The gods of weather, tea and cake chose to Boatie bless us once again over the weekend of 26th – 27th April. The 5th Boatie Blest Regatta was months in the planning and days in the baking. Old friends and their boats traveled from North Berwick, Porty, Dunbar, South Queensferry and Anstruther to join us on Saturday together with new friends and their boat Honesty from the Honest Toun of Musselburgh.
First job of the day was for the Logistics Crew to erect the tea tent and marquee. Little more than two hours later, once reconciliations were complete and the Cake Crew in place, the action moved out onto the water for a day of fast paced oar-to-oar-harbour-wall action, kicking off with the annual Port Seton V Cockenzie grudge match friendly race. The new trophy, designed and manufactured by local artist Avesha DeWolfe, was carried off by the Cockenzie Crew this year making it 2-2 overall. Never mind, there’s always next year.
Every team and crew put in a great show on the Port Seton Pursuit Course throughout the day of heats, semis and finals, with Carmel’s bottle-top medals being won by crews from Anst’er, North Berwick and Boatie Blest. Sunday saw the traditional later than expected start and a generally more relaxed programme. No sign of North Berwick’s Fresher or Novice crew relaxing though as they took first in both categories. Their Junior team also took the medals, fighting off competition from Porty and Boatie Blest.
Sunday afternoon’s events took a turn towards the more unusual, easing in with the only slightly bonkers Port Seton to Cockenzie to Port Seton running/rowing relay. After some controversy over the use of bicycles the running and rowing teams from North Berwick made it back to the beach first.
We were a little surprised to find that three clubs had prepared routines for the inaugural St Ayles Skiff Bossage competition. With a panel of experienced judges, including a proper Dressage Judge, artist Avesha, Ali Porty and a large garden-gnome, the competition was fierce, kicking off with South Queensferry’s bonnie boat and their well coordinated oarspersonship. The Anst’er St Ayles team wowed the assembled crowd with their highland dance themed routine while the Boatie Blest men took to sculling for their performance, which included the never-before attempted, death defying Cornetto Venetian maneuver, in anticipation of the Voga Longa in June. The judges marks were close but St Ayles won the rosette for their fine artistic interpretation and natty (Natalie?) tartan kit.
If that wasn’t all exciting enough the day rounded off with another first – the Thorntree Slalem. Crews took it in turns to compete against the clock over a course of closely spaced buoys. This time it was Porty who turned in the fastest time, proving that they can bob and weave like no other.
A special thank you goes to Stu, who organised the event and to Carmel and Robin ‘The Megaphone’ Abbey, for holding things together. And of course to all the Boatie Bakers who went a long way towards raising over £1,200 over the weekend.
What, not content with just one regatta? Well, two weeks later it was time to travel over the Firth for the return match in North Cockenzie (Anstruther). This is the first time the club has been able to take part at Anst’er since that memorable day in 2010 when six newly completed skiffs competed for the very first time.
Once again St Ayles Rowing club were great hosts, even allowing us to make use of skiff 00, Chris O’ Kanaird, four stout oars and even some local talent to help with the odd victory over their own crews. Saturday’s racing was pretty full-on with, initially at least, some challenging conditions and a first for the Boatie Over 40s Ladies, while Sunday saw things slowing down a little. There were categories for Decades crews and an inter-club race, followed by a very social row for ice cream and a browse in Annie’s shop in Pittenweem. Of course the day had to end with a visit to St Ayles’ sponsors for a fish supper. Full details of the regattas and results can be found on the SCRA website.
Video kindly taken by shore crew: Caroline, Maxine and Ben
In keeping with the St. Ayles skiff’s propensity to spread beyond Caledonia a crew from Port Seton’s Boatie Blest recently took part in the Castle to Castle Race in north Wales. The race departs from the shore at Beaumaris Castle on Anglesey’s south east coast and takes crews through 13 miles of the Menai Straits to Caernarfon Castle on the mainland. Hosted by the Royal Welsh Yacht Cub this is, we think, an open event although all but two of the entrants were Celtic or Pembrokeshire Longboats. We also think that this is the first time a St. Ayles Skiff has visited Cymru, but perhaps you can tell us otherwise?
After spotting the post on the SCRA site Boatie Blest decided at fairly short notice that it would try to get a crew and Boatie Lodge down to Wales for the race weekend. Six members volunteered and accommodation was found at the slightly surreal Fort Belan, an American War of Independence fort near Caernarfon. The crew stayed a scone’s throw from the slipway and dock but the uncharacteristic Welsh weather prevented them from making use of these on-site facilities. Saturday morning dawned wet and windy and it seemed probable that the event would be cancelled but at the last minute race organisers confirmed that despite the marginal conditions the race would start, with a shortened race plan should conditions deteriorate further.
The start was something of a surprise, as all but 5 of the 25 or so boats were well ahead of the line as the cannon fired, clearly preferring the 2 minute penalty to being caught out behind their rivals. From the start the crew knew they were in for a tough haul, as the sw wind and tide conspired against them. With an extra passenger in the bow the nose of the skiff took several substantial dumps of water on board and all of the Longboat coxes were also baling enthusiastically. Within a couple of miles things flattened out a bit as the tidal flow subsided and by the time Boatie Lodge reached the beautiful Menai suspension bridge it was, mercifully, high tide slack water. Beyond the bridge lay the Swellies, the notorious rocky section of channel, where the tide can run at up to 10 knots. The organisers had timed the event well however and all of the boats were able to pass in reasonably clear, if windy, conditions. Boatie Lodge was by this point falling behind the leading pack of Longboats but was still well in the field, with several boats behind her.
Conditions in the straits changed significantly as the race progressed: the wind rose and tide built making the cox’s job a challenging one. The crew were certainly grateful to have club captain Stuart at the helm as the final few miles saw some nasty, short waves and more water spilling over both the bow and its passenger. Caernarfon came into sight suddenly as a sheltering headland was cleared and the crew put in a final burst to overtake one of the longboat competitors as they sped past the harbour mouth. The Royal Welsh Yacht Club cannon fired from the town walls as the skiff crossed the line, indicating that a prize had been won and the crew headed for the beach to compare their aches, pains, bruises and blisters. With the boat finally bailed out (Stuart thought that he had bailed over 50l) she was loaded back onto her trailer and the crew headed for the impressive club house, where club Commodore Brian Roberts presented the Certificate to Boatie Blest as winners of the coveted Mixed Super-Vets Skiff Class!
The arrival of a Skiff at the event drew a lot of attention and many complementary comments were passed on the fine looking boat and its very creditable performance amongst the faster fiberglass longboats. There was clear interest in the whole idea of community-building and who knows, perhaps the next Castle to Castle will see at least one local Skiff taking part?
It’s that time of year again when you all get to show off how clever you
are. Once again the much heralded Boatie Blest trophy quiz night has come
around and it’s your chance to win the amazing trophy designed by our very
own Caroline Doney,although unlikely if you are so named Stuart
but never mind there’s plenty of challenging games to play too (minor
Date is the SAT 7th DEC in the Church hall . Doors open at 19.03 with the
first questions at 19.34
entry is £2 per head, all those that don’t come ready formed in a team will
be allocated members.
There will be a bar that will accept donations but corkage will be charged
This event was oversubscribed last year so please contact myself or Shelly
with team name and or numbers asap.
The judges ruling (Isabel) will be final.
There are a few nice jobs to be allocated so if you could help on the night
please let me or Shelly know.
ah thank you.
Four Boaties and a Jenny Skylark left the boat shed for Loch Lomond at 8.30 last Sunday. On a morning of dull weather we were still all grinning and gleeful at our ‘gang of five’ jolly….no races just pleasure, and that’s just how it turned out.
We got to the loch side just after ten to see it cheeringly flat, and only the odd breezy scud ruffling the calm surface now and again. The sun had a go at edging through the cloud for most of the day, and eventually after a couple of wee showers, it shouldered its way through, bringing with it a warmth left over from July, we felt blissful and lucky.
Setting off from the Park Ranger’s hut just beyond Balmaha, our plan was to row past and round a couple of the Loch’s Islands; so we had high hopes of spotting a Wallaby, or even a nudist, the latter left over from the island naturist camp in the ancient 1960’s. We would work toward our landfall at Luss (remember Take the High Road anyone?) and the reward of lunch. With a plan in mind we arranged ourselves in the boat, (this was to be a four cox journey by the way) and decided to heck, we’ll just cross over and have lunch first off. Well that’s what you can do on a jolly.
About an hour rowing across one of the bonniest Lochs in Scotland, surrounded by hills and beauty had us feeling; ‘chust sublime’, as Para Handy from the Vital Spark would say. The feeling in the boat was of sheer happiness and pleasure; in the day and in one another’s company.
On landing we made the boat safe and rolled along the tea room lined roads like mariners. Looking to find food for four, and cakes and juice for Stuart, we came across a wee restaurant that met our needs, and sat outside on wet chairs, (we’re pretty hard after all) speaking of, oars and cakes, proper rowing talk.
After scran, it was back to Boatie Rows and the promised tour of the islands. We landed on Wallaby Island and managed to get some great photos, not of wallabies sadly, but the boat was looking great, as was Ali from Rowporty. We marched through the moss sprung interior to the far beach which we reached after about eight minutes, and talked about how fab it could be to have a big camping jolly to Loch Lomond next year. Back on board we made way together, back across the Loch in hot afternoon sun, what a treat, and came back to shore where we had started.
A talk with the extremely friendly and helpful Park Ranger, let us see that there are real possibilities for both casual and competitive jaunts that would be welcomed on this lovely Loch. So it might be worth watching this space.
Back at our harbour around six o’clock, I knew we had spent a ten hour gem of a day together, bonded and happy in the pleasure of the doing of it all. Thanks gang of five, it was a lovely one off.
Martine Robertson for Boatie Blest.
Hard to believe, but the week, that has dominated the world of us Skiffies’ for as far back as we can seem to remember, has come and gone……..whether life will ever be the same again, who knows. The sun beamed down on us, the water sparkled and for some teams gods and Goddesses were created. What am I on about, oh aye, the World Skiff Rowing championships in Ullapool. What a week, one Boatie team mate could only manage the words ‘I am blown away’ on our post event flurry of e mails. I think that pretty much summed up the Fest that was Ullapool for a lot of us.
Princesses talking about cake’s (how did she know?), a boat with a twangy whale harp, a Dutch team who travelled with two three seater settees, beach BBQ’s, old friends and new, bonds forged within, and between clubs, Winning clubs who cracked on they ‘hadnae practiced at all’, and silver medalists who really had just stepped into a boat together. The beach was a mass of coloured ant colonies, from which every so often 5 or so would break away, jump into a boat and row off somewhere ‘out there’ as if their life depended on it. When a head ant with special binnocular eyes witnessed a bouy turn the rest of the colony would be called to rush to the water front and give displays of demonic dancing and wild howling to encourage their own ants to bring their boat in first ..… strange, but often it did seem to work.
The week was huge fun and full of warmth from beginning to end. The racing was serious and hotly contested, the races proved to be nail biting and the statistics attest to the tightest of margins between the first boats home in each race…we are all getting better folks! The long hard training over the Winter and Spring months, was evidenced in the stamina shown as team after team dug deep, and slumped hard at the end, knowing that they had rowed as hard as they could, and had done their best.
I hope you will indulge me and let me talk about my own team, The Boatie Blest. We named and launched our new boat, Boatie Lodge; bodging, building, painting and whining about our Heath Robinson footboards to the very last minute. Those who rowed in her did us proud. We were true to our community ideals and everybody in the club who wanted to row, got into a boat and raced at Ullapool, and I am sure in this we were not alone. One great comment after our team won a bronze medal in the Open Forties B race was ’not bad for two asthmatics, a giant and a (self styled) fat git’. The under 19s won a silver, and we are so proud of them, then two of our gals went on to win another silver in a composite crew with lads from Newburgh, how good is that for our future. The Men in our 40+ team drove the boat on to a nail biting finish, that was almost too hard to call, but the effort was supreme and they and us were ‘really chuffed’ with their bronze medal. Our Womens 40+ team are the first skiff rowing world champions in their class. They dug deep when the power babes from Anstruther looked to be closing in, they dug in and rowed for life, the powerful lungs of the whole club, by this time jumping up and down on the beach’ sang out ‘The Boatie Rows’ the effort almost matching that in the boat, and then it was over, their forms slumped and shaking; ‘you’ve got it’, quietly from Stuart to the four women. We had seen it, the beach screamed and we sang them in….they are our famous five, we are so proud of them.
We came close in the sprints and second on the quiz night, and very far up the partying medal list. We had a lovely group of supporters who followed us from Port Seton, and as always we had the great moral boosting advantage of the fabulous home bakes from Jane Johnston. So, all in all a really brilliant week.
We are very pleased we came to Ullapool; we want to thank everyone who worked so hard to make it possible, and so good; from the SCRA and radiating out. Thank you to the organising team in Ullapool, what a job, from the great organisation over the week to choosing really great ceilidh bands, and especially, to Topher who did so much to set the culture and the ethos which allowed these championships to flourish in such a happy atmosphere.
Thank you from the Boatie Blest Rowing Club.