They have been holding a rowing regatta on the River Wear at Durham for a very long time. The first event was held to celebrate the victory at the Battle of Waterloo, and veterans of that battle are still entitled to discounted catering at the regatta. More recently the event has grown into the biggest regatta in the North of England, with some dubbing it the “Henley of the North”. Henceforth however it is likely to be known as the Ullapool of the South, having hosted its first St Ayles skiff race.
Crews from Newcastle based St Ayles skiffies Byker Rowing Club and Gosforth Coastal Rowing Club took their skiffs inland for the event, and provided a demonstration race on the Sunday of the regatta. The race was won fairly convincingly by the Gosforth crew in Grace. The Northumberland fleet will more than double in size over the next few months, with Skiff building currently ongoing in Blyth, Alnmouth and Amble.
Five more skiffs will be joining the Scottish Fleet in the next two weeks.
First up, on Islay, the two boats built at Islay High School will be lauched on Friday 20 June. The boats will be launched at the Bowmore Pier at 7pm. As well as being used by the school, the boats will be available for members of the community through Islay Rowing Club.
Next Collieston in Aberdeenshire will be launching on Sunday 22nd June 2014 at 2pm. The skiff is to be named ‘Admiral Redsocks’. after Rear Admiral Steve Ritchie, Collieston’s most famous resident who died in 2012. Hydrographer of the Navy, Steve was an incredibly colourful character who always wore red socks. Turn up and find out what colour the skiff will be.
Then on 28 June the Gairloch Skiff in Wester Ross will be taking to the water. More information on that in an earlier post.
The same weekend, at the Loch Fyne Viking Festival, mid Argyll Rowing Club will be launching their second skiff.
Coastal Rowing social media has been buzzing with the news from a tip to Venice by Boatie Blest to take part in the Vogalonga, a tour of the city by human powered boat, which started off 40 years ago as a bit of a protest in favour of gondaleers. Here Gareth Jones gives his report, with photos by Jon Gerard:
Boatie Blest’s trip to the Vogalonga in Venice turned into an epic road trip and possibly the longest journey yet undertaken by a St. Ayles skiff. [ed: longest trip by a skiff that does not also double as a musical instrument.] Boatie Rows was the first skiff to take part in the event, on Sunday 8th June but it will almost certainly not be the last. There were over 2000 human powered boats there and it was truly spectacular, even though it did mean the crew unfortunately had to miss the Royal West of Scotland Boat Club regatta in Greenock.
The trip to Venice was epic in itself. The boat and crew set off on Wed. 4th for the ferry from Newcastle to Amsterdam, arriving early on Thursday morning but being delayed by an hour as one of the two cars was slightly damaged when the ferry car deck ramp pushed another vehicle into it. As a result of this and roadworks/accidents through Germany Boatie Rows didn’t get to the first stop, Innsbruck in Austria, until after 1am on Friday morning. It didn’t stop the crew from getting up and out for 8am though and by 9am they were rowing at Achensee in the Tyrol, Austria.
Another few hours driving over the Alps got them to Lake Garda in Northern Italy, where they managed to launch the boat again for a row and lunch at a beach cafe before setting off for Venice. They arrived just after 8pm to park up beside hundreds of other boats from all over Europe, including a trio of Currachs from Cork in Ireland, dozens of sliding seat boats and at least two Dutch sloops.
The sun shone for the event on Sunday and the temperature was over 30 degrees for the 30km row, which started and finished in the Grand Canal. Before that though the boat had to get off the trailer and into the water, something much harder than you might imagine in a city dependent entirely on boats. Launching facilities consisted largely of pontoons accessed by narrow gangplanks and eventually it was agreed to launch off a concrete quay, with a 3’ drop to the water. A crane was also on hand, for a 30 Euro charge, and this was used at the end of the day.
The Vogalonga route took the boats out to the lagoon to the east, visiting Murano and Burano before returning down the Grand Canal to St Marks Basin. There were 9 members of Boatie Blest in the Boatie plus one stow away from Anstruther. The club had to make a few minor adjustments to fit everybody in, adding a passenger seat to the bow and using short oars allowing two people to row at 2 and 3. The boat managed to get around the whole course without any major incidents, due pretty much entirely to Cox and Boatie Blest Captain Stuart Mack. Coxing was not a challenge for the feint hearted though and there were several moments when rowing become a rather more close contact sport than we might be used to.
The return trip was just as eventful. The crew left Venice early on Tuesday morning to drive to Lake Lucerne in Switzerland. Temperatures hit 37 degrees as they passed Milan and it was still hot when they launched on the lake. So hot that they decided to take a swim as well. This held things up a bit and things got further delayed when the towing vehicle was stopped by the Swiss Police. The result was a 200f fine, an order to get out of Switzerland and a delay meaning that they didn’t arrive at the next overnight stop, at Rudesheim in Germany, until 1.30am.
Up early again the plan was to drive down the Rhine to launch for a short row but at that stop the crew realized that the trailer axle had cracked and was about to collapse. After lashing a paddle to the axle (not something SCRA can recommend) they drove slowly to Koblenz, where a very nice man with a welding business carried out emergency repairs in less than an hour. This didn’t leave any time to meet up with the Dutch St. Ayles skiff crew at WSV Woudrichem in Holland and they only just made the ferry as last cars on.
Back in England the remaining team decided to make one last stop, at Seahouses in Northumberland. The sun shone again and they made it out to the Farne Islands to see the seabirds. Boatie Rows was back home by 3pm, with just enough time for a wash before being decorated for the Cockenzie and Port Seton Gala.
Plans are already afoot for a return trip, taking in France perhaps, and returning to get those lost rows in Germany and the Netherlands. [We plan on putting together a more fulsome report and perhaps also a guide for other clubs, should they decide to take part in future events. And why wouldn’t they? ]
Vogalonga 2014 in numbers:
Vogalonga Number 40
Vogalonga Length 30km
Average Temperature 31C
Skiff Number 1 (BoatieRows)
Participant Boats 2000+
Crew for Vogalonga 10
Miles Driven 2069
Hours Driving 49
Hours on Ferry 16
Alpine Lakes 3
Oars Carried 12
Paddles Carried 4
Trailers Broken 1
Major traffic jams 2
Pizzas Consumed 32
Litres of Water Carried and consumed 30
Bottles of Prosecco Consumed >4
There was close regatta racing on Edinburgh’s sunshine coast. Portobello played host to skiffs from North Berwick, Dunbar, Queensferry, Eskmouthe, Anstruther, Newburgh, St Andrews and Pittenweem. Photos from Jon Gerard.
The racing was cleverly arranged. With the course being in lanes, each crew raced from their position on the beach, out to their own turning buoy and back to the beach. The races started with juniors, novices and over 60s. As the day went on the tide came in, and with the buoys in the same place the races got longer.
The home team started with a win in the under 15 category. This was followed by a popular victory for St Andrews in the novice category. The crew from the newly formed Fife club came in at the front of an impressive eight strong field of novice crews, introducing a wave of new rowers to the sport. North Berwick took the under 18′s, meaning that once again this year the first three races at a regatta are won by three different clubs….. spreading the joy. Newburgh won the Men’s open, and Anstruther won a number of categories.
Portobello had a tremendous turn out of rowers from their own club. With somewhere in the region of 60 members pulling on an oar they were able to put two crews into every event. Only the fastest of the two crews counted toward the championship points trophy, which really could not have been closer! It did in fact come down to a dead heat between the hosts RowPorty and visitors North Berwick.
Full results are here Portobello Regatta Results 2014 . You tube coverage of the finishes, with self produced soundtrack:
Here is a video of the Troon regatta, courtesy of Joe Dorfman of Video3 Technologies Ltd, Prestwick.
Carrick, Royal West and Firth of Clyde joined the two Troon skiffs for the regatta.
Winners were as follows:
OpenMixed,Open Women and Open Men—Royal West
Over 40 Mixed—Carrick
Over 40 Women–Royal West
Over 40 Men——Carrick.
1st Royal West—-40 points
2nd Carrick——–36 points.
3rd Firth of Clyde–29 points.
A team from the Dalriada Games in Ireland attended the regatta and to finish there was a race in the two Troon skiffs.
This was a 1.5 km race between Ireland and The Rest of The World with The Rest of The World wining.
With perfect weather again this year all had a great day and a visit to the Harbour Bar was an enjoyable ending before the Irish friends departed on the P&O ferry back home. Troon are planing to visit the Dalriada festival on the 19 July along with Carrick and Royal West.
A new website www.skiffies.org , has been set up to share news of all things St Ayles skiff in North America, including the North American St Ayles Championships on Sunday 29 June 2014. If you have any news for the site, Toby Goodrich would love to hear from you: tgoodrich<at>renbrook.org
Two St Ayles skiffs entered this year’s Ocean to City race in Cork, Blakeney’s Hoi Lantarn (#45) and Groot and Grut (NL01) from Wourrichem in the Netherlands. It was the first time a St Ayles had entered the Ocean to City Race.
A scratch crew of four rowers from CRA Blakeney combined with two friends from the Langstone Cutters won the fastest four oared wooden boat category and completed their course in just under three hours. The crew swapped places through the race, taking turn about as passenger or cox. The course starts by heading out to sea before going up the estuary and river into Cork city centre. The crew report that it was a good course to row, and although a shorter distance than the Great River Race in London, it is much tougher.
We are delighted that the Blakeney skiff also came runner up in the competition for prettiest hand built boat, so both fast and bonnie.
The festival is welcoming and relaxed, but very well organised. Theyare very keen to see more St Ayles skiffs at next years event which will be held on 30 May 2015. Blakeney hope to be back to defend their title, and if we can get more than four skiffs to go, it is likely that there will be a specific trophy for the class. Full results can be found on this link, and more information about the event can be found at www.oceantocity.com .
The Dutch crew from WSV Woudrichem, are now on a grand tour! After Cork the skiff headed up to Greenock for the Royal West of Scotland BC regatta, and their next port of call will be the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival in Portsoy.
Royal West of Scotland welcomed Dutch skiff Groot & Grut, along with North Berwick, Queensferry and Anstruther from the Firth of Forth, and west coast neighbours Carrick, Troon and Firth of Clyde Coastal Rowing Club to their magnificent boat house on the esplanade at Greenock. The Royal West club house is well worth a visit on its own, where the extensive collection of coastal rowing boats can be seen. As well as their two St Ayles skiffs the club has two heavy touring fours, three first class Jolly Boats, six pairs and 3 singles. Well worth popping in to say hello.
But to the racing….. the day started off dryish, although there was a challenging easterly wind. The first two races were long distance with a beach start. North Berwick won the open category, and Anstruther “B” took the honours in the “Triple Top” category, where total rower age had to exceed 180. Troon get a special mention for topping out the triple top category with a combined age for the four rowers of 288 years. Do the maths for that one, its pretty impressive, and shows that we do indeed have a sport for all.
Later in the day it got very wet. These rowers are a hardy lot though, as were the umpires, and the racing continued through the monsoon. Sprint winners s were as follows:
Open Ladies - Anstruther B
Open Men - North Berwick
40+ Ladies - North Berwick
40+ Men - Anstruther A
Open Mixed - North Berwick
Novice - Queensferry
40+ Mixed - Anstruther B
60+ Men - Carrick
Highest scoring overseas entry - Groot & Grut
Overall regatta winner, taking home the Colin Ross Memorial Salver - Anstruther A
The club thanks its sponsors who were
React Catering Services Ltd.
Home Store, Nicolson Street, Greenock
Clyde Outboard Services
Michael Wares Cater Hire
The St Ayles skiff built by the community of Gairloch will be named and launched on Saturday 28 June 2014.
The event will start at 10 a.m in the centre of Gairloch. There will be a procession led by the Pipe Band and including pupils from Gairloch High School, dragging the skiff along to the slipway at the harbour. The launch ceremony will take place at 11am. There will then be rowing, accompanied by some visiting skiffs from other clubs. This will be followed by a BBQ outside the Boat Club clubhouse on Pier Road.
CRA Blakeney is organising a rowing tour of the Norfolk Broads from 11th to 15th August. The tour, which will include friendly competitions and social events, will start at Barton Turf on the river Ant and will explore the rivers Bure and Thurne. Camping accommodation is available at Barton Turf Adventure Centre, but alternative B&B is available. Crews from Langstone Cutters and Lower Thames Rowing Club will be bringing 4 oared gigs to join one of the Blakeney St Ayles Skiffs. In addition there will be several smaller river skiffs. Numbers are limited, but there is still room for a few more and organiser Adrian Hodge would be very pleased to see a crew or two from the home of the St Ayles Skiff. For further information please contact Adrian (firstname.lastname@example.org). Entries close on Saturday 5th July.
On the weekend following the tour the Coastal Rowing Association of Blakeney will be holding rowing races in Blakeney harbour on Saturday 16th August as part of the Blakeney Regatta. The following day the action will move to nearby Wells Harbour, where there will be sprint races for St Ayles skiffs. Two St Ayles skiffs are currently under construction in Wells, to join the two already launched at Blakeney and two being constructed in Kings Lynn, turning Norfolk into a hub for the St Ayles class.
So for any St Ayles skiffs taking part in the tour it would be possible to round off a visit to Norfolk with two more rowing events. To express an interest in the racing events please contact Victoria Halliday V.Holliday@uea.ac.uk