A frosty dawn developed into a cloudless morning with just a breath of wind for the fist St Ayles skiff regatta to be held at Castle Semple Loch. By contrast with our usual racing venues, Castle Semple is fresh water, reasonably sheltered and has a maximum depth of around a fathom. The venue was an ideal venue to introduce newcomers to the racing of our skiffs, and the regatta had a heavy emphasis on novice and junior categories. All crews enjoyed the novelty of stepping aboard their skiffs with dry feet!
The opening race was a long course with two waves of boats going up the loch to a single turning buoy before coming back to the foot of the loch taking two more buoys to starboard then racing back to the start finish line. In the open mixed wave five boats set off side by side, and it was looking like five boats would still be side by side as they reached the first mark. The racing was very even, but Coigach put in a “Hard Ten” which got them the advantage on the turn, which allowed them to then pull away from the rest of the field. They finished in 16 mins 31 seconds, followed by RowPorty in 16:58, Boatie Blest in 17:21, St Ayles in 17:40 and Royal West in 18:28.
The second wave was for the mixed novice category, with Crail powering off to an opening lead which was never challenged. Their time of 17:14 will no doubt have raised eyebrows amongst the more established open crews. They were followed by Pittenweem (18:45) and Cumbrae (23:11).
The course was then altered to give four lanes for sprint out and back races, with each crew having their own turning buoy. All seven boats were entered in the Mens open and Women’s open, so heats were held with the first and second from each heat going through to a final.
In the men’s race Coigach and RowPorty got through from Heat 1 and Crail and Boatie Blest qualified from Heat 2. The Final was closely fought with all crews still in contention going into the turn. Coigach pulled away to win in 3.55, with RowPorty coming in second in 4:02, just ahead of third placed Boatie Blest (4:07)
In the Women’s Open category St Ayles and Row Porty qualified from the first heat and Boatie Blest and Pittenweem from the second. The final was won by St Ayles in 4:14 ahead of RowPorty in second and Boatie Blest in third.
The 50+ Mens Category was a straight final dominated by Coigach, with a very closely fought sprint for second place going to Boatie Blest ahead of RowPorty, with Royal West close behind in Fourth. The Women’s 50+ straight final was won by RowPorty ahead of St Ayles.
We were delighted to see an under 19 category, and it was a great chance for youngsters to try out racing in a fairly sheltered environment. Three boats took part in the race which was open to boys and girls. Crail won in 4:30, ahead of a composite crew in Pittenweem’s Ferry Lass (4:34) and RowPorty (4:40). Not much in it at all, and hopefully something to enthuse all the participants.
Six crews took part in the Mixed novice category, on this occasion for rowers who had never won a St Ayles skiff race before. Cumbrae and Pittenweem were knocked out in the heats, with the final being won by Boatie Blest ahead of RowPorty and Crail in a closely fought second and third, and Royal West in fourth.
The conditions and facilities made this a great way to round off the racing season. Thanks have to go to Castle Semple Rowing Club for keeping us going with tea, cake and bacon rolls through the day, and to Clyde Muirsheil Country Park for allowing SCRA to host the event on the Loch. It was great to have enthusiastic crews present, and special mention must go to Coigach for making their long journey south, and to Cumbrae, a newly established club, who were taking part in their first event away from their Island home.
There is a photography competition on going at the Country Park, and there must have been some stunning images taken of the skiffs on the water. If anyone has any good photos that they would let us put up on here please e mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org . Thanks also to Gallagher Heath for Sponsoring the prizes. The Gallagher Heath shield for the best overall performance was won by RowPorty.
Finally this was an event organised by Scottish Coastal Rowing Association, but a great share of the work of preparing it was undertaken by Royal West of Scotland Boat Club, so the Association thanks them for their efforts.
Full Results, with times for those who love analysing such things, are now available by clicking here .