Dame Katherine Grainger

Congratulations to Katherine Grainger for being made a Dame of the British Empire in the New Year’s honours list.  With four silvers and a gold at five different Olympics she has more Olympic medals than any other British woman, and has won six slide seat world championship golds too.  To have sustained that level of performance over 20 years of representing her country is quite remarkable.   Fundamentally though she is a lovely person and of course is a quine who has showed interest in Portsoy’s skiffs.  So we like her a lot.  Here are a couple of photos from the year that she opened the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival and had a go in St Ayles skiffs.

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2017: A Year Full of Local Regattas

Time to start planning out your rowing year ahead.  We are looking forward to 2017 having more St Ayles skiff events in Scotland than any previous year.  With our still expanding number of clubs we need more new events so that all the new St Ayles skiffs get used and our new community clubs have the opportunity to race.   If you can build a skiff, you are capable of running a good event for others who have built a skiff!  In years when there is a Skiffieworlds our experience is that there is a bit of a lull in clubs putting on new events and  there is slightly less travelling to local events, as sitting crews concentrate on preparation for the worlds.  One of the advantages of only holding the worlds every three years is that clubs own regattas can get established and flourish in the “in between” years.   Not everyone is uber competitive, but taking part in local regattas is still very positive for all clubs, as it gets efficient use out of the boats that so much effort has been put into creating.  Thirty or more rowers can use one club boat in the course of the day, and it is an excellent way to bring on rowers new to your club and give them a focus and a target to work towards.

So lets celebrate all the events that clubs are putting on…..what do we have coming up in 2017…………?  Check the 2017 Events Tab for a list of what is available (and please be sure to e mail Sue with your own event dates as soon as they are set.)  2017 sees the welcome return of excellent venues to the calendar, as well as some brand new regattas making their first appearance.

Boats Returning after a race at Coigach from buieboat website

In the North West Coigach regatta takes place on the holiday weekend of 20/21 May.  The return of the well organised regatta (in a stunning location) is especially appreciated with so many new North West clubs developing.  Hopefully we will see Shieldaig, Lochinver and Cape Wrath racing alongside Gareloch, Loch Ewe, Ullapool and others from the North West, as well as the visitors from further afield who enjoy spending time in the lovely waters around Coigach.  Other North West regattas already in the calendar are Ullapool (8/9 July, the biggest and probably the best organised regatta on our circuit), Shawbost on Lewis (21-15 July) and Shieldaig (12 August).

Shieldaig Regatta Start

Ullapool Regatta (from UCRC website)

Also making a welcome return, this time in the South East, we have Row Porty regatta at Portobello on 10 June.  A very different venue from Coigach, reminding us of the great variety we can celebrate in Scottish Coastal Rowing. Racing takes place off the beach, where the denizens of the city of Edinburgh promenade on sunny Saturdays.  Also in the South East we have entries in the calendar from Dunbar on 24 June, in the amphitheatre created by the three Bridges at Queensferry on 19 August and the wee  voyages (at speed) around Craigleith Island at North Berwick on 26 August.

North Berwick

The first Scottish regatta on our 2017 calendar is in Anstruther in Fife on 6 May.  Further up the east coast we have Broughty Ferry regatta on the Firth of Tay on 5th August.  Marvel at the facilities available to that club, and enjoy the excellent baking (as we were urged to do at every regatta by Princess Anne, Skiffieworlds 2013).  Further up into the North East another cradle of Scottish Coastal Rowing is the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival in Portsoy which takes place on 24 and 25 June 2017.  This is quite a big gathering of skiffs (usually around 18 skiffs) hosted by Portsoy Coastal Rowing Club, but part of a large festival with around 20,000 spectators available for the rowing, so worth looking your best.  It is usually real coastal rowing too, properly held in three dimensions.  There is a new regatta and open day slated in for Cromarty  on 22 July.  Hopefully more regattas for the North East will be added to the calendar in the weeks ahead (congratulations to all those who have been well organised and got their 2017 events into the calendar before Christmas!)

In the South West we have the well established regatta at  Troon (10 June) and a brand new regatta on the Isle of Arran on 24/25 June…….  not to be confused with Annan in Dumfries and Galloway, which also has a new regatta on 22 July, as well as the established Bell Ringers Raid on 23 July.  Firth of Clyde Coastal Rowing Club will hold their main regatta at Largs on 2 September, and Carrick Coastal Rowing Club will hold the Exciseman’s chase and sprint races at Maidens Harbour on 9 September.  Glasgow Coastal Rowing Club will hold the Glasgow Cup on 24 September.

Do support as many of your local regattas as you can, as well as travelling a distance to some outwith your region, to help ensure the diversity of these events.  Make sure you buy cake and possibly beer to help to fund the activities that you are taking part in.  Some of the events listed above will be limited in the number of skiffs or the number of clubs that they can accommodate, and some are invitation only, so it is worthwhile checking early doors that your club can attend.  Keep checking the 2017 events tab, for other events being added.  In particular we are expecting to be able to announce dates for some events focused mainly on Juniors.  There will be a Northern SCRA Junior Circuit and a Southern SCRA Junior circuit of events organised by clubs, three in the North and three in the South.

Enjoy planning your clubs year ahead!







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Castle to Crane: 23 September 2017

Our Christmas present to readers of the website is advanced notification of a very exciting event for 2017!  Castle to Crane (this is THE Big Clyde row) will take place on 23 September.

As part of the Clydebuilt Festival in Glasgow there are plans afoot to organise a long distance rowing challenge between Dumbarton and Glasgow.   “Castle to Crane”  will be a race open to entries from all coxed, fixed seat, coastal rowing boats.   We are hoping that replica Birlinn “Orcuan” will lead out a fleet of up to 100 coastal rowing craft from all corners.  The intention is to cap entries at 100 in the first year, so keep checking in here for notification of the official website for The Clydebuilt Festival, and details of how to enter.  Don’t miss out on the first edition of what will become a classic race.

Photo of Gal Gael’s Birlinn “Orcuan” in Princes Dock, Glasgow, from Guardian/ Murdo MacLeod

Castle to Crane will be 13 miles long, and will be run with a little bit of help from a flood tide.  If you are interested it is worth while starting to plan your training and testing suitable cushions.  Exact details cannot be released until agreements are in place with key partners, but we are confident that this will be a tremendous spectacle, run as part of a bigger festival which will be based around the Riverside Museum and the Tall Ship at Kelvin Harbour.

Oh, and offers of help, and in particular offers to bring suitable RIBs to Glasgow city centre  to act as safety craft, will be much appreciated, and can be intimated to convenor@scottishcoastalrowing.org


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SCRA Photo Competition Winner: “Yolande from Above” – Stuart Sly

Massive congratulations to Stuart Sly for his spectacular aerial photograph of Kinghorn Coastal Rowing Club’s skiff Yolande rowing on the beautifully clear water of the Fife Coast.  The photo featured as Photo of the Week in September this year and led by a clear margin throughout our competition – it’s easy to see why!

You can see the stunning video here: youtu.be/-HyDSGb1mh8

Huge thanks to all entries to our first-ever Photo of the Year competition – there are some incredible shots out there and we want to see MORE!  You can send your Photo of the Week submissions for 2017 NOW to publicity@scottishcoastalrowing.org

Keep snapping!

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North West News

Our roving SCRA treasurer Topher Dawson has been out on a bummel round Wester Ross, and has had the good fortune to drop by on two new groups of skiff builders.  Firstly he visited Lochcarron where he saw the second garboard being put on to the villages first skiff.  LochCarron Coastal Rowing Association are lucky enough to be building in a comfortable double garage attached to the manse.


Lochcarron Hog


Lochcarron Garboard Number 1


Applecross are also very keen to get on with their build! They have ordered the kit and we undertand are collecting it this week. They have not yet sourced the timber or glue but they have sourced a splendid build space, being a lovely large poly tunnel which used to be a restaurant, heated by a community hydro plant.  Luxury!

Welcome and good luck to the new builders in the North West.

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SASSOO Oars Update December 2016


Following the vote at the SCRA AGM, a group of oar experts has been assembled from Scotland, N. Ireland, England, Australia, Canada and the USA.   Topher Dawson of Ullapool, Treasurer of SCRA has been appointed as chairman of the Group.

The first task for the group was to put out a survey to clubs asking what they wanted in a standard design. Thanks to the 61 respondents for their input, which has come in over 16 days. The survey is now closed and the full results can be seen at  https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-RKPHSB8F/

Topher reports “In summary, all timber oars are seen as important or very important, so I think we can reject carbon/glass oars. By the same token, cleavers and nylon swivels are not approved of. Cost of materials <£50 per oar is not seen as so important. Clubs are pretty divided about oarlock systems. Many of the text comments show some clubs want the existing freedom to make oars in different shapes and sizes, but many also want more uniformity.”

“Clubs clearly want an oar which is easily made, balanced and hard wearing. The group is debating whether it will need to be solid for simplicity or hollow for lightness. The interplay between clashes, balance and gearing is being studied.

“Generated Exponential Entity Kilomaxwell Solvers are battling with fourth order differential equations in complex number space to bring you the optimum solution. As fresh waves of statistics pour in from all corners of the globe, the power demands of the Numerical Empirical Recombinant Data Smasher dim Ullapool’s Christmas lights and threaten to plunge Wester Ross into total darkness. What can possibly go wrong?”

The group’s next task is to gather information about good existing oars so we know what the best existing practice is. If your club has not yet taken part, please email Topher for a measurement form.  The plan is to make prototypes, test them, and bring the best to a regatta near you in order to allow the skiffing public to do a hands-on trial.


Photo by Steven Gourlay, as seen on BBC website. Spot the skiff.





Another Book for Skiffies: “The Shetland Boat”


“The Shetland Boat: South Mainland and Fair Isle” was originally published in 1984 by the National Maritime Museum.  This book will be of great interest to students of the skiff, as it really describes the whole heritage behind shetland derived boats.

It was reprinted this year by Shetland Heritage Publications, in association with the National Maritime Museum to mark the occasion of the first Shetland Boat Week in August 2016.  It can be purchased from the Shetland Heritage Shop.   Unfortunately I have misplaced my own copy somewhere in the house, so my ability to review and print extracts is somewhat limited.  It is absolutely jam packed with information about the building and using of double ended yoles and skiffs, and the small differences which distinguish the different types.  There is an explanation of the various seating layouts for rowing (one layout you will not see is four rowers, with one oar each, sitting behind each other in a row…….  as per the St Ayles).  Those with a single oar tend to be sitting double banked (two to a thwart).  There are a couple (contradictory) of accounts of rowing style, and there is also plenty of information on oars, including I recall some folk leaving them in the sun the same way up, so that the blades would warp into a scoop….  although I am not convinced by the weight that should be given to that story!


2017 Shetland Boat week will take place from 7 to 13 August 2017, and is well worth a visit, as is a trip to Unst Boat Haven, where more information about our type of craft can be gleaned.

Shetland Boat Week

Shetland Museum


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Skiff Race for £200

Thought that headline might get your attention.  However the money is not on offer for a St Ayles regatta……it was the value of a race back in 1858 on the River Clyde between Dumbarton and Bowling, when Harry Clasper a champion rower from Newcastle took on Robert Campbell of Glasgow, “the champion of Scotland”.  In today’s prices, that amounts to £22,500 for a single race, mano a mano.


The excellent book on the history of rowing clubs in Inverclyde, “Old Clyde Pullers” by Tom Mackay reproduces a report published in the Port Glasgow and Kilmacolm advertiser as follows:

On Thursday morning, about 10 o’clock, the skiff race for £100 a-side betwixt Harry Clasper of Newcastle, and Robert Campbell of Glasgow, came off between Dumbarton and Bowling, the distance being about three miles.  The weather was favourable and many hundreds from steamers and small boats, as well as on the margin of the river, witnessed the contest, if contest it may be called, for it was really no race at all.  Clasper got the start, and tantalised his opponent with apparent good humour during the whole run, leaving the “champion of Scotland” at least 200 yards behind him at the goal.  The winning of the race was challenged by  Campbell’s backers, on the ground that Clasper had gone beyond the bounds of the course; but the referee has disposed of the quibble in favour of Casper.  The general opinion  seemed to be that the objection raised, after a defeat so ignominious, was simply shabby.  The company was more numerous than select, and an immense amount of the “ardent” was consumed.  Amongst the throng there were English as well as Scotch “fancy”, and on board the  Craignish Castle a very considerable amount of money changed hands, the backers of Clasper enjoying the desponding looks of the Scotch enthusiasts.  One bookmaker backed Clasper to the amount of £150.

Old Clyde pullers,  available to purchase from Royal West SABC,  is a fascinating insight into the History of rowing in Inverclyde.  On the short piece of shore between Greenock and Langbank there used to be 15 rowing clubs, and the book tells us a little about the history of each of them.  Currently only Royal West remain on this stretch of coast.

The name of Harry Clasper lives on, with Gateshead’s St Ayles skiff being named after him.  Wouldn’t it be great if skiff Harry Clasper could celebrate the namesake, by coming up to row the stretch between Dumbarton and Bowling during 2017?



2017 Photo of the Year

Get yourself over to the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association- SCRA  Official Facebook page to vote for your favourite “photo of the week”.  The one with the most “likes” will be declared the photo of the year.  Here is a small selection:

yakadoolalargsgirvancarrick burghead

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Congratulations Isle of Mull: Cruising Log Winners

Read the full Round Mull Row Dairy to see why Isle of Mull Coastal Rowers are worthy winners from a strong entry in the 2016 SCRA Cruising Log Competition.



This was a four day supported expedition all the way round the island, a distance of nearly 100 statute miles.  Both Mull skiffs featured, with fifteen rowers pulling on oars.  One thing that made it special to those reading the log was that it truly was a community effort for a community cause.  The trip was raising funds for the resurfacing of the Dervaig Community Sports Pitch.   The rowers called in at some very special places, including Staffa and Iona.  They met and thought about some very special people.  Please do read the whole log to share in their achievement, and be inspired for your own mini-adventures.




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