Racing between Castles

Last year some of us enjoyed the Exciseman’s Chase which involved the foot of Culzean Castle on the Ayrshire coast. And again, there was an enjoyable Lochalsh Row in June. Well this year, how about a race between 2 Castles…a bit further afield??

Our Welsh cousins have just sent a promotional paragraph about their Castle to Castle race. It’s on 05th April – practically tomorrow!

Here are the details:

Annually we [the Welsh Sea Rowing Association] hold a race – the Castle to Castle, along the Menai Strait which separates Mainland Wales and the Isle of Anglesey. The length of the race is 12 miles, and runs from two famous castles both on the shores of the Strait. The race starts from the Royal Anglesey Yacht Club in Beaumaris, under both Menai Suspension Bridge, through the Swellies, and under the Britannia Bridge on to the finishing line at Caernarfon and The Royal Welch Yacht Club.

The race is open to any rowing boat class; we row Celtic Long Boats, as do most Welsh sea rowing clubs.

Date: 5th April 2014.
Start Time 12.30pm

If any of your members are interested or need more information please contact me:  elinspowell – at – or 07747600578.

…The tides could be interesting!

For those not familiar with this particular piece of Welsh coastline (see the first photo here for a glimpse of it), here is the relevant Google Map. Apparently one could walk the distance in something over 4 hours (no, not on water) – amusingly, they do not include a ‘by sea’ travel option…(must write and point out this glaring omission).

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Whisky Plank Celebrated at Gairloch

Some things have to be celebrated in every community, and one of those things is the fitting of the final or “whisky” plank on their first St Ayles skiff.  The community of Gairloch in the North West Highlands found itself in need of such a celebration today.  The group have been making excellent progress in their first skiff build, and have even been finding time to encourage near by Loch Ewe who are just starting off on this journey (see post below).



Unfortunately both Gairloch’s  build project manager  and the owner of the garage kindly being lent to accommodate the build were away and missed the celebration.  However, wisely, some of the celebratory malt has been saved for the next milestone, the turning of the hull.

All photos from the Gairloch Coastal Rowing Club Facebook Page.

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Why do we turn buoys to starboard?

A perfectly reasonable question asked at the recent Event Organiser seminar.  The SCRA rules of racing state:

“8.1 All turning buoys must be left to starboard, unless specifically stated otherwise in race instructions.”

Turning to Starboard at Skiffie Worlds (Chris Perkins)

There is a three part answer.

Firstly, to avoid confusion/ collision/ concussion. it is sensible to have a rule so that coxes know what to expect.  It is open for organisers to change to port turns for a particular course (and at times there may be good reason for this) but the onus is then on the organisers to use the notice of race and coxes briefing to make it very clear to the coxes that there is a change from the normal. First answer is therefore……  because it is the rule!  So it is sensible to have consistency, but why Starboard turns, rather than turning to port?

This is principally down to  tradition.  Within many Scots fishing communities (remember that the Scottish Fisheries Museum set us on our way) it is/was considered unlucky to turn a boat “against the sun”, that is in an anti-clockwise direction.  Therefore to preserve good luck you are best to turn to starboard.  The habit extends to land too…..  if you are having a bad day think back as to whether you may inadvertently have stirred your tea in an anti-clockwise direction this morning.  Lowland Scots used the term “widdershins” to describe an anti-clockwise movement.

Finally in collision avoidance at sea the first reaction will be to turn to starboard as set out in the Collision Regulations.  If two skiffs are approaching each other head on they should both alter course to starboard to pass port to port.  If two vessels are meeting in a “crossing situation”  the vessel which has the other on her own starboard side shall keep out of the way and shall, if the circumstances of the case admit, avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel.  The way to avoid crossing ahead of the other vessel is therefore to alter course to starboard (although stopping or changing speed could also be used).  So since our natural reaction should always be to prepare to alter course to starboard, it makes sense to do this in our turning maneuvers too.

…  And its the rule!

The SCRA Rules of Racing (2013 Edition remains current) can be found under the “documents” tab above.  Please bring these to the attention of all your club mates……  rowers, coxes, regatta organisers, umpires….  so that we can all enjoy safe, consistent and enjoyable racing this year.


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Loch Ewe Open Meeting 25 Feb 2014

Another addition to the communities in North West Scotland planning to build a skiff.  A major grant has been awarded by the 2014 Communities fund (Big Lottery Fund) with matched funding from Highland Council’s Culture Fund and the Ward 6 Discretionary Fund. The kit has now been ordered by Loch Ewe Community Skiff Group.  The Group can be contacted through their facebook page, but best plan would be to go along to the meeting on Tuesday night and join in this great community project.

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Winter Sprint Success at Loch Insh

Forty members from a wide variety of coastal rowing groups gathered at Loch Insh in the central Highlands for a seminar on regatta organising on 15  February.    One of the exercises at the seminar was to organise a small regatta the following day, which is why we found ourselves on the banks of Loch Insh on a beautiful (if chilly)  Highland morning .

Ardersier Boat Club and Portsoy Coastal Rowing club had kindly brought their skiffs for the competitors to share.  Eight mixed crews had been made up  the night before, drawn from the entries received at the end of the seminar. 

Racing was held over a  sprint course of around 400m.  Skiffs raced out and back, each turning their own buoy.   Each crew raced in a heat, with successful crews going through to the semi finals and then final.

In a close final “Soy Loon”  reached the turning buoy marginally ahead.   Skiff “Esther” appeared to have the better of the turn but the crew in Soy Loon rowed well together to pull away again and cross the finish line ahead.  The winning crew were:

Displaying assorted iphone pics and video SCRA workshop 028.jpg

Will Gover (Isle of Islay),  Phil Robertson (North Berwick) (cox),  Ewan Kennedy (Isle of Seil),  Donna Martin  (Queensferry), Gillian Innes  (Eskmuthe)

Well done to all the rowers and coxes, and a big thank you to Ardersier and Portsoy for bringing their skiffs.

More photos and Video will be added to this post later.   Further reports on the seminar will be published in due course.
Stop Press……  Loch Frozen the following day!


Down Coastal Rowing Club Encouraged by Troon Visit

Jim Palmer and Harry Risk of Troon Coastal Rowing Club took their skiff Marr Voyager over to Strangford Lough area in Northern Ireland to give the interested parties there a feel for coastal rowing.  The visit took place optimistically at the end of January.
Jim and Harry's TV Interview at Ardglass

Jim and Harry’s TV Interview at Ardglass

Harry reports: “We arrived mid afternoon on the 24th and launched on the slipway at Portaferry and then took a total off 12 persons out for a “give it a go” session. It was only darkness that curtailed events.  Everyone enjoyed their row and the hospitality given to us was tremendous.”
A presentation was given in the RNLI station with a good turnout.  Harry and Jim spoke about their club’s progress over the last two years .  Alec Jordan was also there and explained the history of the St Ayles skiff.
The skiff moved on to Ballywater on the 25th and  was launched off the beach there in atrocious weather conditions.  One row was  attempted but sadly the crew were forced to abandon any further attempts.  Again a presentation was given in the Civic Center with again a very interested audience.
On the 26th Marr Voyager was take to Ardglass.  Due to high winds no launch was possible but the  skiff was greatly admired and again presentations were made in Ardglass Marina to a good turnout.
Down CRC
The partnership in Strangford Lough are awaiting delivery of 8 kits (expected 18th Feb) and they are making a film of the whole process.  The kits will be distributed to a variety of communities in the area.  Down Coastal Rowing Club has been formed to co-ordinate the community involvement.  Follow their progress on their facebook page.


Harry says “The enthusiasm shown by the Gillian,Caroline and her team is tremendous and I am sure we will see skiffs on the Lough this year. “

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Regatta Seminar Now Full

We have been delighted with the response to the regatta organisers seminar, with almost 40  signed up for the event. Thank you to all those that are taking an interest in running good regattas.

We have now reached capacity, so if you have not filled out the form yet, I am afraid you will have to wait for the next one.   This may in fact be an event we should run every spring.  If you have signed up you will hear shortly or will have heard already,  from Ali Grant  about meals, accomodation and money.  Please make sure you respond promptly when you hear from Ali, to make her difficult role of co-ordinating these matters a bit easier!   Please do not contact Loch Insh directly about accomodation or food….  they only want to talk to Ali!

There will be a slight revision of the draft programme, current draft of which can be found here.

Directions for getting to the seminar can be found at

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East Lothian Match Sprints at Fox Lake

A crisp February day saw the first Scottish Skiff Racing of 2014 (unless anyone can tell me differently).  The venue was Fox Lake, a wakeboarding centre between North Berwick and Dunbar.  The racing was part of the John Muir Winter Carnival, which featured other sports including trail running, wakeboarding, cyclocross and trail running.  Crews from each of the East Lothian Clubs (Dunbar, North Berwick, Boatie Blest and Eskmuthe) competed against each other in three races, for Men, Women and Mixed Crews.

The loch is not very big by skiff racing standards !  A very tight course was set up for pursuit racing.  Each race saw two crews starting on the same gun, one on each side of the loch.  The crews raced to see who could complete two complete circuits of the loch(both going the same direction) in the fastest time, finishing where they started.   If one crew caught the other before the finish, the race was won early.  Skillful coxing was required for the tight turns, and to avoid the various ramps used by the wakeboarders for jumps.  It was a breezy day, and more than one crew got grass on their bows following a collision with the bank at a mis-timed turn.

Dunbar finished runners up in the competition having reached all three of the finals. North Berwick came out top, with victories in the Mens and Womens events.  The crown for the mixed event was taken by the Boatie Blest Crew.  Results for each of the races below:


Race North Station South Station Winner
Ladies Heat 1 Eskmuthe vs North Berwick North Berwick
Ladies Heat 2 Dunbar vs Cockenzie & Port Seton Dunbar
Mens Heat 1 North Berwick vs Eskmuthe North Berwick
Mens Heat 2 Cockenzie & Port Seton vs Dunbar Dunbar
Mixed Heat 1 Eskmuthe vs Dunbar Dunbar
Mixed Heat 2 North Berwick vs Cockenzie & Port Seton Cockenzie & Port Seton
Ladies Final Dunbar vs North Berwick North Berwick
Mens Final Dunbar vs North Berwick North Berwick
Mixed Final Dunbar vs Cockenzie & Port Seton Cockenzie & Port Seton


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Australian St Ayles Fleet Triples!

There have been two launches in Australia in the last week to give the Women on the Water at Franklin some company for their skiff  ”Imagine”.  Cygnet Community Boat Builders have launched their first skiff .  She will be given an official launching and naming at the Cygnet regatta next month.

They are near (by Australian standards) neighbours to Franklin, so will be able to enjoy rowing in company and some friendly racing straight away.  Indeed the Women on the Water squad have already undertaken the row from Franklin to Port Cygnet along the Huon.

Further North the Melbourne Welsh Church  launched their first St Ayles skiff on 26 January, and named her “Cariad” .  We are told this is the Welsh word for “love”, and we all know that creating and using these boats can bring about a whole lot of love!  Cariad is varnished inside and out.

There are facebook pages for Cygnet Community Boat Builders and for Welsh Church, and there are some great photos of the Cygnet launch on the Living Boat Trust website.

St Ayles Skiff Kits in Australia are supplied by Robert Ayliffe of NIS Boats:

Robert Ayliffe
PO Box 843
Mount Barker
South Australia 5251
Tel: +61 8 8391 3705


Cygnet Launching on 28 January 2014

The second St Ayles in Australia is taking to the water.   “Cygnet” will be launched at Port Cygnet Sailing Club next Tuesday 28th January 2014 at 4.00pm.    This is a Community Build, led by Jeremy of Cygnet Wooden Boats.    Keep up with the project and rowing on their Facebook Page.

All are welcome to join in the festivities.  Best of luck to all the rowers and boat builders, enjoy the fruit of your labour.

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