The 22-23 April weekend saw 12 St Ayle’s Skiffs (Avoch, Arran, FOCCR, Appin, Prestwick, North Berwick, Loch Awe, Renegade, Row Porty, St Andrews, Chanonry, Royal Northern) descend on Loch Awe for a weekend of exploration culminating in a 15-mile race from Dalavich village to Taychreggan hotel and back. Representing North Berwick were the all-female dream team of Jo, Vik, Lyndsay, Ann and Jess.
The weather was gloriously sunny the entire weekend. On the pre-race day (Saturday), we all got acclimatised to our cosy hobbit-like accommodation (camping pods on the hilly shore of the Loch). Lyndsay, Ann and Jess donned our wet suits and did a spot of stand up paddleboarding. Ann even went swimming (on purpose!), which was very impressive as despite the gorgeous sunshine, the water was baltic! The hosts had put on a self-guided tour itinerary for us to enjoy at our leisure. Clive, Lyndsay, Ann, Vik and Jess rowed away the afternoon exploring the tiny islands of the loch.
We saw a wee grave site on one of our island stops, a beautiful ruined castle (which the more intrepid crew members – Clive - scaled for super views of the Loch) and rounded it all off with a sea eagle sighting! The evening activities included a jolly ceilidh, carbo-loading thanks to the super catering put on (& beer is a carb right?) and reasonably early nights for the NB crew.
Sunday, race day, factor 30+ was meticulously applied, snacks sorted, much faffing accomplished, and at around 10am ish all 12 skiffs were out on the water and ready to go! Lyndsay took the first turn at coxing, Jo in stroke and we set off. Some nimble coxing saw us overtake Arran early on and we settled into a comfortable rhythm overtaking Porty a little later. Jo and Lyndsay swapped the coxing half-way through, and we arrived at Taychreggan, the halfway stop in 4th place (pew pew!).
The timer was stopped, toilets used, blisters inventoried, teas, coffees, lemon cake, scones, bananas ingested (on lawns that gave off prosecco and afternoon cream tea vibes) and off we went again, this time with Vik as cox. Some crews swapped their entire team at this point - not us though! We shuffled the crew a bit with Ann at stroke now keeping a very nice and steady pace. The wind was behind us on the way back to Dalavich and it was all very civilised with Vik revving us up for a cheeky sprinting finish.
Very happy faces all around! We came 5th overall with a time of 3:04:34 (1st were Avoch in 2:52:48, 4th Prestwick in 3:04:34). But, if we were into counting such things (which of course we are), we were the first all-female crew to finish and second place for a crew of 5 (no swapsies at halfway, Avoch also had no subs). Overall, it was a magnificent weekend with a fantastic crew, brilliant hosts and friendly Skiffie community.