SDCRC Storehouse regatta report

Despite the yellow weather warning and dreich outlook, 6 hardy Highland clubs and Umpire/ Safety boat pilot Commodore Fred Fraser, and his assistant Dave Bilsland, from Invergordon Sailing Club turned out, ready for action at the Inaugural SDCRC Storehouse regatta.

Crews from Chanonry, Golspie, Loch Carron, Nairn, Sutor Skiffies, and Strathpeffer kitted up for the monsoon conditions, and fielded teams for a variety of sprint races. Despite reduced turnout due to the weather, the community spirit shone through, and smiles were all around as we swapped rowers, and made sure boats had crews to go ahead. The races all ran to time and the shared slipway launching was a great success. The RNLI zoomed up the Firth midway through the regatta, and launched their inshore boat to come onshore for refreshments. The Storehouse kept everyone topped up with warm drinks, delicious food, and great banter from the Chef in the outdoor kitchen.

The day had a full programme of racing, with 225+Mens, Open Women’s, Open Men’s, 225+ Mixed categories,  finishing with a Septuagenarian’s race, where all rowers must be over the age of 70. In addition to the Septuagenarian race, Strathpeffer organisers put their own twist on the SCRA 225+ and added the requirement that the 225s must include a 70+ rower. SDCRC wanted to allow skiffies in this age group to get their chance to shine, and it was wonderful to see such demand for our august rowers. Auctioning them off as a fundraiser was considered, but in the spirit of the day, we decided to lend them out, with promises extracted that they would be returned unharmed!

Many of the tough coastal rowers raced in multiple races, and gave everything of themselves to whichever club they were rowing for.  Loch Carron rower Doug deserves a particular mention, he raced in 4 sprints over the course of the day, at 82 years of age. A hardy Highlander indeed ! A skiffie high 5 is deserved by Nairn too, they brought 6 rowers who had never been to a regatta before, and they all had a great time . It was fantastic to see Chanonry racing. Club Chair Sandra was a very busy lady, filling in crew sheets and keeping her boat in the water for nearly every race. For SDCRC, it was a particular success that we ran a regatta that all of our neighbours could compete in.

The rain cleared just as racing finished, and the prize giving presentations were brought forward to allow attendees the chance to dry out before the afternoon expeditions. Sutor Skiffies had a very successful day, winning 5 of the 6 races, with Nairn taking the hard fought Open Men’s, by only a few seconds over Strathpeffer. The Septuagenarian’s race was a huge success with 4 boats entering. The winning skiff Juniper had a crew from 4 different clubs; Golspie, Strathpeffer, Avoch, and Sutors, and the Strathpeffer boat was coxed by a marvellous chap from Golspie named Dick.

Cromarty based Sutor Skiffies won the overall SDCRC Storehouse Regatta for 2019. They were delighted to accept the Oar Trophy designed and crafted by SDCRC builder Conrad Gwyther, made from wood used to build Grebe, Skiff no.176. Rumour is that the trophy will be displayed in Cromarty, at the club Chairperson Ingrid’s shop.

After the prizegiving, an afternoon expedition to Castle Craig was planned, but all clubs decided to forego this longer row in favour of a dash to (and under) the Cromarty Causeway. Golspie’s boat Creag Airgid joined in for this, as did Nairn and Ardersier’s Esther with Strathpeffer’s Grebe and Nairn’s Dulsie rounding out the expeditionary quartet. The Cromarty bridge was ticked off of Golspie’s bridge bagging list (created in honour of founder member Campbell Port, who passed away last year). It was lovely to see Esther in the water too, she is St Ayles no. 54, and has just undergone an extensive refurbishment by combined Nairn and Ardersier club members.

Huge, huge thanks to Invergordon Sailing Club for bringing their rib as our safety vessel/ Umpire boat (and staying out in the soaking wet, chilly rain all morning), we couldn’t have done it without you. Massive thanks to our wonderful host venue, The Storehouse of Foulis, and Quintin, the always supportive owner, and his remarkable staff, for everything you do for us.. We are so fortunate! Thanks also to the RNLI for bringing their offshore, and inshore, lifeboats down for us to marvel at, and to the RNLI for their lifejacket checking stall, it is good to remind us all to stay safe. Finally, thanks to all who braved the torrential rain and wet, and still stayed smiling. We are what Scottish Coastal Rowing is all about! Ends.

Comments received:

What a fabulous day! Thank you, thank you!

It was a great event and so well organised from the parking ushers, the help with trollies, the delicious food and (the charming chef! )to the the unusual medals and gorgeous trophy but most of all the great spirit that Strathpeffer showed. You were so generous with support to all the teams finding crew and supplying septuagenarians !!…helping launch and retrieve boats, you really illustrated what Scottish coastal rowing is all about.  Thank you very much.

 It is amazing how much fun you can have in torrential rain! 

Everyone in our party enjoyed the day and greatly appreciate you and your teams Herculean efforts to pull it together and cope with all the last day of summer chose to throw at you – definitely helped having hot coffee and bacon rolls on tap plus a warm cafe to retreat to and thaw out now and again – hopefully the presence of soggy rowers didn’t upset too many customers!  What was special for us was that this was the first regatta for six of our party and they all thoroughly enjoyed the day – think what’s possible when the sun shines…..

Just to say a huge thanks to you and your fab team for a great regatta – the organisation was just perfect, although morning weather was a tad challenging for you guys . we thoroughly enjoyed our time with you and especially the row under the bridge. thank you so much for  that.

I admire your courage and optimism which enabled you to persevere and deliver a fun event despite the Highland’s Summer Monsoon. You and your team team did an amazing job delivering an enjoyable and friendly competitive day for everyone. We all enjoyed the day, the venue and the event and look forward to being invited back.

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Portsoy 2019

For the first time the main regatta at Portsoy was a stand alone event, as the boat festival earlier in the year had been too close to skiffieworlds. Thank you to our Quine with her ear to the ground for the following report. Results can be found here:

The forecast did not bode well, but the morning of Saturday 31st August started fair and calm and the first ‘go-it-alone’ Portsoy Regatta got off to a cracking start with the 10 clubs competing in the men’s open. The 2k race with a port single buoy turn, set off in staggered heats was excitingly close, with only 8 seconds separating the first 3 boats, clinched by Golspie. The women’s open was even closer with 8 seconds between the first 4 crews, but Portsoy just managed to hold on to get a home win!

The weather started to close in for the Men’s 50+, won convincingly by Golspie and conditions were familiarly Portsoy challenging for the women’s 230+ with a long hard slog to reach the first buoy against the waves and the wind (I know, I was rowing it!!). Another convincing win by Golspie, do we see a trend arising here??
Conditions were then such that the decision was taken to have an early lunch in the hope that things would improve. Unfortunately they didn’t! The heavens opened and there was a deluge of almost biblical proportions! A day of two halves! Time to retire to the Shore Inn or to prepare some absolutely amazing outfits for the evening’s 60’s, 70’s and 80’s Fancy Dress party. All I will say is that rowers sure know how to have fun…!

We reconvened on Sunday morning (with a few sore heads, tho’ Golspie managed to have a tent after party!), mainly dry, but the wind had swung round to the North, which creates the worst possible conditions in the channel between the two Porstoy harbours. After a couple of bumpy reconnaissance trips in the rib, with regret, it was decided it was unsafe to proceed. It was very cosy in the Salmon Bothy where we endeavoured to finish off all the pies, sandwiches and fancy pieces before the prize giving!

Thanks to the generosity of so many members of the community, we had some fantastic trophies to present as well as the medals. There were no surprises that the new Alex Slater trophy, made by Carn Standing (who also created Portsoy’s dolphin statue on the Dounie) for overall champions to Golspie.  The Portsoy Pottery plate made by Brian Shand of Portsoy Marble for fastest men’s race won twice over by Golspie! (Their men’s open and men’s 50+ crews both had exactly the same winning time!)
The skate mosaic donated by Caroline Hobbs for the fastest women’s time, won by Portsoy. And finally a pottery mug by Nic Whitehouse to Findochty.
It seems that most people enjoyed their weekend despite the weather and limited racing and we would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who supported out event.

Once again the Press and Journal have come up with a very good report on the skiff racing. We applaud their interest and their journalism.

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Montrose Skiff Launch: 14 September 2019

Good luck to the community of Montrose, who are launching their first St Ayles Skiff on 14 September. Some of the club members have already experienced coastal rowing with neighbours Catterline and Gourdon. However it is wonderful that the rest of the town are now going to be able to revive a tradition. There has been plenty of competitive rowing out of Ferryden and Montrose, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Read about it in the Courier.

So well done, and good luck to Montrose. Particularly to the crew that are going to race in the Castle to Crane race just one week after launch!

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Barra & Vatersay Regatta

Rowers from An Eathar, Rowflo, Pittenweem, Golspie, Port Seton & Cockenzie RC and Anstruther gathered in Barra at the weekend to attend Barra & Vatersay CRC ‘s first St Ayles Skiff Regatta. The event was hosted in association with Coimhearsnachd Bharraidh & Bhatarsaidh.

The opening ceilidh was held in Vatersay on Friday evening and rowers danced the night away to the music of the Vatersay Boys. On Saturday morning skiffs were lined up on the airstrip as the plane landed on the beach.

On Saturday evening rowers enjoyed a relaxed sunset row in company out of Àrd Mhòr ferry port, seeing beautiful scenery and wildlife – the eagles were a highlight!

Sunday’s rowing races saw Golspie win the overall, Women’s and Men’s prizes and Rowflo took home the Hebridean trophy. Rowers enjoyed a break in the sun to watch the Hebridean Princess arrive at the pier. 

Big thanks to Claire Logan who organised the event, for her island hospitality and kindness to all the rowers who were on Barra over the weekend. 

Nach math a rinn sibh – Chì sinn ann an 2021 sibh! Well done – see you again in 2021!

Photos by Jon Gerrard

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SCRA North East Championships Results 2019

Results from the SCRA North East Championships, held at Cromarty on 16/ 17 August 2019, are as follows:

See the excellent report in the P&J for more.

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North Berwick Regatta 2019- The Results

Flat seas? Not what we are used to at North Berwick, but we were faced with near perfect conditions for the challenge that is the annual series of races around the Island of Craigleith.

NE Corner of Craigleith, Men 40+ : Steve Thomson

FULL RESULTS are available elsewhere on the wold wide web. As ever there was entertaining racing to be had throughout the fleet, with everyone enjoying the endurance of a lengthy race with a variety of challenges. Honours were widely shared throughout the fleet, with wins for the Hosts in mens open, mixed open and Men 50+; wins for Broughty Ferry in Ladies Open and 40+. Troon came through from the west and were delighted to go home with a gold medal in the mixed 45+. Eastern won in the men 40+, a crew of novices from Eskmuthe took home a gold medal in their class, a first win for this East Lothian club at the North Berwick Regatta. Another East Lothian Club, Boatie Blest, took home the gold in the ladies 50+ Crail won the 240+. So that was ten races, with seven different winners, a very pleasing outcome.

Broughty Ferry, Queensferry, Alnmouth Eskmuthe at North Berwick Regatta : Steve Thomson

In addition of course there was a bronze medal for Alnmouth, representing England for the day in the mens open, and a silver for a Rest of the World crew in the mixed novice, that crew containing rowers from Kinghorn, Broughty Ferry and Bradford. Outside the medals, but very welcome none the less were Dunbar, Arran and Queensferry.

All photos on this post are from an excellent set of photographs by Start Umpire Steve Thomson

North Berwick Mixed open receiving their medals: Steve Thomson

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A Skiff kit for nothing*

* There is a catch!

Skiffie Worlds has inspired one old newspaper hack to start something new. Maxwell Macleod was the first journalist to pick up on the St Ayles back in 2009. Now he wants to use the Skiff to improve the lives of Type 2 Diabetes patients. In his own words – and some of them are not easy reading…

Two years ago I was a fat journalist with a Mother who had died in my arms from a heart attack, quite possibly brought on by the fact she was a diabetic (Type 2) so you would have thought I would be wise enough to lose weight and take some exercise, and so reduce my chances of following her.

Wrong on both accounts, so almost inevitably I had my own heart attack and developed Type 2 Diabetes.

D2 is a bloody horrible condition. It greatly increases your chance of blindness, losing limbs, heart attack, and stroke. I’m sixty seven. If I don’t look after myself, statistically I have a very high chance of not seeing my mid-seventies. And I’m not alone. There are perhaps three million people either with Diabetes 2 or standing a very good chance of acquiring it in England Wales alone. If we don’t do something about it as a nation there’s a good chance it will bankrupt the NHS. None of this is in any way exaggerated.

But I personally did indeed do something about it. Lost two stone in a couple of months (ruddy nightmare but it worked!) and now take an hour’s exercise a day. And it’s in remission. Probably come back and bite me in the arse eventually, and I may join the four hundred and fifty odd D2 sufferers who are losing toes or limbs each week in England and Wales.  Like I say it’s a horrible condition.

But there is hope. New research suggests that if you do lose weight very fast (under medical supervision) you may well do as I did and put it into remission.

Those of us who have managed this are called the XD2ers. I am launching the XD2 club for them.

It’s a harsh old business. If you fall off the wagon you are out of the club. Expelled. This is not a club for fat people who are hoping to get rid of the weight and join us. We are the elite. We made it. Hope you can join us. Very good wishes, but the SAS don’t have people in their ranks because they are sorry for them. Life is tough. Dying early is tough. Going blind is a nightmare. We XD2ers are doing our level best to avoid such things.  And giving others a target to join us. We are not after your sympathy. We are not disabled, indeed many of us are fitter than we have ever been in our lives.

So, anyhow. Skiff rowing. What’s the connection? Well we XD2ers have two things we have to fight against. Firstly, getting fat again and secondly not keeping at the top level of fitness.

Neither will guarantee that we remain in remission, but they sure as hell will increase the odds in our favour. So, we are raising money to build our own skiff. Well it won’t be our own, it will belong to a club. The deal is we raise most of the cash to build it, hand the cash over to a club (ideally within an hour of Edinburgh) on the understanding that we can use it for XD2 demo races at regattas for four week ends a year. 

Oh, and the boat has to be called the XD2. The concept is that those XD2ers from all over the country who want to keep fit do so at their own clubs and are then invited to row with the XD2.

But we need an associate club. It could be anywhere in the Edinburgh area. They get the cash, or most of it, to build the boat which is theirs but have to allow us to use it for our demo regattas.

We have had a lot of support from across the Skiffie community, but so far no offers from clubs. 

So, there’s the deal.  If interested, as Paul Macartney put it, send me a post card, drop me a line, indicate precisely what you mean to say. 

And maybe we can do business.

Maxwell MacLeod
Dowies Mill House
Dowies Mill Lane
Edinburgh EH4 6DW.
07908 870604


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Green Flag Awards 2019

We are privileged to row in some of Scotland most beautiful locations, from the remote to the urban, in rumbling seas to placid lochs. Over the years, our clubs have been at the forefront of reducing waste and caring for the coastal environments that we call ‘home’. Many do this simply as a matter of routine. In recognition of those efforts and to inspire others to do the same, the SCRA developed the prestigious, SCRA Green Flag Awards. A total of 6 of these were awarded at last year’s AGM, to great applause. The first 2 green flags were awarded retrospectively to 2 trailblazing clubs: Isle of Seil and St Ayles, Anstruther.

Isle of Seil have been using their skiff, Selkie, to remove litter from the remote beaches and islands around the Firth of Lorn for several years now. Interestingly, they tell us that the vast majority is commercial debris from fish and mussel farms.  This year’s efforts include removing 100m of fish farm pipe from Eilean Gamnha which proved to be just the right gauge for the cox’s railway boat launching system! Recycling at its best.

Meanwhile, over in Anstruther, St Ayles Coastal Rowing Club led the way in terms of zero waste regattas. Not only did they buy-up their dishes, cutlery etc from charity shops to avoid disposable plastic, when the regatta was finished, they washed it and donated it all back again! That’s clever. St Ayles also championed the ‘bring your own mug’ to regattas, something so easy to do, that it’s become another bit of kit.

Isle of Seil and St Anstruther were joined by a further 4 clubs , who became 2018 green flag recipients:

Rowers from Girvan joined forces with their local Rotary club to remove well over the equivalent of 800 bags of litter from 9 separate beaches. Phew!  93% of that lot was deemed to be plastic-based litter. Sadly, they tell us this was up 23% on the year before. Amongst this, they found quite a few spent gun cartridges which they say gave them pause for thought!

Girvan rowers in beachwear

Musselburgh’s Eskmuthe, have been campaigning for better water quality and cleaner beaches for some time now. They have become the ‘eyes of the public, directly reporting any concerns to SEPA. As well as inspiring over 60 community volunteers to mobilise for beach cleans, they have developed a sprint version with their “2 minute beach cleans”. On that note, how many bits of beach litter can your club pick up in 2 minutes? Come on, we know you like a bit of competition.

Over to Arran Coastal Rowing Club next, who dispensed with plastic bottled water, arming themselves instead with 25 litre refillable water containers with help yourself taps. They’re a right crafty lot, that – making their medals from hand made soap and hand turning mini-fenders from recycled wood. Who wouldn’t want to win one of those? Arran also tell us that following their regatta, the remains of the draught beer was ‘recycled’ by the committee. I’ll drink to that!

Our final 2018 award went to Glasgow Rowing club who joined forces with the Marine Conservation Society UK and Keep Scotland Beautiful for an epic clean up of the slipway and pontoon near the Riverside Museum, in advance of Castle to Crane. A total of 14 volunteers removed 38kg’s of litter including a large duvet (possibly from a water bed?!?).  The most surprising find was collecting nearly 2000 plastic stems from cotton buds along an eight metre stretch of slipway. These have been passed on to an artist, Littoral Art, who will use them to create a sculpture with cotton buds collected from UK beaches.

If you are inspired by these clubs, please organise your own ‘green’ projects and don’t forget to tell us all about them. You too could be the proud owners of a Green Flag Award. If your club wants to get their hands on one of these prized trophies, the procedure is very simple.  After your event submit a report (with a few photos) for publication on this website.  In the report just give us a couple of sentences on the steps taken to reduce your impact on the environment, and how successful they were.  Send your report to .  Lovely green flags will then be awarded at the discretion of the SCRA committee at the AGM.

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Row the Minch expedition 12/8/19

5 members of Ullapool CRC planned and executed a row in the skiff Cul Mor from Stornoway to Ullapool, 50 miles, on Monday 12th August, in aid of the MS Society.

MS is more common in the west coast and the Highlands than elsewhere. Most people here are related to or know at least one sufferer.

The row was in the planning for more than a year, both to get the maximum publicity and to build up fitness. The crew did long rows in the rowing machine and built up to 20 miles in rowing trips. They had an average age of 57 so were not in the first flush of youth. There were two women and three men, and they rotated places every 45 to 60 minutes.

To get the best weather window they chose a 9 day period during which they were all available. Although Saturday 10th August was their ideal day for publicity it had poor weather, but Monday 12th had a favourable forecast of gentle westerly winds and good sunshine.

On Sunday 11th they crossed on the ferry, the skiff having previously been sent over.It was a lumpy crossing in the ferry with many passengers being sick, and the support boat Lady Nicola also had a very rolly crossing in the northerly swell left over from several days of northerly winds. The Lady Nicola was crewed by its owner Andy Holbrow and me, with its regular crew Mike joining by ferry on Sunday night. He reported that many ferry passengers had been sick.

The trip can be thought of as three parts. The first 5 miles are sheltered by Stornoway harbour and then by the Eye peninsula. Then you are into the open Minch for about 30 miles, followed by 15 miles of increasingly sheltered water among the Summer Isles and into Loch Broom.

At 0400 on Monday it was dark but streaks of light were just apparent in the sky, and in a glassy calm the skiff left Stornoway in the company of two other skiffs, Madadh Ruadh and the West Side skiff, plus two locally owned yachts. The Lady Nicola led the way through the harbour buoyage. Cul Mor had port, starboard and aft navigation lights, which were LED powered with dry batteries. They were on a short mast behind and above the cox, so as not to dazzle him or her. The batteries lasted the whole trip of 14.5 hours.

Outside the harbour the escort said goodbye and the skiff led, navigating by a small plotter bolted to the gunwale. As they left Lewis behind there were no waves or wind but a 1.5m swell from the north. The crew tell me that three of them began to feel seasick at this point.

They made good progress at about 4.2 knots. A small wind from the south sprang up and slowly built, but the waves were at first small and did not hamper the skiff. This wind was forecast but the forecast was then for it to go to the SW and W which would have been a tail wind. Instead it built up to 15-25mph from the S, which directly opposed the northerly swell, and from halfway over the open Minch to the first shelter the going became increasingly difficult. The waves built to about a metre which piled against the swell to make confused and irregular crests, some of them breaking. They were on the beam which is the hardest to row in. Some slapped the skiff and sent spray into the boat, so the crew had to bail for a few minutes at every changeover.

It was during this 15 mile stretch that the support boat crew and some of the skiff crew wondered if the skiff could make it unaided, and the support boat closed up to about 100m aft of the skiff. We were aware the skiff crew were seasick and although I was available as a spare rower it would have been a good feat of seamanship by Andy to transfer crew without damage to the skiff or crew. We did have a diver lift at the aft end of the Lady Nicola which could be lowered and raised from sea level to deck level. If we had needed to assist but did not want to transfer crew, we would have thrown them a rope and towed them to shelter. It would not have been fun but
it would have been straightforward to do. In the event no people or gear passed between the skiff and the support boat, so the skiff did it entirely unaided.

Amazingly the skiff crew plugged on and at the 35 mile mark passed into the shelter of the outer Summer Isles. We were all relieved. Coigach Lass came out of Eilean Dubh to join us, and an Ullapool motor boat and a Coigach yacht. As the flotilla progressed into more and more shelter more boats joined, and the Calmac ferry gave us a hoot. We had 3 skiffs, two other rowing boats and 6 motor boats by the time the skiff landed on the beach with about 100 people clapping. It was a great welcome.

– Having several days to choose from is a way to get the best weather
– However forecasts are not always right even if settled for days.
– Seasickness can affect skiff rowers even if experienced.
– In the open sea it is possible to become disoriented, whether using a
compass or a plotter, and point the boat in the wrong direction. Distant
landmarks are useful.
– Crew transfers between boats in wavy conditions are hazardous. In previous trials we used an inflatable yacht tender as a stepping stone between skiff and support boat. The skiff was tied bow and stern alongside the support boat, squashing the dinghy which acted as a big fender and as a safe place to catch crew. We should have taken a dinghy this time, in retrospect.
– Due to seasickness one of the skiff crew only had 6 sips of water and no food
for the whole trip. She was fine as soon as she stepped ashore.
– The skiff carried two VHF radios which worked well but not all of the crew had practiced radio procedure. This did not matter much as they soon
learned and there was no other traffic on the chosen channel.
– Support boats need to go very slowly to stay with a skiff and at these low
speeds they tend to roll badly, plus they have exhaust fumes. Thus the
support crew also need to be resistant to seasickness.
– When the skiff was not being rowed she lay beam-on to the seas and drifted slowly downwind. The turbulence left upwind of her kept waves from breaking, a skiff safety feature I have often noted. While being rowed she did not drift so much and so waves did break against her windward side.

I have a lot of admiration for this crew. They kept rowing while seasick in very poor rowing conditions, I’m not sure if I could have done what they did. 50 miles nonstop has raised the bar a bit for skiff cruising!

Topher Dawson, 14/8/19

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Cromarty Regatta 2019

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