Kathy Mansfield Photos from Portsoy

kathy old harbour

Kathy Mansfield is an award winning marine photographer who was invited by the organisers of the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival Portsoy to attend and record the 2014 festival.  Her top quality photos really catch the drama, excitement and outrageous fun of rowing St Ayles skiffs, and are available for purchase.  She writes on her blog:

“There haven’t been five fifies in Portsoy harbor for over 150 years — they were the stars of a great gathering, the other stars being countless St Ayles skiffs who despite the strong winds and swell put on a great show with their racing. Add to that the sailing boats, plenty of shanties from British and Norwegian groups, some top Scottish traditional music, food, ceilidhs, crafts — and the inauguration of the North Sea Ring, a coming together of traditional boat groups from around the North Sea. Photos are now uploaded, email Kathymansfield@mac.com for skiff photos @ £15, an event CD at £25 and others by request.”

Have a browse of Kathy’s website gallery for your favourite skiff. Some fantastic pictures in there.

The photo above shows Eskmuthe’s skiff Honesty turning to enter the Old Harbour, Portsoy.  The one below shows half the SCRA committee testing the water in Boatie Lodge (and the joinery as it turned out).  No one was harmed in the taking of this photo, and not a drop of water was shipped in the boat either!

Kathy Committee


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Ullapool Regatta Report

Ullapool pulled off another fantastic regatta, with racing on Friday over a 2km course,  timed sprints on the Friday night, a full day of racing on the Saturday over the 2km course, a ceilidh on the Saturday night and a picnic by skiff on the Sunday for those who did not have to start their travels early.  It was the largest gathering of St Ayles skiffs so far this year, with 19 skiffs lined up along the beach.  The skiffs were from Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club (2), Loch Broom Sailing Club, Ardersier, Coigach (2), Isle of Mull, Isle of Seil, Newburgh, Bunillidh (Helmsdale), Wick, Crail, Anstruther, North Berwick, North Queesferry (with a combined North/ South Queensferry crew, referred to as “Mid Queensferry”), Portsoy, Stornoway and Troon. Finally it was a great honour for the hosts to welcome Gairloch’s new skiff Longa attending her first ever regatta.



The St Ayles skiffs  were joined by a Cornish Pilot Gig from Falmouth Gig Club, who had been persuaded by a member who had been at the Worlds last year that Ullapool really was a place they should visit! The Gigglers, as well as demolishing the field in their gig “Energy”  with its 12 feet of extra water line length and slightly piratical St Piran’s flag,  gamely took to the water in the borrowed Ullapool High School skiff Cul Mor, and placed very respectably in their races.  A real pleasure to meet fellow rowers from a different discipline.



Sea conditions were very flat throughout the regatta so times were fast and races were generally very close and hard fought.  Places were shared around a wide variety of clubs which is always pleasing to see.   The Friday was a stunning day with clear blues skies and warm sun, what we have become used to when racing at Ullapool.  (Note for future…  do not assume it will always be like this.) Although a record length of start line was in place with 16 skiffs starting in some races, heats and a final were still required in the 50+ mixed event, which was won by Anstruther, followed across the line in turn by Helmsdale, Loch Broom SC and Crail.  Anstruther could not repeat the win in the 50+ ladies however, being just pipped by North Berwick on the line, followed in third by host club Ullapool.  Coigach won the 50+ men, with Ullapool taking second and Newburgh third.  North Berwick won the 60+ mixed by some distance, ahead of Ullapool in second and Isle of Seil in third place.    Unfortunately there were not enough crews to make up a ladies 60 + race.  Crail won the mens 60+, with Ullapool getting another second, and Troon taking the bronze medal position.

The Friday night sprints were very close with less than a second seperating the top 3 crews.  At the time of writing we do not have the times to hand but can report that Helmsdale were the winners.


ladies line dance

The forecast for Sunday was for rain, but in the end conditions were pretty reasonable with only the odd light shower passing through.  The sea remained flat and the competition remained keen.  First race of the day was the 40+ Men.  North Berwick in a middle lane just managed to stay ahead of Anstruther on the far side of the course, who had gained an advantage with a tremendous turn.   Crail held off three crews on the inside lanes to take third place.  Forty plus ladies was won by Anstruther, in a very fast time, ahead of Crail and Ullapool.    North Berwick had to retire from the 40+ mixed when they broke a thole pin on the start.  The race was taken by Crail, with Falmouth recording their best result of the day with a second, and Helmsdale coming in third.  The under 17 mixed was run during the same race, with both the junior crews being reasonably placed in the adult field.  Coigach won the U17 crown ahead of a crew made up from North Berwick, Royal West and Ullapool, rowing in Isle of Mull’s boat.


An experienced Coigach crew won the open Men’s event, with their under 19 crew also placing well in the same event.  North Berwick came in second, and Bunillidh (Helmsdale) came third.  Anstruther won  the Women’s Open followed by Crail and North Berwick.  North Berwick were racing in Lily-Rose, very kindly lent to them by Coigach while repairs were carried out to Skiff John B’s broken pin.  It was not a surprise to find that Ullapool Hardware store sells spare thole pins, although they do describe them as “Kitchen Roll Holders” for some reason.  Anstruther also won the mixed open ahead of  Newburgh and Bunillidh (Helmsdale).

Ullapool managed to enter every event and place well in most, so although they did not have any individual victories they won the overall points competition.  The Falmouth Rowing Club were awarded the trophy for furthest travelled club.  There was an award for the best performance in the points competition by a New Club (as defined in the SCRA rules of racing as a club which is in its first or second calendar year of putting crews forward for racing.)  This year the prize was earned by Isle of Mull Coastal Rowing Club and their skiff Eala Bhan.  The skiff is very well used on the Island, with a big demand from all round to get out on the water in her.  This is a club to watch for the future!

mull new club


Thanks to Chris Perkins for these photos, more of which can be viewed on the SCRA Flickr page.   Please do add any good photos that others may want to see to that collection!  See also the great photos on Steven Gourlay Photographer’s Facebook Page, including aerial shots.

Thanks once again to Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club, and their supporters from Loch Broom Sailing Club, for a fantastic weekend of skiff racing and friendship.

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Ullapool Regatta Results

Your correspondent is just back from a fantastic weekend in Ullapool.  A report will follow, but in the meantime here are three photos of the racing from Ian Mills.  Many, many more photos from Chris  Perkins on the Scottish Coastal Rowing Flickr group.  Results can be found on the Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club Website.





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Flotillas and the Commonwealth

As many will be aware Galgael were working with members of the SCRA to see if an event in Glasgow city centre could be put on during the Commonwealth Games and to coincide with the Commonwealth Flotilla.  Unfortunately restrictions on parts of the River which could be made available for the use of rowing boats and the lack of changeover facilities mean that the event cannot be run.  We are happy to look again at running an event in Glasgow City Centre as a stand alone event in the future if the support is there for such an event from rowers and from the relevant authorities. …

In the meantime, anyone who is keen to take part in a flotilla event shared with many other vessels should think about the Flotilla on the Forth.  This event is to be held on Sunday 7th September, the day after the Queensferry Rowing Regatta, so many St Ayles skiffs will be in the area.  It  forms part of the Forth Bridge Festival, celebrating 50 years of the Forth (Road) Bridge.  Space are limited, so please register for that one ASAP.

Also, for those keen to see a bit of Commonwealth Games action, Firth of Clyde Coastal Rowing Club are going to be providing a guard of honour for the Commonwealth Games baton relay as it passes across the Isle of Cumbrae.  This takes place on  Tuesday 15th July  at around 10 30 so crews will need to be on the water before then. In addition to the Cumbrae and Firth of Clyde skiffs there will be some other Clyde based boats there, and all skiffs are welcome to join in.  Once the baton has left Millport some form of entertainment will be devised,  possibly an expedition to the neighbouring island of Wee Cumbrae.  Contact the club through their facebook page for more information

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“The Vennel” Launched at Irvine

Troon,Carrick,Firth of Clyde and Royal West welcomed the new Irvine skiff to the water on Saturday.  Troon had made the voyage down to their new neighbours by sea.

The new skiff is named The Vennel after a competition involving local primary schools saw Max Adam from Primary 4 at The Glebe Primary School win the competition. The colours of the boat were designed and picked by Brooke Martin also of Primary 4.

Building Something Special at the Scottish Maritime Museum

Building Something Special at the Scottish Maritime Museum

The skiff was built  by trainees at the Scottish Maritime Museum’s Boat Building School.  The Scottish Boat Building School at the Scottish Maritime Museum was formed earlier this year with the aim of providing learning opportunities to young people from the local area.rience.  Martin Hughes, boat building academy manager – “ We are immensely proud of our trainees who have done a fantastic job in bringing the boat to life, they’ve worked very hard and it’s been brilliant to see their skills and confidence developing.”

vennel launched

The newly formed Irvine Coastal Rowing club are the proud new owners of the boat and are currently looking for members to become involved in this healthy growing sport.  They have access to a sheltered tidal river and basin, as well as the the open sea.  Contact Andy Jones to get involved:    07527 670087 or andyjones2208 – ‘at’ – hotmail.com

Thank you to Harry Risk from Troon for sending in these photos.  Also, see the report in the Irvine Times.

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Long Distance Racing with Vikings on Loch Fyne

As part of the Loch Fyne Viking festival, an invitation was sent for St Ayles Skiffs to take part in a  twelve mile row from Tarbert to Ardrishaig, in the company of the replica viking vessel.
vikings 184
Mid Argyll coastal rowing club provided their two skiffs, one crewed by their own club members,the other crewed by a mixed  team made up of Kerr Mitchell (Mid Argyll) ,Ali Grant(Rowporty) ,Ian Clark (Royal West) ,Bob Dawson(Troon) and a new rower Seoras from Tarbert.
The race saw several rotations in the crew positions,the race was won by the visitors in approx two and a half hours,the runners up about half an hour behind.  The conditions were pleasant with calm water for most of the event.
vikings 226
The final leg saw the lead skiff observe the longship heading into the harbour.  A final burst in to pass it into the harbour and finish line.  A lone piper standing on an outcrop of rocks piped the crews  home,  a lone kilted sentinel on the opposite bank stood by a blazing beacon.  As a climax the rowers with the Vikings were piped into The Corner House pub for food and well earned ale.
The coastal rowers got to have their turn as vikings, trying their hand at rowing the replica.  There are a large number of photgraphs of the event shared on the Loch Fyne Viking Festival Facebook Page.  The whole escapade is explained by Ali Grant in an excellent on line write up “A Skiffer in a Longship”.
The race was only one leg of the adventure for the longship.  Here is a video of the Viking ship underway, which is published on You Tube. Local man Phil Robertson built the viking longship for the Loch Fyne Viking  Festival.   The festival celebrates the historic 1093 portage by Magnus Barefoot  across the isthmus at Tarbert with a Viking long ship in his successful bid to claim Kintyre as and island, and therefore part of his Kingdom. Using the longship  several villages along Loch Fyne were raided during a two-day trip. In each of these villages Viking activities took place to celebrate the viking heritage of the villages and their communities.

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More Launches Coming Up

Just in case you thought the flurry of skiff launches was coming to an end….

The first skiff for the newly formed Irvine Coastal Rowing Club will be launched  on Saturday 5th July at 3 pm at the Scottish Maritime Museum, Irvine.  The skiff has been built in double quick time by the Boat Building School, which now forms part of the museum.  Skiffs from Troon and Royal West are due to be in attendance and anyone else is welcome to come along and join in the fun !! Pupils from Glebe Primary School in Irvine have chosen the name and the colour scheme.

Two skiffs will be launched on 19th July.  At Helmsdale the second Bunnillidh skiff will take to the water.  She is due to be officially launched into Helmsdale Harbour at 3pm.  The name of the new skiff will be “Pride of Bunillidh” – in keeping with traditional fishing boats of Helmsdale.

Blyth (just North of Newcastle)  is also due to launch on 19 July.  The name of the boat will be Crofton, which is a reference to Croftway Academy but also to the Crofton Pit in that area.  The Blue colour scheme chosen reflects the anecdotal evidence that historically in the 1890′s Blyth rowing boats were blue.The plan is for her to row  row away in the company we hope of Gosforths, Grace and Bykers skiff.  A club, Blythe Community Rowing Club, has been formed to look after the skiff.

Think you will have time to catch your breath after that lot?  Unlikely….   skiffs from Avoch and  Wick will also be launched soon.  Any others you know of?  Please let us know: convenor@scottishcoastalrowing.org


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Waves, Photography and Portsoy Results



It can be quite tricky to capture the texture of the sea in a photograph.  The colours can even matters out, the edge of the waves cannot be seen against the background of other waves, and perspective is lost.  Having a St Ayles skiff in the shot can help to solve this problem, as these photos from Boatie Blest rower Jon Gerrard show.





Rest assured potential skiffies, no one is made to go out in these conditions, and most of the time conditions are much more benign.  The boats do give you confidence when you are out in them.   The skiffs appear to handle the rolling swells really well, as you might expect from the long heritage of this type of hull in these types of waters.  And when it is really bad, you can usually find some shelter.  The photo below shows the Dutch crew from WSV Woudrichem racing on the Saturday at Portsoy and, yes,  the whole race course is visible in this photo!


Finally as a reminder, the results of the Festival Races are now available online.

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Spray and Foam Rowing at Portsoy 2014

The Scottish Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy is a real showcase event for St Ayles skiffs and Scottish Coastal Rowing.  The weekend event is usually attended by around 20,000 people  and the skiff racing can be one of the most exciting parts of the festival.  The festival had a record turnout of skiffs this year, 17 all together.  Soy Quine, built by the Portsoy Skiffettes, and Soy Loon, also built in Portsoy were joined by skiffs from Ullapool,  Catterline, North Berwick, Portobello,  Eskmuthe,  Anstruther, Stornoway,  Newburgh,  Crail, South Queensferry, North Queensferry,  Collieston,  WSV Woudrichem (Netherlands),  Firth of Clyde (Fairlie/ Largs) and Cockenzie/Port Seton (Boatie Blest).

Many skiffies without boats were also there to take notes.  I am sure there were others, but those who identified themselves included Gourdon, Montrose (fingers crossed), Burghead, Bristol, Avoch, Findhorn and Women on Water of Tasmania.

As a special treat for the coastal rowers this years festival was opened by Olympian Katherine Grainger on Friday Morning.  The Portsoy skiffettes were thrilled to have a row with Katherine, who has taken an interest in the Portsoy club from early on in the build of Soy Quine.   More on that hopefully in a later post.



Saturday did not look promising.  The campers of skiff city had been woken by rain drumming on their tents, and drifting down to the harbours and looking out to sea they were met with a Northerly (onshore) wind and a swell breaking into foam and spray on the rocks around the harbour entrances.  The tops were being blown off the whitecaps, which themselves were extending 20 meters along the tops of some waves. However the rains stopped and the sun peeped out every now and again.  Was it time to go rowing?


The planned long distance races in the bay to the west of the Old Harbour would be neither safe nor enjoyable with a breaking beam sea, but folk had travelled a long way and our skiffs were looking pretty as a static display, but bring far more joy underway!  A plan was therefore hatched to bring the racing inside the New Harbour.  This of course required skiffs to transfer across the gap between the two harbours, giving the watching crowds (and the crew members)  a bit of a thrill……

Soy Quine surfing

Those who know Portsoy will know that the new harbour is not a big space in which to race, so skiffs were to do their bit one at a time, on a time trial basis.  To make things a bit more of a challenge the race course was set as a  race from the slip to the far end of the harbour, where coxwains would order their crew to undertake a 360 degree turn.  Crews then had to back their skiffs up around 50 meters to a buoy, where they executed a 180 degree turn, before slapping the water 3 times with their blades and then racing the few meters back to the slip.

The results were entertaining, challenging and (I think) conducted without damage to the skiffs or the lovely boats that were moored round the walls of the harbour.  The co-operation and good will of the other boat owners and the safety crews has to be acknowledged.

The time trials were extremely close, and in general the neatest crews, who were happy to listen to their coxes, got the fastest times.  Crews with more than one chief in the boat were easily identified!  RowPorty (Portobello) won the Women’s and Mixed competition.  Boatie Blest (Cockenzie and Port Seton) won the Mens.  Full results can be found by clicking on this link.

On the return to the Old Harbour, some skiffs ventured out to sea to test the conditions.  They were certainly challenging, but the St Ayles design showed how well she can ride a nasty sea under oar power.  Thank you again to Mr Iain Oughtred, designer of the class.  An evening reception in the Tatty Shed was well attended, and not many of the coastal athletes appeared to be saving themselves for the next day with an early bed time.

Sunday was again challenging.  The sea was slightly more predictable, but there were still plenty of white caps about, and the shore to the west of the harbour looked particularly unwelcoming.  Again making the best of what they had, the organisers decided that long distance races were not on, and instead organised a sprint regatta in the harbour fairway for those that were happy to be out in the lively conditions.  Categories races were Men 40+, Women 40+ and Mixed Open.  The course was from a line between the two harbours, out to turning buoys (each crew turning their own, to starboard) and back to the line.  Two crews were on the course at a time, but the prizes were decided on time, rather than by knockout.  Full results can be found on the same link as before. The winners were:

Mixed open Boatie Blest 3:59
Womens 40+ Rowporty 4:10
Mens 40+ Boatie Blest 3:25
fisherrow racing
The trophy for overall points went to Boatie Blest,  and The Best Newcomers award was presented to Collieston, who finished well up the field despite only launching their skiff “Admiral Redsocks” a few days before the festival started.   The hospitality offered to skiff crews was fantastic, and each rower was presented with a hand painted pebble, featuring their club’s own skiff,  an amazing gift for all the skiffies, and a great momento of the weekend.  Previously the racing at Portsoy had been organised by the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association and their friends.  It is a great step that all aspects of the organisation were very well ru by an enthusiastic group of skiffies from the local club, a sign of a club that has very much come of age.  Thank you Portsoy.
There will be plenty of photos from the weekend, and this post will be updated with some, and with the full results.  Please do upload your best photos to the SCRA Flickr Group.  In the meantime there is a great set on Eskmuthe’s Flickr group, from which the surfing photos above are taken.


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Gairloch Launches “Longa”

 The Gairloch Community has celebrated the launch of its first St Ayles Skiff.  The boat, named ‘Longa’ after an island at the mouth of Loch Gairloch, was officially launched by Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for Ross and Cromarty, Mrs Janet Bowen.  A large crowd turned out to celebrate under blue skies and many tried their hand at rowing the skiff around Gairloch bay.  The Coigach skiff made the journey down from Achiltibuie to welcome her sister into the water.

longa kids

The Gairloch St Ayles Skiff was built in a club member’s garage and funds for the kit were raised by donations from members of the community.  Funding was received from the Rotary Club, Ross and Cromarty Sports Council and Highland Council to purchase paint and safety equipment.  Several local businesses also provided sponsorship and materials.  The boat’s colour scheme was designed by students from Gairloch High School, who were rewarded with the first outing in the boat at the launch.

Gairloch Coastal Rowing Club Chair Karen Thompson said “It has been a amazing community effort to get the skiff built, painted, kitted out and on the water.  We are really proud of what we have achieved and delighted by the support of the community, who we hope will make good use of the skiff from now on.  We are delighted that members of other Northern coastal rowing clubs have come along to support us today, and we are really looking forward to racing against them in the future.”

Gairloch Coastal Rowing Club will compete in their first regatta at Ullapool on 11th July. Longa is the 67th UK St Ayles skiff.

Longa kiss

Photos from the Gairloch Coastal Rowing Facebook page  (plenty more photos to see there) bottom one by Lulu Stader.


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