Maria writes: Friday the 9th of August, and after some rowers had unfortunately had to withdraw, nine of us braved the heavy rain conditions for the drive up to Shieldaig, Alistair with the Maid in tow. We were greatly cheered by his message at around 5 pm that the gazebo was up and the sun was shining!
With the skiffs securely parked up in the trailer park, the regatta warm-up event that evening in the village hall was well attended and one-pot food, drinks and a live band was only the beginning of great hospitality that would be on offer throughout the regatta.
On Saturday morning the conditions looked pretty windy, but manageable. Skiffs were launched from the slip end on the village and some crews took advantage to row around the island that would be our course, on to the pebble beach in front on the grass area where the gazebos were pitched.
The 2km course was explained at the coxes briefing, as in previous years with a start between the island and the village, a mad dash northwards to the shared turning mark at the north end of the island, around the back of the island ( the “dark” side) and a final sprint to the finish line.
The only difference this year was that the shared turning buoy was moved 0.6 km northwards which should reduce the number of skiffs arriving at the same time at this turn, making it less fraught for the coxes and umpires alike…
Racing commenced at 13.00 hours, and as this regatta forms part of the village fete, the six races are interspersed with lovely activities like a pet show, best of six legs dog show, up the hill races, raffle prize tables, etc. Lovely street food is on offer with all seafood donated by local fishermen for fundraising.
Because most of our rowers apart from Jennifer were in their 60th year or over, we did not expect great results, but we sure enjoyed the glorious setting and races within a race. We came 9th out of 13 in the overall results, which was actually quite surprising, and a special mention can be made of the women’s 230+ who came 6th , after successfully overtaking a strong Avoch team just before the finish line. The Men 230+ also did well and came 7th in their race.
The skiffs were launched from the pebble beach, which became smaller and smaller as the tide came in, and scrambling over breakwater rocks before helping the crew out of their boat and the new rowers in, was at times tricky, and great skills were also shown by all our coxes during the day. We all helped each other, and in Andy’s spirit we accommodated requests from Kenny (Newhaven) and Isla (Broughty Ferry) to row with our club. Monkeyfist keyrings were made and sold, also by the ever helpful partners. (£35 raised!)
We all rowed hard and we all rowed well! We were cold and tired at the end of the afternoon, but well pleased.
After the customary raffle prizes were announced and the fundraising auction completed, at prizegiving Golspie were the overall winners, followed by Shieldaig in second, and Avoch in third place.
Our rowers and partners then all went out for a fabulous meal at the local hotel bistro, after which some continued to enjoy the band, burgers and live music from 8 pm in the street around the lorry stage. One good thing of the windy conditions was a lack of midges, something we were extremely thankful for! We all had a fabulous regatta, it was very well organised and the communication from Janine, organiser of the event, was excellent.
Unfortunately we did not come away with any medals, as they really are very beautiful indeed.
So let’s keep our eyes on next years event, hopefully we can attend with great strong, age-appropriate teams, as this surely is one of my favourite events. With local hotels, B&Bs, and a now even better free skiffie campsite, it will be well worth us booking early.
And you could, like quite a few of us did this year, add an extra couple of days to your stay for kayaking, hillwalking, wild swimming at beautiful sandy beaches, and generally exploring and enjoying this gorgeous part of Scotland.