Argyll skiffs at first World Coastal Rowing Championships this week

One competitor will be a skiff from Pennsylvania brought across for the event – that is also a musical instrument tuned to talk to whales. It’ll be interesting to see what Argyll’s two entrants – Coastal Rowing teams from two island communities – Islay and Seil – make of that. Will this breed a new challenge between Argyll skiffs?

Along with Islay and Seil up at Ullapool are clubs last seen in the race here at Tighnabruaich last Monday, as part of the festivities aorund the Fife Regatta’s visit to Argyll waters.  At Tighnabruaich and up at Ullapool now are Carrick Coastal Rowing Club from Maidens in Ayrshire and Troon Coastal Rowing. There two are North Berwick Rowing Club, some of whose members were on holiday in Cowal and came to Tighnabruaich last Monday to support the skiffs race.

The competition is fierce and international. Visiting teams are from:

  • New Zealand Traditional Boatbuilding School, from Auckland – rowing Lily Rose, loaned by Coigach Community Rowing
  • Women on Water from Franklin in Tasmania Australia – rowing Boatie Blest, loaned by Boatie Blest Rowing
  • Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vermont, USA – rowing Cul Mor, loaned by Ullapool High School
  • Wind and Oar Boat School’s ‘Rosie’ crew from Portland in Oregon, USA – rowing Ferry Lass, loaned by Queensferry Rowing Club
  • Moravian Academy from Bethlehem in Pennsylvania USA – rowing Sephira, their musical ark, brought across the pond for the event.
  • WSV Woudrichem Rowers from Woudrichem in the Netherlands, bringing their own skiff – launched on 24th June.

And an English Club, CraBlakeney, is making the trip north to Ullapool from Blakeney in Norfolk.

The Moravian Academy’s St Ayles skiff, Sephira, – the musical ark, is bound to be the wonder of the week.

With a stunning figurehead  curving upwards from her stem board, she was built by Academy students and staff, designed by Iain Oughtred and modified by Michael Brolly to be able to play music in the range of Whale Speak.

It is believed that the size of the instrument will convey to the whales the seriousness of the rowers intent to communicate with them. The Academy says: ‘Whales have the largest brains on the planet. We have scientists, musicians, artists and some really powerful computers dedicated to the notion that if we can communicate that we are sorry for the centuries of abuse inflicted by our species onto the whales and their environment we will eventually benefit from their other worldly intelligence.’

Yesterday, Monday 8th July, was an introduction day with skiffs tootling around in Loch Broom; a visit from the Princess Royal, a lifelong sailor herself with her boat kept in Argyll; and a ceilidh in the evening with step tutors on hand to see everyone in the mix.

Today, Tuesday 9th July, the competition starts in earnest with the women’s and men’s long distance races to Ardmair, at the entrance to Loch Broom -  accompanied by other boats. A novel handicapping sees men row against the wind and women with the wind. So a picnic lunch at Ardmair will be followed by the second race back to Ullapool – the wind direction deciding which gender rows the race out and which the one back.

Tomorrow, Thursday and Friday see lane racing; Saturday sees the racing heats and finals – topped off with a trophy presentation and dance in the Pier Marquee – to music from Skipinnish. Sunday 14th July is a last crew standing wind-down row across Loch Broom for a barbecue and picnic.

Looking at the Race Schedule, an interesting local note is that, for obvious reasons, the times are arranged around the arrival and departure of the CalMac ferry playing between Ullapool and Stornoway in the Western Isles.

This will be a fabulous event and, with 33 competing teams and 29 skiffs on the water, it will be a great spectacle for onlookers. Great to see two Argyll clubs up there. Expect Islay and Seil to be pretty quiet when they get back. Ullapool knows how to party.

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