Beach Landings in Surf and the Risk of Broaching

One of the most notable hazards that skiff clubs face is broaching in shallow water.  The SCRA committee have received two incident reports this year, when such incidents have occurred.  No one was injured in either incident, with the crews being able to stand in the shallow water where the incidents took place, and there was no damage to skiffs either.  However any incident where rowers can end up in the water is to be avoided.  The clubs that use Portobello beach probably have the most experience of surf conditions, and how to deal with them.  Below Nick Johnson of Eastern ARC shares his experience and thoughts.  Thank you also to RowPorty for the video that is linked in this post.


Safely Landing in light Surf

Rowing in waves can be hazardous – the clubs that row off Portobello Beach have quite a lot of experience in this area and have found ways to minimise risks. We are lucky in that even in relatively wavy seas the wide beach offers a safe place to row with very few obstacles and no great importance to exactly where you land. Apart from actually getting in the boat, which carries the risk of people getting very wet, rowing out through the waves has not, to date, presented any problem. Occasionally a little water is shipped which can be bailed once out through the breakers. The main risk that we have experienced comes when rowing back in with the waves when the skiff can effectively catch a wave and start surfing. At this point it is possible for the boat to broach, by which we mean suddenly turn through 90 degrees to be parallel to the waves, which is usually quickly followed by a capsize or severe swamping and rowers in the sea. This has happened a couple of times in the last 6 years – always relatively close to shore in about waist deep water, roughly at the point at which the waves are breaking. Through experience we have found ways to stop this happening, the essence of which is generally to slow the boat down and keep it at right angles to the waves. The most effective method is the deployment of a drogue anchor from the stern of the skiff.

The skiffs are very stable and unlikely to broach out at sea (the boat should not be out in conditions where this is a risk).  Broaching when returning to the beach through the surf is a more likely occurrence.  Broaching will be quite sudden and so preparedness is important.  If returning to the beach in a breaking following sea there are different possible approaches which are outlined below but the most basic rule that applies to any of them is to keep the boat at right angles to the surf:

  1. If the tide is high and the breaking zone quite short, one approach is to row hard right onto the beach, with the waves directly behind you. Keeping the boat moving means you will hopefully maintain control but there is still a high risk of catching a wave, in which case the cox must concentrate very hard to keep the boat going in a straight line, using quick and sometimes exaggerated movements of the tiller.
  2. If the tide is low and the breaking zone quite long (due to the shallow gradient of the beach) there are three traditional approaches; stern first, back-water into waves, deploy a drogue to reduce speed. We would not generally recommend the first two unless you do not have a drogue available.
  • Stern first– historically, in very poor conditions row boats would come in stern first; point the bow out to sea and row backwards.  This has the advantage that the Cox can see what’s coming, instructing rowers to hold water when large waves are passing. It could be an awkward process given our oar set up and what we’re used to.
  • Back into waves– row in normally with the waves behind you but back water into big waves so they pass under the boat rather than carry it.  This requires a fairly skilled crew as they have to switch easily from rowing forwards to backwards and back again.  Also the Stroke may have to advise the Cox as they’re in a better position to see the following waves.
  • Deploy a drogue– a drogue acts like a parachute in the water behind the boat.  It slows the boat so again waves tend to pass under rather than carry it along and being tied to the stern of the boat it also tends to keep it at right-angles to the surf which is trying to push the boat in to shore.  With a drogue deployed the tiller will be very ineffective so you may need to rely on the oars to steer, but the boat will be more stable.  A drogue is the simplest and most effective way to reduce the risk of broaching. You may find that because the boat is going so slowly, larger waves will crash over the stern and into the boat, getting the cox quite wet – assuming he/she is wearing suitable clothing this should not be a safety concern. Also note that the pull on the line between the boat and the drogue is strong so make sure that it is properly tied on and is not caught up around arms, legs, rudder etc when it being deployed.


In terms of actually using a drogue RowPorty have produced a useful information video which can be found here:


People sometimes ask at what point the drogue should be deployed. Firstly, all club coxes should have a go at deploying it in benign conditions so they know what to expect and how to use it (it makes for a good work out for the crew). It’s hard to give quantitative advice about when it is required so our general rule is ‘if in doubt, put it out’. It should also be noted that of course the decision to go out when there are breaking waves is itself highly subjective and the cox or captain should consider general weather conditions and the competency, preparedness and experience of crew. Additional consideration should be given to making sure that there are no unnecessary items loose in the boat and all crew are prepared to get wet and are wearing appropriate PFD.

If you are unlucky enough to get broached then swamped or capsized don’t panic – you are likely to be not very far from shore in relatively shallow water. Our advice would be to first and foremost make sure that all crew are ok and get them to shore, your oars and boat will probably be generally washed in and can be collected once everyone is safe.


See also the Safety Brief on Capsize in Open Water.


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SCRA Youth Regatta Series – NEW Dates Added!

The Scottish Coastal Rowing Association is thrilled to announce two new additions to this year’s Youth Regatta Series!

Carrick Coastal Rowing Club will be adding a Youth Regatta to their Exciseman’s Chase event in Maidens on 8th September. This is a very popular regatta in the South West region and is also part of the wider SCRA South West Challenge! A month later, Deveron Coastal Rowing Club will be hosting their second Youth Regatta, this time in Banff, on 6th October.

These dates, added to the existing five events announced last month, make the Youth Regatta Series even bigger than when it was launched in 2017. We now have three regattas in the North Circuit and four in the South Circuit, starting off with the Portobello Youth Regatta, hosted by Eastern Amateur Rowing Club on Saturday 7th April. See you there!

Full details of how to sign up to these events can be found on our event calendar here:

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SCRA Coxing Course (South West) – Largs

The Scottish Coastal Rowing Association is delighted to invite clubs to attend a Coxing Course in Largs on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th April 2018!

This is an introductory course, aimed at novice coxes, which will cover basic coxing skills such as communication, safety and managing crews, and will be a mix of classroom-based learning and on-the-water training (weather permitting).

SCRA clubs in the South West region will be each be allocated two places in the first instance and will be able to apply to send more members if extra places become available. Clubs should send the names of their delegates to by 20th March to book their places. Any remaining places will then be allocated.

The course will take place at Largs Sailing Club within Largs Yacht Haven, where there will be lunch provided on both days at a small cost (details given on booking). Firth of Clyde Coastal Rowing Club are facilitating the course which will be delivered by SCRA instructors.

This is a great opportunity for representatives to bring a new skill-set back to their clubs ahead of a busy regatta season!

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Boatie Blest Coastal Rowing Club Regatta 2018 (28th April)

The regatta season is about to begin, the “Monaco of Scottish Coastal Rowing” is back again this year for the 7th time. Boatie Blest will be hosting the short, oval course again this year where crews battle out to win in a pursuit around a tight harbor course. Races take approx 2 mins 30 to complete but in this time crews must start and complete not one but two 180 degree turns, and two “slight” long bends. The tight gap between the harbors test the coxswains and the rowers nerve: a rare race where the spectators can judge which crew is winning or loosing when the crew often cannot. The races are an unusual format for Scottish Coastal Rowing as crews race head to head to progress, with wins in up to 3 rounds of racing needed if you are to be crowned the champions. A must see day out at Port Seton where there is guaranteed to be close racing, good spectating, lots of shouting and the occasional poor turn leading to an almost inevitable race defeat for some!
Races kick off around 11am – with over 70 races planned to go ahead during the day it will be action packed and non-stop. The Boatie Bakers will be out in force again supplying the energy needed to keep the rowers and spectators going.
Clubs wishing to attend can fill in the attached entry form and send to the email address provided.
To wet the appetite below is a link to Youtube where Portobellos Intermediate crew demonstrate the course with some fine footage.
Intermediate Mixed Team in Competition at Port Seton Regatta 2017

Club Entry Form – 2018

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Who will Win at the Victorian St Ayles Championships?


A lovely skiff trophy is up for grabs in Victoria, Australia this weekend.    Along with the Australian whale boat championships the event forms part of the South West Regatta, which will take place on the Hopkins River.  More information at the following link:

Good luck to the organisers and all the rowers.


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SCRA Youth Regatta Series Returns for Second Year

The Scottish Coastal Rowing Association are excited to announce the return of our Youth Regatta Series which was born in 2017 as a concept aimed at creating specific events for younger rowers to compete in.

This year we have seven confirmed dates with three regattas in the North Circuit and four in the South. It all kicks off on 7th April with Eastern Amateur Rowing Club’s regatta at Portobello, followed by events in Broughty Ferry, The Black Isle (Avoch and Cromarty), Ullapool, The Firth of Clyde (Largs), Maidens (Carrick) and Banff.

All dates are on the poster below and full details including how to register can be found on our Event Calendar here:

Could your club be a Youth Regatta host next year? Get in touch at!


Read about last year’s Youth Regatta Series here:

Avoch –

Deveron / Portsoy –

Largs –

North Berwick –

Ullapool –

SCRA Youth Series 2017…….. and 2018?


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Round Hayling Rowing Race 2018 Sunday 17th June

round hayling race poster 2018

The 2018 Round Hayling Rowing Race… the tough race for Gigs, Galleys and Skiffs – with trophies for all is back…

So here is the date: Sunday 17th June:

High Water is around 15.00 so the Coxes Meeting will be at 12.00 and boats start racing from 11.00 onward…

As last year, there is a full range of trophies, now with an added incentive for the more mature rowers – a 60+ Supervets class!

Awards of an Adventure Shield to crews for:

1. Fastest Round the Island
2. First Across the Line on Handicap
3. Fastest Ladies
4. Fastest Vets Crew (50+)
5. Fastest Supervets (60+)
6. Fastest Cornish Pilot Gig
7. Fastest St Ayles Skiff
8. Fastest Solent Galley
9. Fastest Bursledon Gig
10. Fastest Harker’s Yard Gig
11. Juniors (Under 18)
12. Sportsman’s Trophy

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Attention Skiffies! Rowing The Waves Questionnaire

All Scottish St Ayles Skiff Coastal Rowing Clubs should now have received a questionnaire from the Rowing the Waves project at the University of St Andrews, either by email or via their Facebook page.

Please could we request that you complete and return these as soon as possible to allow the researchers, Nina and Jen, to analyse the results before the end of their project in March.

You can contact them on Twitter at @RowingTheWaves or by emailing with any queries you may have about the questionnaire, or the wider project. Many thanks!

Find out more:

No automatic alt text available.

Want to be featured on the SCRA website? Get in touch at!

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SCRA South West Challenge 2018 Dates Announced!

The South West Challenge was launched in 2017 as a series of 8 events at 6 venues over 4 weekends in September, aimed at boosting attendance across some of the regattas in Scotland’s South West. It was well attended by many Scottish clubs as well as some from Northern Ireland and the Netherlands, and was won by Sketrick Coastal Rowing Club. Now it’s back – bigger and better.

This year, the South West Challenge returns with four added events and now stretches across the Summer, finishing with Castle to Crane – Scotland’s biggest open water rowing race. All events are run independently, with results entered into a separate league and points awarded for participation as well as performance.

Any clubs participating in more that one of the events included in the South West Challenge will automatically be entered and has the chance to win the trophy – a beautiful salver, six engraved whisky glasses and of course a bottle of malt. The winning club will also be awarded a Quaich – the Scottish drinking cup of friendship – to retain. Dates and contact details to enter each regatta are below. See you there!

SCRA South West Challenge 2018

Coordinator: Cameron Hughes


5 May – Royal West Regatta (Greenock)

2 June – Troon Regatta

16-17 June – Arran Regatta

14 July – Largs Regatta (Firth of Clyde)

11 August – Nith Navigation (Dumfries)

12 August – Bell Ringer’s Raid (Annan)

18-19 August – Stranraer Regatta

8 September – Exciseman’s Chase (Carrick)


15 September – Castle to Crane



SCRA South West Challenge 2018 Poster

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Western Isles Regatta – Lochboisdale 26th May 2018

Lochboisdale on South Uist is the location where the Uists Coastal Rowing Club are holding their inaugural regatta on the 26th of May.

8 Hebridean skiffs will be there, plus Ullapool and possibly a few other lucky mainland clubs.

Entry is by invitation, but if you are feeling adventurous and want to undertake the difficult journey to Lochboisdale, give Robert Taylor a call on 01870603754

You can cross in the ferry pictured from Mallaig to Lochboisdale, or take the shorter crossing from Uig on Skye to Lochmaddy in North Uist and drive down to Lochboisdale.

The scenery is astonishing.

The venue is a very sheltered bit of water with a modern marina to launch from and a friendly group of people who are keen to see what skiff racing looks like.

The Lochboisdale Hotel which overlooks the harbour is where the evening Ceilidh will be.

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Meeting to Set Up the Loch Tay Skiff Rowing Club

Meeting to Set Up the Loch Tay Skiff Rowing Club

30th January 2018

7.30 P.M.

Upstairs at Birks Cinema

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