Islay Festival of the Sea

Last weekend saw Islay Rowing Club hosting a new event as part of The Islay Festival of the Sea in Port Ellen.  The two home boats were joined by Gobhancroit with her formidable Galgael team and by Boatie Rows with a team from Boatie Blest, assisted somewhat by friends from Anstruther.

For the visiting teams the weekend started with very a pleasurable ferry trip to the breezy but fortunately relatively sheltered North Bay at Port Ellen.  Happy campers were accommodated in the front garden of the White Hart Hotel, a short stagger from the beach, and made good use of the facilities on offer there.  Saturday brought a steadily falling wind for the main festival events, which consisted of lots of good music, good food, good company and of course Galgael Graft.  With rowing events scheduled to commence at 4pm there was plenty of time to enjoy the festival before gathering on the beach to discuss the races.  In true Islay fashion these kicked off when everybody was ready and consisted of a 1k course, rowing parallel to the shore with a single buoy turn.  Islay raced ahead in the men’s open event before the Boatie Blest/Anstruther crew got to grips with the island ways and took first in the mixed open.  The trend continued in the ladies open, with the Boatiestruther team taking first again after a closely fought first leg.  In a surprising turn of events the Boatie Blest men’s 40s team (bronze medalists in the Worlds) found themselves pitted against an unsuspecting young family of holidaymakers from south of the border and after an entertaining race, which included a false start and several stops to allow the newcomers to re-group, they secured another first place.  A fine showing by the under 16s from Islay brought the longer races to a close to be followed by several short sprints, won in convincing fashion by Islay, current World Champions in this event.  Individual race prizes consisted of bottles of the island’s finest produce.
As dusk started to fall the action moved back to the beach, where a tug-of-war competition was to take place.  Islay once again triumphed at this event, with the Boatie Blest men’s crew hauled over the line rather more quickly than they might have hoped.  The Islaboatiestruther ladies fared a little better with two closely fought pulls securing them a medal for second place.  This seems to have compensated for the perhaps slightly undignified experience of being dragged head first though the sand.  The overall Championship was won by Boate Blest (with assistance from Anstruther).
Saturday night was, for many, a bit of a blur as a mix of ceilidhs, pub sessions and beach bonfires continued well past most sensible folk’s bedtime.  Sunday brought more fine weather, a welcome lay in, farewells and, in my own case, an intensive field trip to some of Islay’s fascinating coastal architecture, most of which fortuitously relates to the distilling business.
A fantastic event in a beautiful location with some of the friendliest folk around.  This must be one to add to your own events list for next year?
Gareth Jones
Boatie Blest



  1. #1 by Elsie on 7 August 2013 - 10:21 am

    Seconded by Anster/North Cockenzie contingent – a fab weekend indeed!

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