Peter Ashe writes:
Immediately before the prize-giving on Saturday evening, one of our hosts said that their approach to medal-making had been like a primary school sports day — make a lot so all can have prizes. And something similar seems to have happened when trying to write about the event: it’s proven very hard not to write a school sports day report.
(Image via Ewens of Ullapool who run passenger transport services in the Highlands of Scotland, hope they don’t mind us using their photo. Ewens – if you do, let me know!)
Anyway, first a little background and context: for anyone who hasn’t been to Ullapool, here is a photo of the part of Loch Broom where we rowed. It’s a wonderful amphitheatre with hills sweeping down to the water all round you. Our course on Saturday was — looking at the picture again — from the start a little to the right of the yellow crane on the town’s foreshore, across the loch to a mark just in front of the white blob (a cottage) on the far headland. Then a starboard turn away along the lochside to a mark out of shot on the right. Once round that, the final leg was along the front of the row of houses on the shore line to a finish back by the start line.
The weather conditions on Saturday were always breezy, and even blusterous some of the time. But neither rain nor midges!
While warming up for the first event, one of our crew was heard to remark that this was the first time this year he could remember racing without a hangover. Well the first leg, into the teeth of the breeze and against the tide, was guaranteed to sweat any toxins out of the system. The second leg was relatively sheltered from the breeze and with the tide — fast but not swoopy. But the third leg was right across the tide flow, parallel with any chop that the breeze had kicked up — a guarantee of a hard finish.
Our winning row in the men’s 35+ wasn’t as easy as we’d perhaps hoped, in view of commitments later in the schedule. Credit to them, Achiltibue never let up. But two seconds was enough. Our Women’s 35+ faced a blustery first leg — the breeze had kicked up at that point, but we had a swift second leg and an admirable second turn and acceleration out of it (given they’d already been rowing hard for 20 minutes) to overtake Boatie Rows in about 20 strokes — it’s strange how swiftly positions can change. The Ullapool team won that one — justly gratifying for them with their new daily training routine.
What about lunch, you may ask? We (the support team anyway) made our own on the beach, after a lightning raid on the local Tescos, and people ate on the run.
After two more commanding performances in the Mixed 35+ and Men’s Open (the latter beating Achiltibue into second place…again), the Women’s Open team faced a tough challenge from the locals. After steering an intriguing course into third place on the first leg, they rowed a blinder along the shore, overtaking (it’s not easy to pass someone in a straight line) Boatie Blest about three-quarters of the way along the leg, to finish second. Finally, Achiltibue won — at last! — with our guys a bit tuckered out by their exertions in previous races (for one of our Mixed Open crew it was his third race of the day: next time you are out, try rowing for nearly an hour at full pressure!).
So with those results under our belt we adjourned firstly to the pub, then to a ceilidh in the evening. Wonderful inter-generational dancing, a raffle, and prize giving, including the new overall shield which we won by a handsome margin.
Here is Andres trying to look surprised Image thanks to and copyright of Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club
Full race results here.
Then on Sunday, the early morning clouds and midges cleared and most of us went to the barbecue further up the loch, by skiff, traditional sailing boat (think ‘We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea‘), or car. Meanwhile your correspondent’s team decided to potter off home early so as to be able to take several cups of coffee along the way. True to this spirit, we stopped for a break before even leaving Ullapool. It was really much too nice a place!