Age old rowing tradition could be revived in Eyemouth
A REVIVAL of rowing competitions along the Scottish coast is beginning to take place and Eyemouth is the latest community to look at taking up the challenge.
Up to the 1950s there were regular coastal rowing competitions and sailing regattas as fishing communities vied with each other, and along the Tweed coble racing was an eagerly anticipated annual event. Over time their appeal waned but there is a strong resurgence going on to bring communities together to build and race their own vessels.
The sport has been restarted in recent years in Shetland where there are over 20 boats racing, and coastal rowing classes in England and Wales are also seeing a huge resurgence in interest.
The Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther is giving its backing to an initiative to re-introduce inter-community rowing and the 'Scottish coastal rowing project' is gathering pace. Their aim is to provide a relatively inexpensive entry to the sport by using a design which can be built by the communities who will be rowing the boats, rather than buying completed boats from professional boat builders.
Taking up the challenge in Berwickshire is former Eyemouth harbour master and ex Eyemouth Lifeboat coxswain Johnny Johnston.
His enthusiasm for the project is catching and he has secured the backing of Eyemouth Town Council who are "100 per cent" behind it and Eyemouth High School have also expressed an interest in getting involved.
The next step is to hold a public meeting in The Fishermen's Mission, Harbour Road, on Wednesday, March 10, at 7pm to gauge what support there is for the project.
Johnny visited Leven, in Fife last Friday to see for himself the prototype model skiff that any Eyemouth boat would be based on.
There are 29 communities across Scotland and four in England involved in the project and the hope is that enough communities will get on board to enable inter-community races to be organised.
"I have been speaking to someone who farms near the Tweed and he told me that years ago they used to have coble races from Carham and Norham. Apparently Willie Robson at the Chainbridge Honey Farm is keen to get the coble racing on the Tweed restarted and this would be the ideal thing.
"There is no reason why communities such as Duns and Chirnside couldn't have a boat on the Whitadder reservoir.
"I'm doing this for the Eyemouth community. I was brought up in Port Seton and recently discovered that they have two kits - one being built by retired fishermen and one which is going to the high school where pupils are going to build it. That gave me the idea for Eyemouth."
The materials cost 1200, and moulds are used to build the boats, which means they can be reused.
"All these boats will be exactly the same so you will be racing on a level playing fields," said Johnny.
The boats are known as St Ayles skiffs - St Ayles being the name of the building that houses the Scottish Fisheries Museum, and the design of the boats is based on the traditional Fair Isle Skiff.
This is regarded as an ideal class of boat for the project and internationally renowned small boat designer Iain Oughtred has come up with a Scandanavian style kit-form vessel that can be built by community groups.
St Ayles Skiffs are built using the Clinker Ply method, which combines traditional and modern methods of construction and are being designed with the option to add a sail in the future. The estimated completion cost of one of these boats will be around 3000, using a kit of pre-cut plywood parts and Scottish grown timber.
The idea is to have children from the age of 11 years of age and upwards taking part in races," Johnny explained. "They take five people - four rowing and one steering and can be raced by young and old, male and female.
"The boats are easy to row, are light and very safe in the sea. The local lifeboat crews could even use it for training purposes.
"I thought about this years ago - getting communities involved and linking up with each other. It would be great if we could get inter-community competitions going and could have the boats involved in the Herring Queen festivities and galas - they would be tailor made for Eyemouth because even if the sea was too rough they could be raced in the harbour."
Johnny has already tested the water to see if there is local interest in coastal rowing competitions, and if enough people are willing to get on board he has even provisionally identified a couple of places in Eyemouth where a skiff could be built.
Anyone wanting more information about the Scottish coastal rowing project can contact Johnny on 01890 750248.
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Weather for Duns
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 8 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 7 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: South west