Helmsdale, as we discovered, is a long way from North Berwick to drive on a Friday afternoon. We've bumped oars with the Bunillidh crews at many regattas over the last few years, but they'd always said that their own regatta was just a wee affair for local clubs only, well we asked, and we pestered and finally we said, "We don't care if we're not invited, we're coming anyway", and they got the hint, North Berwick fancied a road trip North.
So we gathered a small, but perfectly formed squad (just 6 in the end), packed the boat and zoomed off to sit on the Edinburgh South Car Park, I mean Bypass. 8 1/2 hours later we were definitely not in Kansas anymore, but up in Sutherland pitching our tents in the dark at Helmsdale.
The morning brought strong strong wind, but it was blowing offshore and the sea was perfectly manageable. The course at Helmsdale was a straight 1KM race, and up to 8 boats racing. With a squad of just 6 it meant plenty of races, which we were all up for, everybody got 4 or 5 rows. We had 3 men and 3 ladies, but Laura and Jo were able to step into the Men's 40+ and Men's Open races respectively, and we borrowed Julie from Burghead and Ann-Marie from Coigach to make up the Ladies crews.
It took us a couple of races to get the hang of the local start procedure, but our ladies did very well getting silver in the Ladies 40+ and winning the Ladies Open. Our 40+ men (with Laura rowing) were squeezed out of the medals by 1 second, and our Open Men (with Jo being honorary 4th man) got a hard fought bronze.
The afternoon was mixed races, however it seemed that the back to back rows were beginning to tell on our stamina, and we didn't threaten the podium for the rest of the day, but enjoyed some great rows and loved the days racing.
We were so happy to have come, and were made to feel very welcome by all the great people at Helmsdale, special thanks to Andy for spotting our thirst before the medal ceremony and magicing up a few beers for us from the boot of his car, top man!
Apres racing we managed to quaff a few in the local pub and learned how to fold a crisp packet into a nice neat triangle, which is apparently a skill acquired on an elective course for an accounting degree at Aberdeen University.
A post regatta boogie saw the end of a great day, thanks very much Bunillidh for a fantastic weekend.David Davidson
North Berwick was well represented at Saturday's Regatta, hosted by Royal West at Greenock. 14 intrepid enthusiasts braved unrelenting summer showers, in search of on the water success.
Anstruther, Royal West, the FOCCRS, NB and Arran, who were an unknown quantity, made for a thoroughly jolly, competetive, yet friendly day.
Memories from 2015 were of relaxing on the beach, where the warmth of the pebbles massaged tired muscles, after a gruelling 1500 metres time trial over a triangular course. There was no sun worshipping between races on Saturday, although the welcome from our hosts was warm and exuberant.
This was an unusual event in that it was a time trial, rather than a head to head competition. Teams needed a crew member to start the time trial by picking up a baton from the race hut, sprinting across the shingle beach navigating two tyres, strategically placed on the slidy concrete slip, running across the remaining shingle to then leap majestically into the bow seat with all the grace and poise of a balerina. Unfortunately, there were few gazelles amongst the NB visitors and the choice of footwear thwarted attempts at grace and elegance even further, crocs and sandals will no doubt be left at home next year. Once all four rowers were in the boat the rowing began, finishing on the beach and the clock stopped when the, by now exhausted, runner once again hurdled over the bow onto the beach to return the baton to the official at the race hut. A great deal of hyperventillating was witnessed but, thankfully, there was no need for a defibrillator.
During the break for lunch, the re-dedication of the Zebra on its 50th birthday, named after a visiting cricket team, and the Whiteforeland, two newly reburfished by GalGael Community Enterprise boats, provided a historical diversion from the racing.
Always keen to extend the hand of friendship to other clubs, NB responded in the affirmative when Arran, short of a full 50+ women's crew, approached and politely requested one of our many ladies switch allegiance for the last race of the day. Exceptional PR proved to be a coup for Arran, who proceded to beat the NB ladies by one second to take the medal.
Our two juniors,Kirsty and Saskia, rowed in the women's open crew with great gusto and applomb and later in the day made up a composite crew, ably assisted by Arran and Royal West in the junior category, racing against two FOCCRS teams. Further highlights were the 40+ women securing victory, open men scoring the fastest time of the day at 11:01, 40+ men storming to an impressive win, the joker was played by the open mixed crew, securing double points for that win.
North Berwick were overall winners and won the Colin Ross trophy, which will be displayed with great pride when our trophy cabinet,or even clubhouse, is built.
Team NB departed with a warm, fuzzy glow and sense that a thoroughly pleasing time was had by all, thanks to the exceptional Gastfreundlichkeit (Ed: v nice in a roll with mustard) extended to us by our friends in Greenock.
On Saturday the 29 of July the North Berwick Rowing Club pushed one of their three St Ayles skiffs down and around North Berwick as part of the yearly Lifeboat Fete Parade. And this year instead of getting gassed by the old tractor in front, we were treated to a jazz band in the back of an old fashioned pick up truck. Apart from the odd shower, it was loads of fun and we sold loads of coconuts.Sam Cowan (not-quite Junior Member NBRC)
Well this was the big one a small but very fit 21 headed up to Ullapool. With the forecast changing by the hour we were all packed to the gunnels, Skiff John B looking great and raring to go, with our gazebo strapped in to save us from whatever the weather would fling at us.
The touring van was met by the forwarding party at camp site Bloomfield to a finely tuned operation to get boat to water, trailer parked up and tents pitched. The evening was spent refueling and building our energies for the next two days of onslaught.
Saturday dawned clear-ish if not a tad chilly. Registration done, the nerves kicking in, our fight started. A proudly born bronze for the 60+ mix the +50 men had a really tough fight but didn't place in the medals, the junior races were dominated by Ullapool. Next up was the 60+ men plus Alan from Coigach, who put in a stonking effort to win, followed by our 60+ ladies also winning the rose bowl for the second year running. By this time it was raining and pretty miserable and coxing really did become a challenge for hitting head winds, turns being executed on a knife point to avoid collisions, locating your lanes and buoys from the far side of the loch and then staying in lane meant the coxes earned every place gained at the finish line. Our last race of Saturday, the 50+ mix pulled a hard race but didn't medal.
So it was then to the Saturday night ceilidh, this year in the High School, a dry bar, which by this stage was the only thing dry, a very wet and windy night was ahead. To the dancing with the local kids band, it was very hot and sweaty too. Have to just say the kids from Deveron with their teacher Roisin, took part in every dance, hats off to her dedication.
So off to bed and I've never seen so many wind swept tents.
Sunday and it had all calmed again with a hint of sunshine for our final day. A late start due to the ferry, stocked up on breakfast and every set of clothing that we may need, it was down to get up the gazebo to get our shouting voices in tune and muscles honed.
Men's 40+ with a mixed up crew did a great job to stay near the front of a tight field of eighteen boats, which with only 14 being able to set off at once, was then a timed result with the remaining boats being split into less full categories, so even if you did win your heat it was a nail biting time till all had come in.
For the 40+ ladies this was exactly the case, and I apologise for all the details, this was my team's big race, and it was such an amazing race from start to finish, our close rivals Eastern stayed with us all the way. Ian's first time being persuaded to cox a race, was trying to take in all the vital points to make us work hard. At the turn which was well executed, we had a lot of chop hitting from all directions, we kept our calm and powered on to the calmer water along the shore, the shouting getting louder on every stroke, and the grunting from the boat, we upped our pace and by the time we got our command of sprint we gave it everything, over the finish there was not a word to be heard, even Ian was drained, had we done it? No-one knew. We had to wait another two hours. And.... yes we did , just by the skin of our teeth. There certainly wasn't much left on hands or backsides.
Ahem..... so enough about me, then started a few back to backs for our really fit members, open A mix were squashed into 4th place great energy though, the 40+ mix also put in a sterling pull for 4th. Open B men awesome third then the open B ladies getting a gold.(I think, sorry still checking that one as ink dries) The open A men with our new recruit filling in for injuries, had a really rough ride and had to settle for 4th. Open A women on their third race of day squeezed out every last bit of power to come in 4th too. By this time racing had to be stopped due to the ferries imminent arrival.
The sun came out, we all worked like a well oiled machine to get boat to trailer, gazebo packed and decamp for the medals. We should all be very proud, we were pipped into second by Ullapool who won overall. Fantastic result. Great to see some other clubs improvement, with a lot of personal medals for a handful of us that jumped into free seats with other clubs.
A HUGE thank you to Laura and the Wallace Simpson's for towing, we couldn't do it without you. Also a big shout to all who coxed, we do need more stepping up and practicing it's a great thrill to help others win medals.
Written by a very proud lady captain Jaq, very stiff and sore with plenty new blisters, but very honoured to pull you all together.
The filler was sanded, the hull was painted and nail varnish stripes added to foot rests - Skiff John B was back in action and ready for a trip!
On our way up the sun kept shining and the temperature in Aberdeen hit 'taps aff' degrees before dropping down to a 'mibies wear a wind proof jacket' in Portsoy. A selection of tents from the Cowan Corner Shop to Fraser's teeny tiny shelter quickly made up the North Berwick High Street at the camping ground and we even stretched to a little suburban section with rather civilised camper van accommodation, bunting and all!
In the evening we were treated to a most spectacular sunset with 40 odd dolphins playing in the bay. A couple(ish) beers and many good catch ups were had before heading to bed early to rest before a day of competing.
The first regatta day kicked off with 2K races where six seat Shetland yoals, despite being in a different category rowed alongside the skiffs. Team NB came third in the Men's Open and our crew in the Women's Open raced past a yoal to claim first place. It was then time for the sprints where Big John joined forces with the formidable Anstruther ladies in their Mixed 60+ crew and they rowed to second place.
Sadly, it wasn't long after this that the wind started to blow heavily enough to warrant the rest of the day's races to be cancelled but not before Jo and Clive managed to nab a couple of coveted seats in a yoal and join the Shetland crew for a quick spin in the harbour.
Our non-rowing sorrows were drowned in ice cream, rowies, cullen skink, and a beer or two. Sadly the wind kept its stubborn hoolie-gan attitude and Sunday had to be called off all together. We packed up the boat and lingered just long enough to listed to some music, sample some more foods and for Vana to nab a photo with a seemingly random Viking..
..mid posing, Viking to Vana: '..wait..I know you..did you do Make Works*?..I run the spinning mill in Shetland!'
Turns out Vana managed to pick from a sea of people the one hairy Shetlander she'd met 4 year ago while travelling the length of Scotland for a project.
*here's Garry the Viking in less hirsute form
Hoping the weekend was fun even for those who didn't get a chance to row. Captain Jaque certainly made up for it by absolutely and unquestionably winning 'Yellow car' on the journey back.
Big thanks to our hosts for their tremendous hospitality and we hope to see them again soon.
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