Ten Years of Scottish Coastal Rowing

Congratulations to the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association on how far it and the community it serves has come since it was formed on 29 May 2010.

On the Start Line, Anstruther 2010

The SCRA was formed at the very first St Ayles Skiff regatta, which was attended by skiffs from Anstruther, Cockenzie & Port Seton, Portobello, Coigach, Ullapool and North Berwick. They were all new to the sport, and indeed the North Berwick boat was launched for the first time ever shortly before the first race. These communities and others had been building St Ayles skiffs under the Scottish Coastal Rowing Project, an initiative developed by the Scottish Fisheries Museum and Alec Jordan of Jordan Boats. The Project involved the Scottish Fisheries Museum commissioning Iain Oughtred to design a boat, which Alec Jordan could supply as a kit to communities for construction. The idea initially was to resurrect coastal rowing on the Fife coast, but the Project was so successful that six months after its launch skiffs were in build all around Scotland.

The six clubs with skiffs were joined at a meeting during the regatta by representatives of other clubs, including Dunbar, Royal West of Scotland (Greenock), Eyemouth and Queensferry. The meeting founded the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association, and formally adopted three key documents: The SCRA constitution, the SCRA Rules of Racing, and the Measurement Rules for the St Ayles Skiff class. Robbie Wightman of North Berwick, Ian Clark of Royal West, and Topher Dawson of Ullapool were elected as Convenor, Secretary and Treasurer. The Association acknowledged (and continues to acknowledge) the great debt it owes to those who were involved in the preceding Project. The influence of bodies such as the Cornish Pilot Gig Association, Irish Coastal Rowing Federation, and Shetland Yoal Racing Association must also be acknowledged for providing inspiration. However it was important that the new sport of Coastal Rowing was organised by and on behalf of those who were actually taking part in it. Except for the racing organised by SYRA in Shetland, there had been no inter-club coastal rowing in Scotland for decades. Thus the need for the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association, its rules and structures.

In the first season of racing regattas were held at Anstruther, Portobello, Eyemouth, North Queensferry, Portsoy, Cumbrae, and North Berwick. At least one rower managed to race at every regatta in the season, something that is no longer possible. The sport has grown so much that on some weekends four or five regattas can be on at the same time in different corners of Scotland.

Convenor of SCRA Stuart Mack (stroke) and Past Convenor Robbie Wightman (bow) enjoying a row with other SCRA committee members at Portsoy

SCRA has been a forum for clubs to share the knowledge that they have built up. The strength of the Association comes from the clubs that form it, and the work and dedication that goes in to keeping those clubs going. Each club generally starts with a group of enthusiasts wanting to build a boat. The SCRA completed and hosted the instructions for building St Ayles Skiffs. Sharing knowledge has always been an important function for SCRA. The association has gone on to develop guidance and training for coxes, rowers and umpires.

Most of the events that rowers take part in are organised by SCRA clubs.  SCRA keeps a calendar of events, so that everyone can plan where their blisters will come from. SCRA itself though has organised major events that bring the clubs together, including Castle to Crane (a 13 mile race from Dumbarton to Glasgow in September each year), touring events (the Jacobire Muster, RowAround Scotland) the Freshwater Sprints (held in October each year, and raced by regional teams) and of course SkiffieWorlds, the world championships for the St Ayles Class. 

The St Ayles skiff movement became a world wide phenomenon fairly early on. The first overseas builds were in the United States. These were joined by builds in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the Netherlands, with more countries joining later. The SCRA assumed responsibility as International Class Association, and spread good practice and (with varying degrees of success) compliance with the measurement rules, so that international racing could be fair and successful.

The idea for Skiffieworlds came from Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club. After a competitive bid process, SCRA (acting now as Worldwide Class Association for the St Ayles skiff) asked Ullapool to host the first Skiffieworlds, which it did superbly in a glorious week in July 2013.

Skiffieworlds 2013 at Ullapool

The St Ayles Skiff movement became increasingly international. Skiffieworlds 2016 was awarded by SCRA to SLLP, and hosted on Strangford Lough in Northern Ireland.

Strangford (Photo: Allan Robertson)

SkiffieWorlds 2019 was held in a July week in Stranraer.  It was attended by more than 30,000 spectators.  It featured over 1,500 athletes and the economic impact on the area of the event has been independently assessed at between £3.5million and £4million. SCRA is passing the responsibility for awarding and organising SkiffieWorlds to a new body, St Ayles Skiff International (SASI), who will announce in due course where SkiffieWorlds 2022 will be held.

St Ayles Skiff International agreement at Stranraer

register of the St Ayles that have been launched can be found elsewhere on this site.  Also check our clubfinder to see if there is a skiff near you.

With the formation of other national class associations, and St Ayles Skiff International, SCRA can concentrate more on the functions that it performs for its member clubs closer to home. The sport of fixed seat rowing continues to grow in Scotland, with 80 or so member clubs of the SCRA, with another 20 or so SYRA clubs, giving the opportunity for thousands to participate in fixed seat rowing every year. A variety of fixed seat boats are now in use, with Teifi Skiffs, Cobbles, Jollyboats, Celtic Longboats, Pilot Gigs joining the St Ayles Skiffs and Shetland Yoals at events such as Castle to Crane. The SCRA Picnic Class continues to grow, with a championship race at the Freshwater Sprints each year.

It is, of course, a bit of a shame that we are celebrating our 10th Birthday at a time when no one is out on the water in St Ayles Skiffs because of a global pandemic. Our major birthday celebration is Rowaround Scotland, and positively it is going ahead. Please do follow our virtual progress on the RowAround Scotland website.

SCRA has come a long way in ten years, and continues to grow. The friendships that have build up in our communities and between communities is its greater acheivement. SCRA is not just about boats, it is about people, great people at that.

Many folk are owed thanks, from those behind the project that started all this off, the past and present members of the SCRA committee, the clubs and member committees, and all those who have taken part with enthusiasm and a real sense of community. Happy Birthday.

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