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SCRA Safety Notice 3: “Racing Incidents”

During the course of 2017 the SCRA committee has received several reports of incidents during St Ayles skiff racing where there has been contact between skiffs or, at least as worryingly, contact between the oars of one crew and the rowers in another crew.      They have occurred in a number of venues and race types.  For example crews in races where each have their own turning buoy have managed to collide when one is coming out of the turn and one is going in, and crews in round the island style races have collided when one chooses an inside line that was not there.

No serious injuries have been reported, but everyone should be working together to try to reduce these types of incidents.  Such incidents damage the reputation of the sport, as well as potentially causing serious injury and damaging equipment.

Specific recommendations arising out of the incidents as reported are as follows:

Race Organisers

  • Ensure that crews are going to be sufficiently spaced out at the turn.  If sharing a single buoy, ensure that there is sufficient length of course (at least 1km) before the turn to allow the field to thin out.  If each crew has their own buoy ensure that the buoys are sufficiently spread out (at least 20m, but more would be good) to allow crews to turn.
  • Ensure any conditions that will affect the line taken by crews are highlighted in the coxes briefing, including describing how they might change during the day.  If the wind or tidal conditions do change significantly, consider briefing coxes over the radio before the start of later races.


  • Umpires should ensure that they are well positioned at points where racing incidents are most likely to occur.
  • Ensure that you are able to communicate clearly with crews.  This may be by radio, by using a loud hailer or by using the human voice, if you can get close enough.  Order the cox to acknowledge receipt of the communication.  Clear communication is key to ensuring the safety of crews.
  • Intervene in every situation where safety is compromised.   Use your authority to prevent collisions if at all possible.
  • If a hull to hull collision takes place, or a collision between oar and a crew member takes place, one or both of the crews should be disqualified from the race.    As crews come to expect this, we anticipate that fewer collisions or near misses will occur.
  • Lesser penalties, such as a 360 turn, can be used to mark infringements that do not result in such contact.

Coxes and Crews

  • It is everyone’s responsibility to avoid a collision.  Everyone starting a race must accept that avoiding collision is more important than that crew’s own placing in the race.
  • Coxes have to build up their experience in races.  If a crew has an inexperienced cox, they must be sure to be supportive of them, and provide guidance to them where necessary.  The cox however remains the steersman and skipper of their boat. Their crew must obey orders of the coxswain, and the coxswain is the main communicator with other crews and with officials.
  • In multi buoy turning races, the crews should do a tight turn, and complete that turn before setting off again on a new course.


Everyone organising or taking part in a race should be familiar with the SCRA Rules of Racing which are there to promote safety as well as fairness.  We need informed and confident umpires, and would urge all skiffies to consider going on an SCRA Umpire Course, to help improve the quality of all our races.


Congestion at a Turn. Photo by Steve Thomson



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Procession of Boats and Races at Newport, Fife

News just in from the Fife Herald of Thursday 20 September 1868:

The regatta season of the Newport Amateur Rowing Club was brought to a very satisfactory close on Saturday afternoon by a procession of boats from Newport to Balmerino, four miles up the river, and what are called the procession or consolation races were pulled off by the boats in returning down. For once the Rowing Club was favoured with glorious weather. The afternoon was everything the heart of the keenest boater could desire. There was hardly a breath of wind, and the surface of the water was smooth and unruffled. The boats began to muster to the east the steamboat pier at Newport between two and three o’clock, and by the latter hour everything was readiness for start. The flag-boat Cruiser took position a little to the east of the Old Pier, and the procession led by the Commodore in the Fiery Cross, moved round the flag-boat in beautiful style. The procession started off at a pretty smart pace, and some of the crews had no time to fall asleep in keeping the line. After passing the steamboat pier, the Tay Ferry steamer Forfarshire, with a large number of passengers on board sailed past the rear the procession, and then steamed up to Balmerino. The sight of the boats as they skirted the shore unbroken line was very fine. When the leading boat made a swerve to either side, all the rest of the boats did the same, and the sinuosities thus made caused the boats to look like a long gaudily coloured sea serpent ” screwing” its way up the water. At least so thought a highly imaginative rower on board one of the boats, and he affected to pity his companions who were so prosaic that they could not realise or appreciate his novel idea. After a delightful pull of fifty minutes, the boats arrived at Balmerino in the order in which they started, not single hitch or break having occurred in the procession. The boats having been drawn up on the beech or moored at the pier, drawing for places was proceeded with; and after short rest several of the crews started down the river to be ” in at the death.”

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SCRA Coxing Course (North East)- 4/5 November 2017

The next SCRA cox training course will be held on the Moray Firth (probably Buckie) on the 4th and 5th of Nov.  There will be theory based sessions and (weather permitting) on the water sessions too.  Each day will be approximately 1000-1600. 

If you would like to take advantage of this opportunity, please contact either Stuart Mack or Ali Grant  by  email.  Places are limited. Closing date is the 29th Oct (AGM).  

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No Motion for Standard Oar at SCRA AGM 2017

Having taken extensive advice and very much appreciating the amount of work that a group of skiffies have put into researching oar and oarlock design, the SCRA committee have decided not to move further towards a standard system at this stage.  Below is the explanation for this decision, and some useful knowledge that has come out of this research.  Although not coming up with a standard design to be adopted by all, it has been a useful and worthwhile process, and we must thank all those involved.


Over the winter of 2016/17 and during the 2017 season an international group of oar enthusiasts researched oar and oarlock design as it applies to the St Ayles Skiff.  We sent clubs a survey and published the results, which indicated overwhelming support for all timber oars and a desire not to go to stainless and plastic gates.  We then set about gathering detailed information on the best oars in the class. We measured their length, section, stiffness, weight, balance force and gearing.

There were three strands to the research, which were oar blades, oarlock systems and oar shafts.

The oar blade research was to see if spoon blades offered a competitive advantage, and over a season the conclusion is that they do not appear to offer any significant advantage at sea and can in some situations be hard to extract in waves. Although it was an interesting experiment it was not in the end worth pursuing and the SCRA committee is not bringing forward a motion to allow spoons.

All the oarlock systems currently in use in the class and in other boats were examined, and assessed for simplicity, low maintenance, low friction and accuracy of pitch. The most commonly used system, pin and plate, has wear and pitch problems, and some of the alternatives which use a wooden gate are hard to make. Don Currie of New Zealand has made a simple system similar to pin and plate which is much quieter and wears less. I have also made a system which rests the weight of the oar on top of a ball ended pin and has no contact at all between the oar and the gunwale. Both are legal under the present rules, if used with a wooden pin. Plastic (acetal) pins were tried and found to be smooth and hard wearing, but if used with systems which do not rest the oar weight on the pin they can pop out of their tapered holes. They are not currently allowed for racing, and there is no current plan to change that,  although they can of course be used for training.

The oar shaft research found that as oars get longer they are increasingly hard to balance, leading to some oars being very hard to lift out of the water. This is very off putting to new rowers, especially smaller women and young people who we should be encouraging. Lead counterweights have been specifically banned in the rules, but it was found that by making the inboard section of the oars bulky and/or heavy hardwood, and by carefully tapering the outboard section and blade, and making them out of light softwoods, it is possible to make strong stiff oars which have less than 2.5kg unbalanced force at the handle. These oars are currently legal and are of a solid rectangular section, so fairly easy to make. By placing the pins for oars 2 and 3 in blocks glued to the inside of the gunwales and thus moving the pins inboard by about 70mm, it was possible to limit the length of those oars to 4.5m (14ft1.5inches) which helped to balance them.

In summary we know a lot more about current oars and what makes them good or bad to row with. We established that all current competitive clubs row at a gearing between 2.6 and 3.0 with most rowing around 2.8.   Strong crews in calm conditions find the higher gears suit them , and less strong crews in a headwind find the lowest gear much better. Thus we made systems which can easily change gear to suit the rowers and conditions.

We have managed to find two better oarlock systems than the pin and plate. We have also developed an easily made design for a balanced oar shaft which takes less effort to row with, and does not need an expensive bought hollow shaft. This design has the number 1, 2 and 3 oars at 4.5m (14ft 9 inches) long with the 2 and 3 pins slightly inboard and stroke at 4.3m (14ft 1.5inches) long.

If oars become longer than 4.5m it is increasingly hard to balance them and keep them stiff enough, although several successful clubs have oars as long as 5.2m (17ft).

We have not found any new features worth changing the rules for. There is a case for adopting a Standard Oar to make a more “level playing field” but it would be a political decision rather than a technical one and the SCRA committee (in its role as international class association) is not presently putting this forward.

Most of the plans and information are freely available at

For the real oar anoraks, the entire archive is at

The (international) Measurement Rules for the St Ayles skiff is here:

Topher Dawson, October 2017.


“Go on, tell me all about your oars”



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SCRA Umpire Course 27 October 2017

Come and join the SCRA Umpire Course, and help to drive up the quality and fairness of our competitions.  The Course will take place on 27 October at Loch Tummel Sailing Club, from 5pm to 7pm.  Umpires can then practice their skills at the Freshwater sprints the next day (which will not preclude them from also racing).  If you would like to join the course please e mail .  Maximum numbers 15, so no more than three members from any one club.

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Forty Five Miles in a Day – Celebrate December with Woudrichem round Altena


We all love to row round our island, but how does that feel if your Island has a 45 mile circumference? Woudrichem have invited skiffies from England, Scotland, Northern Ireland as well as neightbours Heusden and Gorinchem  to join them to find out.  In December.  The event is a fundraiser for “Serious Request”.  The club have been in touch to tell us about the event:

What’s Serious Request?
Every year, a week before Christmas there is a national fund-raising for the Red Cross organized by radio 3FM. This year the money will be used to re-unite parents and children who lost each other in a war or a disaster. We will raise money by rowing for this charity.

What’s the challenge? We’ll row around the island Altena. 45 miles in one day! We row in relay so don’t be afraid you won’t make it.


8.00am start at Arkade WSV Woudrichem
5.30pm finish
5.30pm free dinner at our clubhouse Arkade
6.30pm visit to historic marina where all ships will be lit
8.00pm ‘Winter Wonder Woudrichem’ in town
10.00pm the clubhouse is open to party


We try to keep costs for rowers very low by having sponsors for lunch and dinner during the row tour. There is a tip jar for hiring the partyship.
We expect from each participant a minimum of €10 donation for charity.

Where to stay:
We can imagine UK participates fly in on Friday evening and return on Sunday (daytime or evening).
We arrange (free) staying with our rowing members like last time.
Our members will welcome you in their home where you can sleep and enjoy our hospitality. For diehards it’s always possible to stay on a campsite haha.

Want to take part in this spectacle challenge?
Enter now!
To enter this row tour (or for further information) email with the subject line: Registration Serious Request 2017

Closing date for entries is 1th December!



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Glasgow Cup Runneth Over

On a dreich September Weekend Sunday, nine clubs bravely turned out at Kelvin Harbour to race for the Glasgow Cup. Although many of their number were still aching from the rigours of 13 miles in the Castle to Crane race the previous day, crews from Anstruther, Boatie Blest, Carrick, Eastern, Dundrum, FOCCR,GCRC, Queensferry and Woudrichem were undaunted by the conditions and put on a wonderful display of rowing for the spectators on The Glenlee and on the quayside attending the excellent Clydebuilt Festival.


The 1500m Course began with an upriver leg keeping to the south side of the river, with the benefit of incoming tide, from The Glenlee to the Graving Docks. There a tight buoy turn to port led the skiffs across the river to carve a course around a second buoy, to be taken again to port, before fighting against the tide back to The Glenlee and the Finish Line.

Huge thanks are due to Colin of Anstruther on his RIB, not only providing safety cover, lifting and laying marks, but regularly clearing debris, much more efficiently than we saw at Henley, from the Course.

Adam Graham, Umpire, kept a close eye on the observance of the letter and spirit of the SCRA Shared Buoy Turns Etiquette Reminder and had no incidents to report, which is very pleasing and of great credit to the competitors.

So, despite the dreadful weather, aching limbs and tiredness, hard competition in all categories gave the hardy supporters and spectators plenty to cheer about.

After a strenuous day, and six categories of racing, the worthy winners of the Glasgow Cup 2017 are Dundrum, who are thereby invited to return to the next staging of the event and defend their title.


Detailed results are available on the GCRC website.

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Freshwater Sprints Notice of Race 2017

Each year members of SCRA clubs gather at a fresh water venue to race together in the Freshwater sprints.  The regatta is held on the day of the SCRA AGM, and is raced between regional teams rather than individual clubs, in the hope that every club in the SCRA will be represented in their regional team, and will then also be represented at the AGM.

In 2017 we are returning to Loch Tummel sailing club, who have very kindly agreed to welcome us back after doing a fantastic job of hosting us in 2016.  If you would like to take part please make sure that you contact your regional captain, so they can slot you into the team.

Full details are in the Freshwater Sprints 2017 Notice of Race.

Freshwater Sprints 2017 are sponsored by Teal Trailers:



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Waves at Prestwick Regatta

There was a return to real coastal rowing, when Prestwick hosted their second Regatta.  The club launch off a fairly exposed beach, and clubs were treated to fairly brisk conditions and reasonably sizeable waves.  For the second year running Arran, who brought two skiffs with them, were overall champions.  Results here:

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Notice of AGM 2017

Notice of AGM 2017

SCRA AGM Saturday 28th October 2017

Scottish Coastal Rowing Association AGM
28h October 2017
6.00 p.m. start (Coffee/tea & biccies available from 5.30 p.m.)

Location: Loch Tummel Sailing Club Clubhouse

Draft Agenda
1. Apologies
2. Minutes of Last Meeting (SCRA AGM 29th October 2016)
3. Matters Arising
4. Treasurer’s Report
5. Convener’s Report
6. Election of Officers and Committee
7. Skiffieworlds 2019
8. Oars Group Report
9. Any Other Business
– items under this heading must be advised to the Secretary no later than the 17th October and must be submitted by clubs only. Any submissions under this category must be in the form of a motion.

Election of Officers and Committee:
Member Clubs shall send their nominations for the committee to the
Secretary by the 10th October 2017
Please pass suggestions for items for the Agenda to the Secretary by 17th October.

The AGM is a meeting of clubs.
We can only guarantee space for two representatives per club.
Anyone speaking at the AGM is speaking on behalf of and as instructed by their clubs.
It is therefore helpful if clubs have discussed any of the issues that are going to arise in advance of the AGM.

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