Tuesday, May 10, 2011

St Ayles Skiff in Loch Broom

There is a lot of news to digest from the last week here in dory-land. We'll spend the next few days getting caught up.

First, I'd like to share the news from Scotland on the hugely popular St Ayles project. You may remember that the folks in Scotland have been building these racing skiffs as fast as they can to get in on the action. It's infectious! I've been working on drumming up interest in this project here at home because it seems like far too much fun to pass up. If you haven't yet heard of the St Ayles skiffs, please take some time to follow it's progress. This link will take you back through previous posts.

My good friend Chris Perkins sent me an update on the most recent launch of a St Ayles built by the Ullapool High School students. Under the guidance of the superlative Topher Dawson these young people turned out a boat they can be proud of. Watch for these enthusiastic young competitors, they could be real trouble!

Chris tells the story of the early season on the Loch Broom:

"Spring on Loch Broom"

"Friday 6th May saw the conclusion of much frenetic activity on the Coastal Rowing front in the Loch Broom area. Piped in procession from the high school to Ullapool’s Wee pier the latest St Ayles Skiff build, Cùl Mòr (a local hill) was launched during the school’s lunchtime break. The why of the timing was because a team of Ullapool High School students built her over the winter and spring terms and the ceremony had to fit in with the school day. The first School build to get splashed Cùl Mòr is a real credit to the build team guided by Topher Dawson and local boatbuilder Mark Stockl, well put together and nicely finished in blue and grey with a white sheerstrake. Anointed with the national spirit by Headmaster, Mr P. Harrison, she was quickly launched onto the slightly ruffled waters of Loch Broom to whoops of delight from her young crew. All too quickly she had to return to shore for the crew to resume their studies only just giving time for fellow skiffs Ulla and Loki to join her on the water. The Ullapool Harbour Trustees(who donated the kit and materials) faith in the ability of the local students has been amply justified."

"A couple of weeks earlier the Loch Broom Sailing Club had splashed their skiff Loki, again to the accompaniment of the pipes. Loki had been in build for the past two winters (the builders were far too busy playing on the water during the summer) and has the most intimidating figurehead on her stem – opinion is divided on exactly what it represents, a Black Swan or Water Fowl of a more local origin?"

"Whatever it may be it is a grand bit of sculpting. Sadly for photographers the LBSC team chose a livery that inhibits good imagery – satin black absorbs the light and conceals the detail – it will however be a permanent reminder of the stout beverage that fueled the build through those long cold and dark winter evenings."

"And three weeks before Loki hit the water the Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club had the long delayed formal naming of Ulla. Traumatized from her encounter with some rocks during an early winter gale and very high tide last November the maintenance team led by Topher Dawson had spent the winter replacing the smashed planking and repainting and varnishing."

"Whilst she was in dry-dock the opportunity was taken to apply her name. Experience from last year showed that once she was in the hands of the rowers there is very little chance of taking her out of service long enough to do maintenance."

"An interesting aside – it has been noticed that Ulla is much faster since the gilded name has been applied, since she clearly responds well to bling, how much faster will she be once the gold go faster stripes are applied next winter? A launching trolley and bespoke trailer were also built to make it easier to move her around Scotland to attend the many regattas being arranged. The first one will be at Ullapool's neighbors, the Coigach Lass group just up the coast in Achiltibuie where all four of the Loch Broom area Skiffs will race together with Skiffs from further south on the 21st May. Knowing how well the Coigach party this should be a memorable happening."

Let the races begin! Thank you, Chris for the update with the fine photos. As usual, I would love to be there to join in the festivities and put my back into an oar.

Someday soon my friend, someday soon.

All photos courtesy of Chris Perkins and can only be reproduced with his specific permission.

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