First Nith Navigation Race Contested by Six Crews

Six crews drawn from four clubs enjoyed the inaugural “Nith Navigation Race” on Saturday.  The race was organised by the Ports of Dumfries Development Group and  Nith Navigation Commissioners, and kindly supported by the Arts Association.   It was an opportunity for St Ayles skiffs to race in the South West of Scotland for the first time.

Crews enjoyed navigating this historic waterway.   The race started down at Glencaple, with a briefing sensibly held in the cafe where everyone was catching up with their late breakfasts.  A small tidal bore made its way up the river as crews were unloading, and by the time the crews, drawn from Carrick, North Berwick, North Queensferry and Troon were on the water, they had to row down a short distance against a three knot flood tide to get to the starting line.

Crews were set off at roughly 30 second intervals and proceeded  the 6 miles up river to a finish at the Whitesands Dumfries, the head of tidal navigation on the Nith.   The race was started and finished by Dumfries’s “Cornet” the lead rider of the annual riding of the marches.   Clever coxing was rewarded.  Initially the 3 knot tide assisted the crews, but this dwindled, and by the time the crews passed under the road bridge they were battling against the stream.  Coxes who moved from the centre of the river to the slower flowing side at the correct point therefore won a distinct advantage for their rowers.

Fastest Crew was the North Berwick Men’s Open Double in “Speedwell”, who were presented with a selection of cheeses,  surely a tradition that has now started and has to be continued!  The Nith Quaich for fastest mixed St Ayles crew went to St Baldred from North Berwick, narrowly beating the other North Berwick boat, Skiff John B.

nith race - close finish

Remarkably, after an hour of rowing, and having been set off at intervals, Ailsa Lass (Troon CRC), Carrick Maid (Carrick CRC) and Ferry Sonnet (North Queensferry RC) all pulled through the last bridge side by side in a line across the river.  The Troon boat had the oldest crew by some distance, and held off the youngsters.  Ferry Sonnet had the distinction of having made up their crew by grabbing someone off the street (shown smiling in the photo below at the finish) who had never rowed before!  He was in fact one of the Cornet’s “lynors” (support riders) that swapped his horse for a boat thanks to the persuasive powers of a young lady from one of the crews.   Despite the blistered hands he said that he thoroughly enjoyed it and would do it again.

nith race 015


Well done to them all!  Full results as follows:

1  St Baldred            53 mins 20 secs

2  John B                   54 mins 50secs
3  Ferry Sonnet      60 mins  45secs
4  Carrick Maid       61 mins  10 secs
5  Ailsa Lass             64 mins 00 secs

Double Scull:   Speedwell        53 mins 00 secs

The almost complete Annan Skiff was brought down for crews to see in her smart livery.  She will be launched in Annan on 22 September.

Following the race there was a row in company from the town centre a mile back to the Kingholm Quay where the boats will be lifted out.  In the absence of a slipway this was done vertically, using a “tele handler”, a fork lift type thing for the uninitiated, and slings.  The skiffs came straight up from the water and were swung round onto their trailers, a system which worked very well.  The crews were treated to burgers at the Swan Hotel, followed by the presentation of prizes, with every crew being given a presentation bottle of whisky to reward their efforts.
All crews were made to feel very welcome.   The voyage was a good distance for the crews, and the hospitality top class.   The tidal river made for an interesting trip, and rowers should consider this area for a challenging expedition row some time, possibly joining up Dumfries, Annan and a raid across the border.  Very careful consideration of the tide table and tidal streams is required!
There was no entry fee for this event, but  crews are reminded that if  they wish to contribute they can make a donation to the local inshore rescue service Nith Rescue .  Full set of photos of the Arts Festival, including many from the Nith Navigation Race can be found on Flickr.
Other clubs should consider attending next year.  September is a great time for expedition rowing.  Two further events are planned later this month.  Carrick host the Exciseman’s Chase on the Ayrshire Coast at Culzean Castle and Dunbar are organising the Paxton Picnic on the River Tweed,  both events taking place on 21 September.
  1. #1 by Harry Risk on 11 September 2013 - 4:58 pm

    Troon CRC enjoyed this row but must say with a combined age of the 5 crew members at 345 years(is this a SCR record?) maybe a handicap system could be introduced in the future in timed races.

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