Five North Berwick crews travelled to the River Clyde for the second edition of the 13 mile race from Dumbarton Castle to the Finnieston Crane. Sixty St Ayles skiffs were joined by twelve other rowing boats of various classes in the biggest event for seagoing rowers, in Scotland.
The morning started at Sandpoint Marina, Dumbarton. With over 300 skiffies arriving in time to speak to friends, inspect the opposition and generally have a laugh with people of a similar persuasion. So after briefings, launching and staggered starts we all set off for the long pull towards the city. On a fairly benign day and flat calm water we expected an easier time than what could have otherwise been. And so it was in the early stage with the incoming tide pushing us all up the river towards the Erskine Bridge. The early starts got full advantage of these conditions and the skiffs disappeared into the horizon and ‘Speedwell’ (Steve Thomson/Dave Davidson/Jacque Turner) arriving first at the crane in the second fastest time of the day (1hr57mins) followed by ‘Flossie’ (Laura Cram/Louise Presslie/Kirsty Cram).
The St Ayles race within a race was perhaps the most interesting competition of the day with various male, female and mixed crews of different abilities leaving at staggered times. It is certain everybody was trying to catch the boat in front of them and keep the one behind at a distance. For some this was successful while others took a more leisurely approach. Once again conditions influenced the progress of the rowing. The early tide assistance ran out at about half way and the current changed to the river flow against the racers. So for the same effort speed reduced significantly and coxes had to judge the best line on the river, for least resistance.
‘Blackadder’ (Elisa Robertson/Jo Drewitt/Pete Mileham/Phil Robertson/Finlay Robertson) started just over halfway down through the field and managed to work their way up to 7th place in the Open category, ahead of many of the more fancied entrants. Ahead of them at the start and also working through the field ‘St Baldred’ (Simon Cowan/Rachael Porteous/Richard Budd/Duncan Mackay/Sandy Wallace) managed 5th place in their category. The late starters who were considered the fastest crews of the day ultimately suffered from the changing tide and current conditions and didn’t really ’get going.’ And so it was with ‘Skiff John B’ (Clive Rooney/Duncan Hughes/Ben Lowe/Ian Baird/Alice Everitt) who fell behind in time against clubs they would expect to beat on a normal head to head encounter. The other four local skiffs managed the course in just a few minutes over two hours and everyone is determined to return and break that barrier next time.
A unique aspect of the race is the camaraderie between crews both before during and after the race. It was usual for a cheer to go up between boats as they passed each other and shouts of encouragement to be exchanged no matter how good or bad progress was.
After all the crafts had finished there was a trophy ceremony at the Clydebuilt Festival site next to the Riverside Museum. Impressive individual trophies were presented only to the first in each of the various categories and this included the Flossie crew winning the Double Scull category, calculated after a handicap adjustment.
Festivities carried on into the evening with a party at the Archies in the city centre. A bar and live music provided the background to more skiffie socialising and the successful ceilidh was largely down to three red jacketed North Berwick members leading and encouraging people to ‘take the floor.’
The success of this huge event is due to a tremendous team led by Ben Wilde and North Berwick, and presumably, every other club are indebted to them for putting on such a magnificent event.