From: The Guardian
Coastal rowing craze inspired by traditional Scottish fishing skiff
Cox Denise Havard and members of Queensferry rowing club take to the Firth of Forth in their St Ayles skiff. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod for the Guardian
It has to be handbuilt from plywood and larch, comes in a flatpack and would probably be recognisable by the Vikings. And this small coastal rowing boat has, quite unexpectedly, become one of the trendiest craft on the water.
Ever since it was first designed as a demonstration project for the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Fife in 2009, the small boat – it fits four rowers and a cox – has been snapped up by coastal villages and towns across Scotland.
It has been bought and built by villagers from Fife to the Firth of Clyde and northwards to Wester Ross, and by enthusiasts in Newcastle, Norfolk, Essex and beyond.
Since it was spotted by a rowing magazine in the US, schoolchildren in Maine have built 19 boats, and rowers in Portland, Oregon, now race them; others are being raced in the Netherlands, Tasmania, Victoria and South Australia; orders are coming in from the Mediterranean; and South Africa is a target market.
In July, those enthusiasts will stage the coastal rowing world championships in the sea off Ullapool, the port in north-west Scotland better known for the 6,735-tonne roll-on, roll-off car ferry that plies the route to the Western Isles. Competitors will be flying in from Oregon, Australia and continental Europe.
But you will not find the St Ayles skiff in the Ikea catalogue. Based on a boat from Fair Isle, which was used routinely for fishing and trips to nearby Shetland and Orkney, the St Ayles skiff is prefabricated in a small workshop in East Wemyss near Kirkcaldy in Fife.
Designed by Iain Oughtred, an expert in historic boats, the skiff is made there by Alex Jordan, a former IT specialist and rowing enthusiast. The Scottish Coastal Rowing Association was formed in May 2010, since when Jordan has sold nearly 100 boats.
Denise Havard, a member of one of more than 40 St Ayles skiff clubs in Scotland and England, said the attraction is simple. "It works on loads of levels: you have the whole health and fitness thing, you've got the outdoors, you've got people pulling together, and the boats are built in the community," she said.
The basic kit for the boat, named after the St Ayles chapel where the fisheries museum is based, costs £1,340 and about £5,000 is needed to put the vessel in the water, complete with trailer, cover, and larch for the stern, keel, seats and rudder. Building the boats is a community enterprise, uniting people of both genders and all ages, skills and levels of experience in rowing, boat-building and seamanship.
Havard's club, which stages races against a team from North Queensferry on the opposite shore of the Firth of Forth, against a backdrop of the estuary's dramatic road and rail bridges, includes nurses, teachers, civil servants, police officers, architects and business people among its members.
There are 70 members, including 12 children, and they have built two boats. "It's the freedom of being on the open water, with the wind blowing in your face and being able to see the land like a tiny little thing out there, but feeling very safe and secure," Havard said.
Robbie Wightman, a solicitor who helps run his local St Ayles skiff club in North Berwick near Edinburgh, and who is the coastal rowing association's convener, said it had reinvigorated a traditional sport that was once central to Scottish fishing communities.
Similar rowing clubs, racing other types of traditional design, are thriving elsewhere in the UK; there are regular regattas in Cornwall. The St Ayles skiff, however, seems to have caught on with remarkable speed. Seeing interest in Jordan's design jump from one coastal village to the next is like watching a wildfire spread. This summer's championships in Ullapool have been extended to a fourth day to cope with demand.
"Once one community has got a boat in the water, the community next door will say, 'Let's get one too,'" Wightman said. "The fact you build the boat yourself is a great idea; there are lots of people whose dream has always been to build a boat, or to make something of their own. If you give them the opportunity to make something for their community, they couldn't be happier."
Jordan agrees: his interest in the skiff was sparked by discovering that coalminers in Fife used to build and race their own boats on the Forth, using wood from pit props filched from the colliery.
"The way this has developed, the whole thing is just from the wildest dreams end of my expectations," Jordan said. He believes the selflessness of working in a team is its greatest attraction. "It's the buzz you get when you're working together as a rowing crew. It is fantastic. You don't get that when you're rowing on your own."
Raceverslag van de crew van de finale open mannen zaterdag 14 juli
"31 boats were entered into the championships, the closest racing for us was in the men’s open final where we were neck and neck with the dutch crew and Row Porty up to the turn, a good turn by our Cox allowed us to take the advantage from Row Porty but the dutch also had a good turn on our Port side, Jim Ford at Stroke kept up the pace and making the dutch push hoping they would blow. By this point Row Porty had dropped back but still able to take advantage should the Dutch or Royal West drop the pace, we lifted when they did and with a final push drew level with 100m to go it was a full sprint to the finish line, the Dutch finished 2 seconds ahead having just more in the tank at the end."...http://www.rwsabc.co.uk/news/