line.
If anyone is considering a radical alteration outwith the plans they should ask themselves what others would make of it. They should then consider running it past the measurement group, who may be able to give them an independent view on the proposal before they pick up their tools.
Please support the measurement group in their task, recognise that they are committed to finding a path which is in the best interests of the class and the sport and remember that the members of the group are giving freely of their time and energy to achieve this.
As part of her very helpful working on Coaching for the SCRA, Ali Grant from RowPorty has prepared tips and guidance on Coaching Junior Rowers. We very much support the involvement of younger skiffers in the sport, and Ali’s notes will help Clubs make a good start if they are not already developing young crews. And for once there are fewer Don’ts than Do’s in this sort of material!
The document can be downloaded by clicking on this link (Word document, download). The link can also be found on the “learning” tab of this website.
The 2013 Islay Festival of the Sea will be held on the 2nd and 3rd of August. The event aims to celebrate the rich seafaring heritage of Islay and showcase the seafood, talent and sportsmanship the island has to offer. It is a fairly new Festival (this will be the third year) but coastal rowing has been an important part of the event from the very beginning as the first Festival of the Sea accompanied the Colmcille Rowing challenge between Moville, Co. Donegal and Islay (This is bi-annual and will be taking place on the same weekend). It is an important aim of the Festival to re-establish historical links the island had with Ireland but Islay is also keen to forge new connections with other St Ayles communities in Scotland.
The Islay Rowing Club originally started with two fibreglass skiffs based on a traditional design of a skiff from Moville and these are still used for many regular races in the summer. However, more recently Jack Glover introduced the St Ayles movement to Islay and the club now have two beautiful St Ayles skiffs based in Portnahaven. In addition, the Festival last year invited renowned Irish boatbuilder Donal MacPolan over to build a Currach during the festival using local hazel and some synthetic seal skin so that has been a proud new addition as well.
Coastal rowing is really taking off on the island and the Festival is keen to make the rowing activities a focal point of its events this year. The Isaly rowers would be thrilled if any other skiffie communities could attend. Bringing boats over would be optional but obviously the more the merrier. Galgael Trust will be attending the festival and bringing their St Ayles skiff with them so there will be three to start with.
There will also be plenty of other entertainment with ceilidhs on Friday and Saturday night, a food fair, sailing, Coasteering, kayaking, tug o’war, talks and exhibits, crabbing, beach golf and a range of others .
To follow on from the Currach build last year the Coracle society will offer the opportunity to build your own Coracle over the weekend. There is a potential opportunity for each of the teams involved to build one for their club and they could be raced at the regatta too if people were willing.
Please contact Kirsten Laurie this is something your teams would be interested and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like more information – contact Kirsten on Kirstenemail@example.com or 01496300579.