Stranraer Regatta and Oyster Festival

Stranraer Regatta Report 16th & 17th September 2017

Stranraer were proud to hold its first St. Ayles Skiff regatta. A small but special group of clubs made their way to the furthest south west corner of Scotland to the beautiful Loch Ryan as part of the South West challenge 2017. The regatta coincided with the inaugural Stranraer Oyster Festival which provided the opportunity for some interesting dance techniques to be observed at “the Bash” on Saturday night alongside 500 other locals and visitors.

Annan kindly brought 2 boats to enable extreme novice crews from Stranraer to “have a go”. Whilst the camaraderie and friendly intense rivalry was noted amongst the odd bit of crew sharing and minor category stretching to get more boats out for each race. Over 60 categories rapidly morphed down over 50, and youth to novice with consultation of the visiting teams.

Saturday was a pleasant relief from the gales of the days before but with still some short chop conditions (and least likely conditions to occur on Loch Ryan with our regular sheltered breezes from any other direction) of a due northerly 12 knot cool breeze. However, after bacon rolls, cups of tea at the Coxes briefing and some Boat House envy, Colin the local coast guard and beach assistant waded into the seas to help all the boats launch for the first race.

The first race started to set the scene with Boatie Blest (with help from St Ayles ladies) showing Killyleagh and Carrick the way and Sketrick just warming to the task in the races to come. By the time race 2 got under way clearly Sketrick had recovered from their long journey and were starting to get going with a close race for first with Boatie Blest coming a second only 5 seconds behind and Carrick in third and Killyleagh fourth. Sketrick and Carrick sat out the third race with not enough of the right kind of crew to convince the umpires they could take part, by now it became obvious that Stuart from Boatie Blest lives on the boat, when he wasn’t rowing he was coxing. Also, the deep technical discussions had started (which to the newbies of Stranraer was both fascinating and enlightening), “rowlocks or pins”, “blade length adjustment and gearing”, (Perhaps this coastal rowing thing has a bit more to it than just building a boat and going for a row ed? – so as Stranraer start to build their first skiff in their new boathouse next month lots of close-up photos started being taken!) Race four was a humdinger as the over 50 men took to the water and a ringer was spotted (Topher) in the Sketrick boat. The race was close and finally Sketrick held off the Boatie Blest challenge by only 5 seconds and the fastest time of the day at 13 minutes and 50 seconds.

Race five brought great excitement, you could nearly hear the whole of Stranraer stop to cheer their hapless brave Novice crew onto the water. The Stranraer Novice crew took to the water and were very proud to fight off Annan Novices to come a creditable 3rd, Alan Thompson had kindly coxed the Stranraer crew and repeated the favour the following day. It should be noted that Boatie Blest had finished so far in front that this was a moment when Stuart was seen on the shore, tea in hand watching the Stranraer team cross the line! (We have a lot to learn).


North from the beach to Ailsa Craig


Lunch break was well deserved and the chop was building and the drizzle decided to try and dampen the motivation of the crews, but to no avail. The final three races were going to be critical to who would lift the trophy. First the Men’s Open with Sketrick, Boatie Blest, Carrick and Killyleagh in that order, which tightened the top of the table going into the Women’s Open. But again, Boatie Blest put on a big performance followed by Carrick, Sketrick in third and Killyleagh fourth. As the last race loomed it was clear the calculators were out (although later perhaps not all coxes had read the race instructions fully to realise it was the best 5 to count!), Boatie looked like they had it in the bag and nobody could pass them but could Killyleagh catch Sketrick. It was again close racing but Boatie Blest stamped their authority again, Killyleagh did beat Sketrick on the water, but not enough to pull them up to second overall.

As the boats came off the water and the crews crawled on hand and knee up the beach, they could smell the burgers and sausages on Hugh Parkers BBQ, unsurprisingly many them found some alcohol too. Those staying conveniently on Roy’s clipper in the harbour rushed off for showers to cool down (really ed?) The prize giving came and went with discussions of the day, what had been and what could have been if only.


Boatie Blest with their prize

The Bash at the Castle hotel was the main event for the Oyster festival and many crews joined us for the party and were still seen dancing at midnight. Clearly the impending Sunday 5k “fun” duck race was but a training row for these well-tuned athletes.


Colin helping the boats with their Le Mans Starts on Sunday

Sunday dawned to light winds and a calm sea. The course was laid. The fun race started, each crew 2 minutes apart in reverse order of club results from the previous day. (“I like a good chase” was heard from a small Irish voice). The clock started on land with a crew member running 100yds down the front to a paddling pool full of plastic ducks. Once one had been collected they returned to their boat le Mans style starting from the beach and off to the furthest mark turning to Port. On to a second mark making a triangle turning also to Port. Finally, as they neared the shore again there was the “Super Duck” mark with a bag of Mars bars attached. Each crew stopped and collected a mars bar and finally returned to the shore and ran to the start with a duck and wrapper. To add some spice some special prizes were also on offer, “Best Duck Impressions”, “Most Notable Cox” and “Most Notable Teamwork”.


A happy Stranraer Crew after the 5k Duck Race

The results speak for themselves, again the friendship and camaraderie shone through as the Stranraer crew, a combination of the local coastguards and staff from Jewsons (who are supplying much of what Stranraer need to build their boats) could not start with the rest of the boats and was in fact ready to go after all the other boats were ashore. Not wanting to leave the novices out at sea by themselves several clubs reselected a second crew to re-do the whole race again!

Stranraer greatly enjoyed hosting the regatta and are now even more (was that possible?) excited about getting their own boats built ready to be competitive in 2018 and beyond. A huge thankyou to the skiff community for being so friendly and easy to host. An equally large thankyou to our large team of keen volunteers to made it all possible.

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