Coastal rowing teams from all over the world are about to plot a course to Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands for the inaugural St Ayles Skiff World Championships. The event will be staged against the backdrop of the town’s picturesque Loch Broom from July 8 to 14, with 32 vessels and up to 800 competitors expected to take part.
The championship is being run under the auspices of the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association, and will feature teams from Scotland, England, the Netherlands, Australia, the USA, and New Zealand. The event, sponsored by the Ullapool Harbour Trust, Aberdeen Asset Management, Highland Council and a wide range of other partners, will be officially launched by HRH The Princess Royal.
As well as a packed programme of racing and have-a-go sessions over the course of the week, there will be lots happening off the water too. Crews and spectators will be able to enjoy traditional music performances, attend ceilidhs, enjoy local seafoods and take part in arts and crafts sessions.
One of the star attractions will be The Sephira – a vessel based in Pennsylvania which also doubles as a musical instrument. She is a seaworthy skiff rigged with eight long piano wires from masthead to stern, which can be plucked like a harp. The string length and resonance properties of the hull enable the notes to be played in the same frequency band as a whale song.
St Ayles Skiffs are 22ft long wooden rowing boats crewed by four oarsmen and a coxswain. The boats were introduced by the Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther in an effort to encourage a resurgence of a sport once common in coast communities.
The skiffs are built from a kit, which means they can be put together by people with a basic level of DIY skills. As well as coming together to fund-raise to buy their own kit, community groups then build it. Group members come together from all walks of life, and most have either little or no experience in boatbuilding or rowing.
Fiona MacDonald of the Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club – one of the hosts of the event – says the Ross Shire town is the ideal location for the inaugural championships. She adds, “This will be the biggest gathering of skiffs anywhere in the UK and Loch Broom offers a spectacular setting for the first ever world championships."
Further information about the regatta and the shore-based attractions is available at www.skiffieworlds.com