Twas the night before
Christmas the Great River Race,
And all through the
Not a creature was stirring – except Nick and Ali.
In hopes that all the rest of the crew soon would get there.
While visions of their long journey south danced in their heads…
The hog-roast and ‘Doombar’ had fair hit the spot.
When in the camp marquee, there arose such a clatter
The Dutch Oompah band was drowning out the chatter!
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below us
But all too soon the crack of dawn arose
And knackered rowers, groaning, climbed into damp clothes.
Now Alison! Now Calum! Now Grethe! Now Dan!
Now Lesley, Nick, Seumas, Gerry, Mark, Ish, Alan and Sam!
More rapid than eagles the buses they came
And the stewards had everyone checked on by name.
Taking time to get the craic with all the other oar-ers
Our old friends from Holland had the Groot & Grut close by…
…And Lesley was interviewed by the telly folk from Dubai!
Each boat with six crew and a load of bananas stowed.
As dry leaves before a wild hurricane blow,
When the start horn went, the ‘Coigach Lass’ and ‘Lily~Rose’ were GO!
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle!
They spoke hardly a word but went straight up the river
Passing boats left and right with hardly a quiver…
But the ‘Coigach Lass’ rowers were feeling their oats…
2 mins. ahead of the ‘Lily~Rose’ - they secured First Position!
(Mixed 4-oar section!)
But we heard them exclaim as they all flew North out of sight…
With huge apologies to the original, classic poem……
Ok. What is it about this – let’s face it – tiny community of around 300 souls who live scattered around the Coigach peninsula..?
A ‘remote’ place with the memorable postal address of Achiltibuie, which sees a modest community project to build a St Ayles rowing skiff start in early 2010 … and 3 years later sees the 30-or-so membership ( 10% of the whole local population, mind) take the trophy at the 1st ever St Ayles Skiff World Championships.
So what’s the recipe fo’ these here biscuits? (You can tell I visited Texas recently. Sorry.)
Is it just heaped tablespoonsful of this? (These guys ain’t ridin’ no fail-train!)With a very, very generous pinch of this…?….and a very cheeky young level tea-spoonful of this..?…aye, why not have a wee blether on yer mobile, Under 17s Crew Captain, Seumas…it’s just HRH Princess Anne waiting to talk to you…
It’s also the leavening of the Over-60-year old youngsters (with cox, centre) …… plus the raw ingredients of the Under 17 years young oldsters!And it all goes into the beautiful mixing bowl of our coastal surroundings – way up in the wonderful wilds of the N.West Highlands where we all live and work and play (and row) and ceilidh together… …and them ol’ biscuits?
What a week at the very first St. Ayles Skiff World Championships! …and we clinched it by 23 points.
10% of our whole community here on the peninsula of Coigach – of which the main village is Achiltibuie – competed in the Championships.
Well, the Wickers’ new build is looking beautiful and is obviously – and rightly- already a source of local pride. What a finish! Just the paint to go!
If there was ever an event that encapsulates in the most fun way just what the spirit of Scottish Coastal Rowing is about, this was the event; fellow coasties bringing their skiffs to support a new group in the North and being welcomed with boundless hospitality, meeting new folk left, right and centre and getting in a bit of rowing too..!
And here’s what the Royal National Lifeboat Institute Open Day at Wick harbour, Saturday 15th June was all about:
The Bunillidh crew in ‘Baile an Or’ and our own lovely ‘Coigach Lass’ crewed by Alan, Anne, Bernie, myself and coxed by Sue, both launched at the river mouth then came through the big swell you see above (!) round into the main harbour… What a rush! And what a fun start to the day.(Here’s an aerial shot, above, of Wick harbour… on a much calmer morning!) The two skiffs launched along from the bridge on the right side of the photo and, carefully negotiating the supermarket trolley hazard, (don’t even have a supermarket in Achiltibuie!) we were soon pulling out into a nice lumpy bit of the North sea ( see lifeboat photo above from the same day) which had us breaking sweat pulling into the swell, then skidded the skiffs sideways as we broadsided the waves to turn toward the mouth of the main harbour, then the swell shot us straight in – virtually surfing down – as we turned west into the entrance and found the pontoons in the calm of the inner harbour.
Our job was to meet the Wick Coastal Rowing lot and see their lovingly-crafted, almost-complete skiff; encourage members of the general public attending the Open Day to try an oar and row round the harbour with us; to get the general good craic with the sailing lot, the Wick RNLI and Coastguard folk, enjoy all the stalls scattered around the Harbour and take in the sight of Wick harbour full of boats dressed up for the day! Nae bother!
The local pipe Band kept warm in their own inimitable way…Finally at around 1pm, the day started to warm up as the wind dropped – and after a good feed of hot bacon and black-pud rolls, soon the two visiting skiffs and their crews were busy with ‘customers’ for a go at rowing. People loved it – often much to their surprise!
Women and girls in the main. There are three young teenage lassies out there in Cathness somewhere with loads of eye make-up, wearing tiny ballet flats and clothes from Topshop Online who now have fire in their belly for the rowing!
Then the Bunillidh and Coigach teams mixed it up a bit to give spectators a wee taste of how these skiffs can really travel…
A head-to-head bit of informal racing above – with the beautiful stonework of the Caithness-slab harbour wall in the background… The two St Ayles Skiffs getting on to the ‘starting line’ with a rather spiffy little two-man job in the foreground…… and above here we have the Wick RNLI crew in the ‘Baile an Or’ giving it big licks as they pull away from the Wick Coastguard crew who, as I was their cox, could see from the outset were just not taking it seriously enough- at least two of them rowed with their ties on, for goodness sake, and one spent most of the race on his back with his oar in his face, unable to row. Couldn’t cox for laughing! Good on them though! A load of fun. Particularly for the spectators…
And then there was a bit of history…… on the right, the ‘Bella Fortuna’ a herring-fishing Fyfie of around a hundred years old with her red/brown sails furled. A lovely old boat to be explored, stem to stern. On the left the very new, wooden ‘Silver Bear.’
Then the afternoon was wearing on and the skiff crews who were staying for the evening’s dance began to think about finding a campsite when Graham, one of the Wick RNLI lads, announces, scarily, ‘I’ll take you up til ee kirk!’. Huh? Well it turned out that Graham has bought the old disused Free Church in Pultneytown and the wee hall at the back was perfect for our scatter of sleeping bags and blow-up mattresses! Sorted. Thanks Graham!
And then it was back to the Harbourmaster’s office with a bunch of Pirates for a ‘thank-you’ dram…or three…or four. Sue’s loving the ‘Old Pulteney’And Alan, helpless at cutlass point…And in the fading light of a beautiful still evening over Wick harbour……musicians brought their instruments.. …and the dancing got going…. …and the harbour looked amazing with the boats and the lights and the huge dark blue sky… …and the Shield for the crazy races was presented to the pop up Coastal Rowing club known as ‘Bunillibuie’ (here for one weekend only!) represented by double-act Achiltibuie Alan and Helmie Andy.Of course the dancing went on apace……. and the harbour, still and beautiful, resounded with mighty choruses of …’And I would walk 500 miles!’ Then, in the early hours, everyone just conga’d off to their bunks in their yachts… or sleeping bags in an old Free Church hall…or comfy beds in their Caithness-stone built houses…
And finally the harbour was left to a few seagulls pecking around and the gentle sound of boats rocking at their moorings – and its own dreams of the days when red fishing boat sails thronged the place and the herring gutter lassies laughed and shrieked with each other as they packed fish into barrels.
Local toddlers Lyra – and Lily close behind (she, indeed, of the eponymous boat the ‘Lily~Rose’) at the shoreside at Badentarbat Bay, Achiltibuie, getting into the spirit with young Coigach Community Rowing crewman Calum as he waits for his race on a cool, lightly breezy, overcast but fair Coigach Coastal Rowing Regatta day! Bring it on!
It had been all quiet on the green by the shore the evening before:
But by ten the next morning the bay was packed with boats, spectators and busy food sales stalls: a venison burger stall raising money for youngsters’ Tall Ships Sail Training; soup, tea and fab home-bakes from the local Primary School parents group; a delicious salmon BBQ courtesy of Scottish Sea Farms’ local Tanera-based salmon farm, and the Lochinver Panini van! Almost every scrap of a considerable array of delicious food was sold out by the close of play around 4.30pm.
Hungry work rowing – makes the spectators peckish too!
Crews from Portobello- (in the ‘Jenny Skylark’), Newburgh – (in the ‘Glide’), Newhaven- winners of the ‘Best Presented Skiff’ (in the ‘Wee Michael’), Helmsdale- (in the ‘BaileAnor’), Ullapool crews- (in ‘Ulla’, ‘Cul Mor’ and ‘Loki’), North Berwick- (in the ‘Skiff John B’) and Anstruther (in the ‘St Ayles’) joined Coigach with ‘Coigach Lass’ and ‘Lily~Rose’ on Badentarbat beach, and suddenly the beach was filled with a bevy of beautiful, hand-built St Ayles skiffs, each with their own lovingly painted livery, the pride of their crews and community, awaiting the commencement of the racing!
An early cox’s briefing had drawn the visiting skiffers yawning from their various tents, campervans, chalets and cottages all round the Coigach peninsula….
… but Umpire Iain got down to business explaining the course – using the St Ayles Skiff World Championship system as start and finish ‘gates’ for this regatta – until further work on the drawing board by Topher and his crew in Ullapool finalises its design in time for the Skiffie Worlds in Ullapool in July.
… and lots of inter-crew chats and craic↓……and kids having fun↓……and filmakers and coxes and dogs…and the ‘Commentary box’ – (me with the bins, Sue, a car bonnet, a list of boats, a dodgy mic and Peter’s shoulder to keep the bins steady! Very professional – not!)..↓…and spectating and eating and paddling and racing… ooh those salmon BBQ rolls!!…
By 5pm the boats were on their trailers and skiffers, their families and supporters hurried off to prepare for the Prizegiving Ceilidh at the Community Hall.
It seemed like Leslie and her team from the Piping School Cafe fed the 5,000 with her delish Curry and Crumble -then before the music got going there were points and medals to hand out!
There will be more Prizegiving photos up here soon but just a couple to get you started..North Berwick Crews took overall second place – here some of them are getting their medals- the ‘Ulla’ Crews took overall third place and theCoigach Crews took the top spot.
Special ‘Feisty Newcomer’ medals were also awarded to the skippers of the ‘Baileanor’ crews fromHelmsdale and the ‘Glide’ crews fromNewburgh who had, as newbies to Coigach, rowed magnificently in the regatta and will be a growing force to be reckoned with!
And here are the lads of the Coigach Community Rowing Under 17 crew, l to r - Seamus, Sean, Ewan and James (Ian sadly missed the photo) with their well deserved medals! Their very first season rowing and already into the medals – and the first win (the ‘Freshers’ race against all ages) – with our new boat ‘Lily~Rose’! Well done lads , Coigach is proud of you!
Here’s another very proud medal wearer from Newburgh – and a close up of the hand made phosphor bronze medals Steve cut from the propshaft of the wrecked ‘Maid of Tanera’ -ex Kylesku ferry many many moons ago -and sandblasted with the pattern of C for Coigach and a skiff being rowed…
After all that the music got going – and many a dance was danced, and dram was downed and a good party was had by skiffers one and all. And then Karen took all the happy campers home in the mini-bus. Goodnight! And it was all, ‘See you tomorrow for the row to Tanera….’
Ah, but that is another story about a warm, sunny day full of happy skiffers and a row in paradise.
Thanks to Maureen, Julia and Linda from Coigach, Chris from North Berwick and a kind chap from Newburgh for the photos.
REGATTA 2013 Saturday 18TH May
8.30am Cox’s briefing – Marquee on shore, Badentarbat Bay, Achiltibuie, turn off the A835 ten miles north of Ullapool.
9.30 am > Women’s Open 2k
10.15 > Men’s Open 2k
11.00 > Men’s Over 40 1k
11.30 > Women’s Over 40 1k
12.00 > Under 17s/Over 55s mixed 1k
12.30 > LUNCH
13.30 > Women’s Over 50s 1k
14.00 > Men’s Over 50s 1k
14.30 > Freshers Race 1k (rowers for whom this is the first season of competition)
15.00 > Mixed Open 1k
15.30 > Mixed Over 40s 1k
16.00 > Mixed Over 50s 1k
(Programme may change due to weather)
Then all rowers and their families welcome for Curry & Crumble, Ceilidh and…
Prize Giving at the Community Hall, Bar and Food - from 6.30pm! Adults- 2 courses, £8.00. Veggie option. Hot dogs and ice cream for kids.
Prize giving around 7.30 after food.Minibus between campsite and Hall
Sunday 19th Morning fun!
TANERA CUP Challenge! 2.4 k Row over to Tanera Mor, the largest of the Summer Isles. All boats must carry a full crew + passenger and cox (6.)Crew must be mixed. The cox and passenger may row in rotation, but the crewmust remain mixed at all times. (2 men 2 women) Departure after safety briefing at 10.30. The first crew arriving win a free champagne breakfast!
BRUNCH for rowers and families will be available in the Shoreside Café on the island. Filled breakfast roll and Coffee/Tea £5 CASH ONLY.
Ferry Boats will be leaving the pier at Badentarbat to carry non-rowers over to Tanera from 9.30. The return ferry charge will be £5 per person. Children under 12 travel free. Dogs welcome!
All we need now is for the sun to shine as it did last year!
The ‘Lily~Rose’ launch, Old Dornie slip, Achiltibuie, Coigach, Friday 19th April 2013.
A clear, sunny, spring afternoon welcomed a good crowd of locals and visitors to Old Dornie harbour last Friday for the launch of Coigach’s second St. Ayles racing skiff, the ‘Lily~Rose.’
She was built over the winter months with immense care and dedication by the all-Coigach team of Ali (Beag) Macleod, Alan Pendred, (Coigach Community Rowing Chair) and Mark Irvine, (CCR Racing manager) together with help from many other rowers, young and old. Folk will remember that Ali was one of the two lead builders of our first Skiff, the ‘Coigach Lass,’ with Ron Davidson – and his enthusiasm was in no way dimmed by that first build!
With the help of Grethe and Lizzie, their rower mums, toddler Lily and baby Rosie were assisted to dash their namesake’s bow with a splash of malt whisky – and the ‘Lily~Rose’ was duly named in good style to a hearty round of applause.
The two dads also did their bit. Rich had carved a wooden rose and Dan a lily – which were fixed to the boat next to Ron R’s beautifully-carved Lily~Rose lettering – all set off by the CCR fleet (!) livery of sky-blue hull, black sheerstrake and oiled gunnels, stem and stern.
Next into the new boat … the Under 17 crew – one of whom be-kilted !
Our newly formed Under 17 Crew (all of whom are under 15!) show off their developing skills as they train hard to compete along with CCR’s other crews in both the annual Coigach Coastal Rowing Regatta at Badentarbat on 18th May, the World St Ayles Skiff coastal rowing Championships in July this year in Ullapool – and in regattas round Scotland over the summer. This year Coigach is taking both boats and two crews to the Thames Great River Race in September – hoping to move up from that excellent second place out of 92 boats in their class last year, to a first!
However, with the wind getting up, it was time to get the ‘Lily~Rose’ back on her trailer …and then there was time for a wee dram (or two!) for all, as the builders discussed the modifications to the rudder they felt were needed (perfectionists!)
…and the spectators enjoyed the craic in the sun
and inspected the boat.
The unanimous vote was that the ‘Lily~Rose’ is another great boat, with many seasons of fun and hard competition ahead of her!
Many thanks to young pipers Seumas H and Anna and Ruaridh B – led by piper and rower, Alison S. Nothing like the pipes for stirring the soul!
…and finally she is back on the trailer and the crowd disperses for the evening…and to the pub!
Photo: L Muir Alan P, rower, builder and Chairperson of Coigach Community Rowing checks the ‘Lily Rose’ is right and tight.