Argyll’s Secret Coast’s campaign sees crowds flow in to celebrate Fifes and skiffs

coastal rowing

Hundreds of people came from all parts to south west Cowal to welcome the fleet of Fife yachts as they sailed into Argyll’s Secret Coast as part of the Fife Regatta 2013 this week.

As well as enjoying the spectacle of these beautiful craft, considered the world’s most prestigious classic yachts, they were treated to all sorts of onshore celebrations organised by the local community and sponsored by Event Scotland as part of the Year of Natural Scotland.

The Fifes sailed from Rothesay to Tighnabruaich on Monday 1st July. There were some great viewpoints along the way, including Caol Ruadh Sculpture Park near Colintraive. The first boats arrived in Tighnabruaich around lunchtime.

By this time, the village was buzzing with life and the festivities were in full swing, with a local produce and crafts market, boat trips on the puffer VIC 32, pony-and-trap rides, great local food and drink, including venison burgers and Fyne Ales, and lots of unexpected sunshine. In the evening, the Fife crews joined the locals for a dinner and ceilidh.

The Fife Regatta Committee’s Jo Turner says: ‘We were delighted to see so much activity in Tighnabruaich.  The welcome was terrific and there was a real buzz in the village. It was a lovely opportunity for our visitors to meet with locals and Fife enthusiasts alike.’

One of the highlights of the day – aside from the spectacular sight of the Fife boats – was the Scottish coastal rowing races. The Kyles Coastal Rowing Club launched its newly built St Ayles skiff at the event. Crowds flocked to the Lifeboat station to watch the local team battle it out to win against teams that had travelled from Troon, Carrick and Ardrishaig [the Mid Argyll skiff]. Crews from the visiting Fife boats then formed their own teams and took part in an afternoon of skiff races.

Jane Green, who had come from Aberdeenshire for the event, said: ‘What a fantastic atmosphere in the village. The planning and hard work of the community was rewarded by the enjoyment of visitors, crews and locals alike. And what a great day for the Kyles Coastal Rowing Club. A wonderful achievement by all involved.’

Tighnabruaich resident Donald Clark, who helped to organise the celebrations, says: ‘It was a great few days for local businesses – the shops, hotels, galleries and cafés all reported bumper sales.  We hope that those who came to Argyll’s Secret Coast for the Fife Regatta will be back to see us in the future.’

The welcome is guaranteed to be just as warm.

fifes at portavadie Birthday cake

On Tuesday morning the larger boats set sail en-masse from Kames to race to Portavadie Marina, where they berthed for two nights. Despite the wet weather, it was a truly breath-taking sight. Lots of people followed the progress of the boats from a number of viewpoints along the coast, taking advantage of local cafés and hotels to stop for refreshments on the way.

Tuesday’s weather had hindered Class 3, the smaller boats, from making this passage, so Kames benefited from an unscheduled race for this class on Wednesday morning.

The crews of the larger yachts made the most of a lay day to rest at Portavadie , take comfort in the first class facilities at Portavadie Marina and explore the surrounding area. Many boarded the paddle steamer Waverley and headed to Tarbert. Fife competitor Barry Dunning said: ‘The trip on the Waverley was just fantastic. A great day out and engineering at its best.’

The crews enjoyed a whisky tasting and Scottish feast on Tuesday evening at Portavadie. It is hardly a surprise that the 18 year-old-malt whisky ice cream cones went down a storm – so much so that the crews asked for more at their barbeque on the Wednesday evening.

Portavadie Marina – always imaginative – had arranged a stunning surprise – a Fife-shaped cake made by local bakers, Happyhills Cakes, to celebrate the 90th birthdays of Fife boats Kentra and Astor. Iain Jurgensen, Portavadie’s General Manager, had the honour of raising the flag that started ‘The Bute Race’ from Portavadie back to Largs on Thursday morning.

This event has been a triumph of exemplary organisation and marketing to support public excitement to witness unique sailing boats made with supreme craftsmanship, known, respected and lusted for the world over – all of them designed and most of them built here on the Clyde, at the Fairle Yard.

Those who followed the fleet in the days it was in and around south west Cowal and in Argyll’s unmatched sailing grounds have now been inducted into some of the pleasures of Argylls Secret Coast.

When Kyles Coastal Rowers host another skiff race, they may need several days to accommodate the community teams wanting to be part of the action in this breathtaking part of the world. Two members of North Berwick Coastal Rowing, a very experienced community squad, looked at the west Kyle, scanned the Isle of Bute on the far side of it,  and absorbed the lovely Tighnabruaich behind them, signed and said to us: ‘Why would you want to row anywhere but here?’

Portavadie Marina had also better start sticking up on that 18 year-old malt whisky ice cream. The news has got out.

And if Happyhills Cakes had been less expert than they proved with that edible 90th birthday tribute to Astor and Kentra, they could always have claimed they were recreating the moment in The Bute Race when Oblio decided to chance a gybe rather than tack round.

Jo Turner’s first hand witness of that particular manoeuvre was in the account of the race we published yesterday.

Cngratulations again to the Argyll’s Secret Coast team. The secret is unarguably out.

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