Portsoy: sun, song, fish and victory!


Men’s 35+ team at Portsoy. Image © Patsy James


Andres writes:

Dear Skiffers of Portobello, 

As you know Jenny Skylark and 14 rowers headed up on the long journey to the Traditional Boat Festival at Portsoy again this year. We all arrived late on Friday 1st July and set camp by the fabulous beach and let the kids run wild, lit a bonfire and as is customary within Rowporty, we partied on until late; the aim was to go to bed when it went dark, but it never did. 

We were blessed with wall to wall sunburn all round, making it the warmest, driest and most pleasant regatta to date. The organisers did a sterling job in accommodating us (the skiffing community) among all the other events, we even had a dedicated floating pontoon in the new harbour, facilitating crew change overs without the need to get our toes wet. 

Alec Jordon organised the skiff racing at Portsoy on behalf of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association (SCRA). He planned one race per hour, which meant that the whole event was run at a more leisurely pace, giving time for a warm up before each race. 

The course was a 2.5 kilometre triangular course with 2 starboard turns. The conditions were completely new for us as we encountered 4+ meter high oceanic swells. The broad and lazy swells made it a little difficult to line up in a straight line at the start as all nine skiffs would disappear out of sight in a trough!. However, the skiffs proved to be incredibly stable in any direction (even broadside to the massive waves) and none of the skiffs took on any water during racing. 


Images © Patsy James

Rowporty managed to maintain it’s unbeaten record by winning the overall championship trophy. That is 5 out of 5 regattas this season which we have come ahead of the pack. Our oars, gearing and training have enabled us to win short sprints and long endurance races, irrespective of the crew (we have had a different complement of people at each regatta!). 

In summary: we won the Women’s Open beating Anstruther (who had beaten us last week at S. Queensferry). It was a hotly contested race which was won at the first buoy where we had the overlap, and hence the water, and after some oar clashing, some shouting in the monumental waves, we rounded the buoy ahead and then kept the strokes long and strong, making each slow stroke count, and wore Anstruther down to win by several lengths. 

We also won the Men’s Open, again a battle with Anstruther’s rather young looking lads! we led from the start and there was no real challenge to our lead. The team also clocked the fastest time for the course at 15:13min. We finished the race delirious with a lovely blend of pain and joy!

We were unbeatable in the Mixed Open, the last race of the regatta, which we also led from the front and managed to keep Anstruther, North Berwick and Port Seton in our wake. 


Images © Sandy MacLennan

The Women 35+ won their race with 3 boats crossing the line in quick succession. It was great to see our boat surfing into the finish line between the old and new harbours being chased down by Anstruther and Port Seton, but the ladies kept their cool with their long and hard strokes and crossed the line victorious. The heat, sun and exhaustion took its toll on some of our champion rowers with exhaustion requiring some of us to keeping drinking water and taking rests in the shade in order to cool down. 

The 50+ Women’s team, which included one rower from North Berwick and one from Ullapool, won their race comfortably to the credit of the cox and the mixed crew, some of which had never rowed our boat before. 

The Mixed 50+ crew, made up of 4 Portobello residents and one from S. Queensferry, also won their race! And finally, we had only one Man 50+ (Peter Ash) at Portsoy, but he added valuable points to our overall score as he went and rowed with another crew which came in first place! (I can’t remember who you rowed with Peter?). 

We also came second in the Men’s 35+, beaten by a strong team from Port Seton and we came Third in the Mixed 35+ race, beaten by Port Seton and Anstruther. 

At the prize giving on the main stage at Portsoy we received our individual medals, which look like a sheriff’s badge, and we were also presented with the overall winner’s trophy (an oval piece of oak carved with the Words (“St Ayles Skiff — Portsoy Champions 2011”). Ian Outright handed the prizes out and it gave us a chance to thank him for designing such a lovely boat and one which is so at home on the waves. We also discussed the issue of buoyancy in the boats to enable us to put a mast and sail on them. 



Image © Sally Thompson

We also managed to take the kids fishing in the big swell and many of them caught mackerel, which we took back to camp and fed the tired rowers in the evening sunshine. The fishing sessions where short as the kids felt seasick in the large rollers, other felt faint as we gutted the fish overboard; not sure if we will have many fishermen/women out our current brood of Porty Kids!

One of the highlights of the trip is when a pod of dolphins went jumping past the skiffs at the start line as they merrily caught some tasty mackerel! Another is the sight of the Porty Mermaid, which we had to abandon and leave lying alone on the grass in an empty campsite… hope you have made it home! 


We also enjoyed the company of the folk from Galgaeil around the bonfires late into the wee hours; at one point there were over 40 people there, some with guitars, mandolin, drums, harmonica and some with a gift voice. Stan, who seems to have adopted us, has been trying to teach us the words for our sea shanty, something the kids where found fascinating.

It has taken several days to catch up with sleep and washing etc, but from all those that went to Portsoy, it is fair to say we have a fantastic weekend among friends, boats and the sea. 




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