Historic Book on Coastal Rowing

A member club of Scottish Coastal Rowing is launching something other than a boat!  “Old Clyde Pullers” by Tom Mackay is a book that tells the Story of Inverclyde’s Coastal Rowing Clubs.  Royal West of Scotland Boat Club are officially launching the book at their clubhouse in Greenock on Friday 11th December 2015.  The launch event starts in at 7.30 and you are all cordially invited!

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The book, with a foreword by Inverclyde’s Provost Moran,  covers 170 years of local sporting history featuring Burgh Regattas that were watched by thousands of spectators, Challenge Races for colossal sums of money in the 19th century, a chapter on the Cartsdyke Worthies and the histories of 15 local rowing clubs from Langbank to the Greenock Esplanade. The book also illustrates the differences between the gentlemen amateurs and the paid professionals, who gradually disappeared during the 20th century.

As can be seen from the cover, with big crowds watching the racing at Greenock, coastal rowing used to be a huge event on the Clyde.  Scottish Coastal Rowing clubs are doing a great job of getting their communities out on the water, but we still have plenty of scope to grow the sport back to its previous levels.

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Royal West were one of the founder clubs when the SCRA was formed in 2010, but their own history goes much further back than that.  In 2016 they celebrate their 150th anniversary with various events,  hopefully including a win at the Skiffieworlds.  They are the only surviving club from the fifteen Inverclyde clubs listed in the book…..  it would be a wonderful tribute to their longevity if we could resurrect some of the other local clubs!  Hopefully someone who reads the book will be suitably inspired.

As well as having two St Ayles skiffs, Chippy McNish and  Birdie Bowers, the club continues to maintain and use their historic fleet of boats.  Last year they raced one of  their three (over 100 years old) jolly boats at the Nith Navigation Race (above).  They have touring boats called “heavy fours” as well as two rower “coxed pairs” and “sixteens”, rowed by single rowers and hopefully soon to get their first races for many years  as part of the “picnic class”.  New members are of course always welcome and the club is not just a rowing club!  Using their boat house (below) as a base, they cater for rowing, sailing, canoeing and open water swimming.


The Club are grateful to Tesco for supporting the project by providing space for Tom to sell directly to the public in the Greenock store on Monday 14th December from 11am and in the Port Glasgow Store on Tuesday 15th December from 11am.   All profits from sales of the book will go directly to Royal West of Scotland Amateur Boat Club’s development fund.   Tom will be on hand to sign copies at the launch event.  If you cannot make that the book can be purchased  (£9.99 plus £2.50 P&P if required)  as follows:

·         By emailing to archivist@rwsabc.com

·         By post to RWSABC, Esplanade, Greenock, PA16 7SE

·         In person at the Royal West clubhouse during opening hours

 ISBN 978-0-99343448-0-8


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Fox Lake Winter Festival 2016

North Berwick, Eskmuthe and Port Seton, put on their  brave faces in challenging conditons and helped each other out with lifting boats and filling in spaces in others teams too.  Teams were winners by being their, tried to keep cosy and at least, got to row.

This was pretty challenging for coxes as well, with huge gusts blowing across the lake, avoiding obstacles and the bank.   At least one oar came off second best with a ski jump.

Three categories were raced round the tight, obstacle strewn, short pursuit course.   Men, ladies and mixed. With two boats racing clockwise from separate points.  With three teams present each race was run on a round robin, racing each team one after the other, getting warmer….

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fox lake

A wee break for coffee then mixed races, very blowy by this stage. But all in all crews got to row and chat with rowing buddies. First overall this year were Port Seton receiving a night on Foxfalls and a lovely new trophy, North Berwick were second and Musselburgh’s Eskmuthe close behind.  Thank you to the awesome, award winning, Foxlake team for hosting and providing beer for the rowers, and to everyone for the support.

Words lifted from NB race report, pictures lifted from Eskmuthe Facebook Page.

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SCRA Events Calendar 2016

The 2016 SCRA Regatta (plus other events) Calendar is now available online

If you would like to add your event to the calendar, please contact Sue Fenton: scwfenton <at> gmail.com.

It would be helpful to have a note of the nature of the event (eg Sprints, Long Distance, Expedition, Time Trial) and also which club or clubs are the principal organisers and what the first point of contact should be.  An indication of any cap on the maximum number of entrants would also assist.

It is recognised that we now have so many events that there will be clashes of dates.  That is great, because there are not many places that could accommodate all the skiffs turning up at the same time, and there are a lot of folk out there who want to enjoy the sociable pleasure of racing for their club.   However, we should all work together to try to avoid clashes with others close by.  For this purpose we have defined geographic regions as follows, and would prefer to avoid a conflict of dates within a region:


South East (The Border to South Queensferry)

Fife and Angus

North East (Aberdeen to John O’Groats, including Orkney)

North West (Cape Wrath to Ardnamurchan, including Hebrides)

Argyll  (Including Mull and Islay)

South West (from Glasgow down to Annan)

Here is looking forward to another excellent year of meeting and racing with skiffies from all over in 2016.

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NEW! “Picnic Class” of One Rower Skiff

The main focus for the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association is and will remain the St Ayles Skiff, a class of rowing boat for four rowers and a cox  which has brought a great deal of pleasure to many who have built or rowed one.   However other boats are in the Scottish Coastal Rowing fleet and for the interest of skiffies and skiffbuilders, at the Freshwater Sprints 2016 we will arrange races for  a new SCRA “Picnic Class” of one rower skiff.   Hopefully this will be a bit of fun and a bit of variety and maybe  keep the engagement of some boat builders in clubs with a completed fleet of St Ayles.

The Picnic Class is a development class and a wide variety of craft will qualify under the class rules.  Essentially the constraints are that the boats should be “fixed seat” and no more than 5 meters long.  The rowlocks should be at the gunnel (no “outriggers”).   The beam should not be too narrow, both because a really narrow beam will mean that only peedie oars can be used, and also becuse insufficient beam will compromise stability.   The sheer should rise towards the bow and stern, so the boats will essentially be what a skiffie is likely to think of as “boat shaped”!   The hope is that the boats will be sufficiently comfortable and commodious to be used on a picnic, as well as for racing.  Builders may enjoy experimenting with materials, and there is no restriction on the type of oars to be used.  More details can be found in the Picnic Class measurement rules which designers and builders should follow, and which might bring a smile of anticipation to spectators coming to the Freshwaters (eg see the “stability test”).  Some boats that already exist will be deemed to meet the class rules even if they are outwith the exact measurements.  These will include the  Royal West of Scotland Boat Club’s historic “Sixteens”.

There will be a race for Men and a race for Women in the Picnic Class at the 2016 Freshwater Sprints at the end of October 2016  (check this website nearer the time for details).  Races will be over a straight “drag race” type course of around 300 meters.  Competitors need to be members of an SCRA club (or of a club that is a member of another St Ayles association) and all boats will require to have third party insurance in place for the event.  Boats can be existing boats that comply with the rules, or boats built from a kit, or to a set of plans from a recognised designer, or can be to the builders own design, all provided that the competitor is able to certify that the boat complies with the measurement rules. So bring out your boats, or dust down your boat building tools. and we will see you on the startline.

The Wemyss Skiff can qualify as Picnic Class  (designer and rower: Iain Oughtred)


Picnic Class Boats (minus buoyancy) lining up for the start of a race. Photo Frank Prior, ELYC.

Picnic Class Boats (minus buoyancy) lining up for the start of a race. Photo Frank Prior, ELYC.




Alnmouth: A Proud Rowing Community

Since her launch on March 18th 2015, ‘Pride of Aln’ has enjoyed a busy first season and a number of milestones reached by this community rowing group in the ‘Tobermory’ of Northumberland.  Alnmouth Community Rowing held it’s end of season open day in late October, to celebrate their achievements thus far, and enjoy that feeling of coming quite a long way since first grabbing the end of an oar in the very beginning.  They were joined on the day by Amble, Blyth, Whitburn, Gosforth and Craster coastal rowing clubs.  Read more about the events ups and downs in a great event report.

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Best bits of the first season must include the numerous rows in company which ‘Pride’ has managed to attend, including the Amble Puffin Festival, and the Tweed Row and Paxton Picnic, in addition to  the launch of Gateshead’s ‘Harry Clasper’ and again rowing on the Tyne.  Furthest north was also achieved on 4th October when Alnmouth skiffies rowed up to Boulmer and Sugar Sands to join Latimer Ledja and Coquet Spirit for some leisurely rowing.

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Alnmouth also shares the honour of being one of the three coastal rowing clubs (to our knowledge) having the privilege of ferrying soon-to-be-wed or newly weds by skiff on their wedding day  – following their wedding on 6th September in Hulne Abbey, Peter and Juliet of Alnmouth repaired to the old Lifeboat House, home to ‘Pride of Aln’, and rowed blissfully, together, and also featured in The Northumberland Gazette.

Advances haven’t been just made on the water but also on shore, where remarkable progress has been made in refurbishing the Old Lifeboat Station, now supplied with light and power, and more than ready to take Alnmouth Rowing through the winter and into their second season.

Plans are already underway for next season – a competitive ‘season opener’ is being scheduled, a big beach barbecue, an expedition row along the Northumberland coast in company, over a number of days, and more community involvement, with schools and local businesses participating, in Alnmouth Rowing’s continuous effort to raise the awareness of coastal rowing  in their region.

More training, more members, and a shiny trailer are also high on Alnmouth’s wish list.  The club urges anyone interested in having a go, even on a limited schedule, to get in touch, and get rowing – they will be delighted to hear from you.

Email the club at Rowing@AlnmouthRowing.org to find out more and get involved.


Photos kindly supplied by Amble and Alnmouth Coastal Rowing Clubs – for more great images and skiffie adventures, follow Amble and Alnmouth facebook pages.






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Foxlake Winter Festival Pursuit Races: 28 November 2015

Come along and see some coastal rowing, close up and personal, on a pond.  Foxlake Adventures are once again hosting the John Muir Winter Carnival at Foxlake near Dunbar, and local rowing clubs from North Berwick, Port Seton, Musselburgh and Portobello will be there to take part in some very close quarters pursuit racing.  The water is usually used for cable pulled wakeboarding, so the rowers will be manoevering a tight course, aiming to go round the ramps and jumps, rather than over them.  There is not sufficient room for side by side racing, so the crews go head to head in heats of two boats, with one starting on each side of the loch, following the circuit in the same direction.  First boat back to their own starting position is the winner.  There is plenty else going on for the day, and there will hopefully be some come and try sessions, so for a good view of racing and a chance to chat to the athletes, this really is a great event for folk interested in skiffs to come along to.15719589250_f676dd1b40_z

foxlake poster

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Mid Argyll Fundraising

Coming Up – don’t miss a fantastic opportunity to meet the man behind the superb images and moments captured in series such as Blue Planet and Frozen Planet, amongst others.  Hear Doug Allan’s adventures and support essential fundraising for Mid Argyll skiffies.

So put the date in your diary – and perhaps pick up some tips for the all new SCRA Photo Competition, rumoured to be coming your way in 2016……watch this space.


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NEW! Down Coastal Rowing Association

The Down Coastal Rowing Association has been established at a meeting of the  coastal rowing clubs in the Lecale and Ards areas of Co. Down, Northern Irleand.   To seek recognition and create greater development and funding opportunities the Clubs decided to form the Association which in turn will seek affiliation to the Irish Coastal Rowing Federation and Rowing Ireland.  The move comes immediately after the SCRA AGM, where a resolution was passed to call upon other nations to form associations for St Ayles skiff builders and users.  It is very much hoped that Down Coastal Rowing Association as representatives of St Ayles skiffs users in Northern Ireland will be one of the Groups to join with SCRA in forming an International Federation for the St Ayles…..  other nations are cordially invited to join in too!

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Leonard Lawson was appointed as the first Chairman of Down Coastal Rowing Association with  Secretary Kate McNeil as secretary and Ann Fee as treasurer.  The remainder of the management committee is made up a member from each  of the local clubs.

This is an ideal opportunity for anyone to get involved in coastal rowing within the Down area.  Through competition and social events it  allows participants to mix with others within their own community and now  internationally!

Skiffieworlds, the world championships for the St Ayles skiffs,  will be taking place in Strangford Lough in July 2016. Each of the Clubs within the newly formed association will be competing and taking part in a week-long festival of rowing. This includes a lot of social activities in Delamont Country Park and several of the main towns around the Lough.

Say hello at the Down Coastal Rowing Association Facebook Group  for more information.



Facebook Group:


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North East Skiffies Gather for the Avoch Icebreaker

On 14th November 2015, Avoch Community Rowing Club (AKA “The Skiffties”) hosted their first regatta with eight clubs participating in a full days racing schedule. The 1km (0.62 mile) course was set in Avoch Bay within full view of the beach and weather conditions were as near to perfect given the uncertainty due to winter storm Abigail. The winds were light and the weather dry and chilly but extremely favourable for a mid-November Saturday.


Skiffs from Ardersier (“Esther”), Burghead (“Tarbh Uisge”), Findhorn (Joppa”), Findochty (“Morag”), Helmsdale (“Pride of Bunillidh”), Portsoy (“Soy Quine”) and Wick (“Pulteney Lass”) made the trip to compete alongside the host club Avoch (“Zulu”) in nine scheduled races in the following categories: Race 1 – Women’s Over 50’s Race 2 – Men’s Over 50’s Race 3 – Women’s Open Race 4 – Men’s Open Race 5 – Women’s Mixed Decades Race 6 – Men’s Mixed Decades Race 7 – Women’s Over 40’s Race 8 – Men’s Over 40’s Race 9 – Open Mixed After the Cox’s Brief given by Avoch’s Sally MacAdie, the teams prepared for the 1st race of the day, the Women’s Over 50’s, which got under way slightly later than scheduled. This was won by the hosts Avoch with Burghead 2nd and Helmsdale 3rd . Helmsdale secured victory in the Men’s Over 50’s with Avoch 2nd and Wick 3rd and Avoch returned to winning ways in the Women’s Open with Helmsdale 2nd and Wick taking another 3rd place.




The Men’s Open race was won by Avoch with Wick 2nd and Helmsdale 3rd and this cemented the three way race for the overall team trophy. In the Women’s Mixed Decades race, Helmsdale were victorious with Portsoy 2nd and Wick 3rd and victory for Helmsdale came shortly after in the Men’s Mixed Decades race with Wick 2nd and Findhorn 3rd .



After a short break for lunch, racing resumed with the Women’s Over 40’s race and Avoch came out victorious with Helmsdale 2nd and Findhorn 3rd. Helmsdale were again winners with victory in the Men’s Over 40’s race with Burghead 2nd and Avoch 3rd . There was a parallel race held during the Mens Over 40’s which saw two teen crews, Portsoy & Burghead (with an Avoch teen) battle it out over a 500m sprint. Fittingly, this race ended in a draw and both teams picked up medals at the prize-giving. This only left the Mixed Open to decide the winners of the Team Trophy. In the final and most exciting race of the day, Avoch claimed victory over Helmsdale by one second with Wick claiming bronze. However, second place was enough to secure the necessary points for Helmsdale to emerge as overall team winners.


avoch medals

Once all the boats had been brought back to shore, the teams made their way to Zulu’s shed for the prize-giving ceremony with medals and team trophy being presented by Councillor Jennifer Barclay. The medals were designed and made by  junior Skifftie members Erin and Drew and they were well received by all those who won them. Helmsdale received the locally made Team Trophy commissioned by the club and sponsored by The Chatterbox (a local community newspaper) with Avoch in 2nd and Wick in 3rd – there were just two points separating Helmsdale and Avoch which showed just how competitive the racing was on the day. Special mention must go to Findochty who only launched their skiff “Morag” in October 2015 and it was great to see them at their first ever regatta.



avoch winners

Avoch Community Rowing Club would like to extend their thanks to all the clubs who participated and all those who helped organise and run the event on the day. The hope next year’s will be even bigger and better!

Full Results (with race numbers below):

avoch scores



  1.  Women’s 50+
  2.  Men’s 50+
  3. Women’s Open
  4. Men’s Open
  5. Women’s  decades
  6. Men’s  decades
  7. Women’s 40+
  8. Men’s 40+
  9. Open mixed

Pictures with boats from Chris Perkins (from the SCR Flickr group), pictures without boats from Avoch Facebook Page.

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Amble Skiff on TV

Amble Coastal Rowing Club was recently approached by the BBC to participate in the filming of the preschool series ‘My Story’ for the CBeebies channel – ‘Coquet Spirit’ was used to tell the story of Grace Darling, famous for her part in the rescue of shipwreck survivors on the Farne Islands in 1838.  The collaboration between the BBC and Amble CRC is featured in the local press, and the Grace Darling episode will be featured on BBC in Spring 2016.








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