The Loch Awe Adventure 2019

This event was well named, because visiting Loch Awe is indeed an adventure. Loch Awe is Scotland’s longest freshwater loch at 25 miles from end to end, eighty miles of shoreline, and several small islands. Coastal Rowing is quickly spreading inshore, and this event has shown one again what close competition you can have on tideless waters. Thank you to Ewen Kennedy for the following report, with additional photos from Chris Mitchell.

The arrival of skiffing on Loch Awe is entirely due to the efforts of Gordon Leveratt and his wife Maggie, making what I hope isn’t too stressful a journey from an organised world to the wonderful anarchy of the skiffies. Having built the lovely Mingulay, Gordon established the KIDS (Kilchrennan, Inverinan and Dalavich CRC) and they already have sufficient numbers to justify a second skiff.

Dalavich had always been a bit like Brigadoon for me, a place I wasn’t quite sure existed, although I’ve lived nearby for over thirty years. I can confirm, as can fifty tired rowers, that it not only exists, but offers one of the best bases for a skiffing event that you could wish for. There’s plenty of space for parking and unloading, a huge level campsite, cabins available for those who want some luxury, including hobbit rooms, a community centre with a proper hall for ceilidhs and nearby the Wild Rowan Cafe with great home baking. Gordon had laid on everything for a safe, happy, competitive event, including even a towing buggy to the launch site. I missed the Friday arrivals and the musical evening with Martin McLaughlin on the bagpipes. Saturday morning was a bit dreich and rainy at first, but soon cleared to allow a lot of social rows and “try a row” sessions, also some great trips to the dreaded prison island of Ardchonnel and some of the twenty two local crannogs. While I was out with North Queensferry we saw the local osprey take a fish back to her treetop nest, worth the trip for that alone!

We had a great meal in the hall in the evening, followed by the ceilidh hosted by local group All About the Cake, locals Laura Neville, Jane Wilding, Jeannie Holles and Andre van Well playing out of goodwill. The fear an tighe, Guy Neville, managed to get about forty skiffies up to dance a passable Reel of the 51st Division.

Sunday was much brighter, with almost still water. I had agreed to hold one end of the starting tape, always quite nerve wracking when there’s a biggish fleet on a transit. Despite our general dislike of discipline skiffies do rise to the occasion and the fleet lined itself up straight for a perfect start. All I had to do was pull the trigger, then off for banana cake and coffee while ten crews battled it out.

Being a land based event the distance was 7.4 statute miles from Dalavich to Taychreggan, then a crew change and an individual start for the race back.
The outward race was astonishingly close, with Sandbay from St Andrews covering the distance in 1 hour 16 minutes and 8 seconds, followed by Arran’s Seabhag 22 seconds later, five boats within the next 12 minutes and finally the KID’s own Mingulay on 1 hour 37 minutes. It’s a great tribute to the Renegades that they made the whole trip without a crew change and
achieved times of 1 hour 25 out and 1 hour 39 back. The fastest boat on the return trip was Seabhag with a run time of 1 hour 19 minutes, followed
by six boats in the next twenty minutes, then Blue Bay, Mingulay and finally St Moluag on 1 hour 48. Combined results made Arran’s Seabhag the overall winners, then Sandbay from St Andrews and Yolande from Kinghorn. We had a good shore crew working on the times, Heather writing them up and Nigel making sure that the right boats got the right times!

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