Castle to Crane report

Marianne reports: Two QRC crews took part in this year’s Castle to Crane race. In the W50+ we had Barbara, Donna M, Lesley and Tracey, with me coxing my first race. In the Men’s Open we had Alan D, Gabe and Douglas, with Alan S and Alexander sharing coxing.

All ten rowers arrived at the start in Dumbarton in beautiful warm September sunshine, with a slight breeze. Conditions were perfect.

The Lass’s crew ahead of the race. Photo by Barbara Agnew
The Maid is launched. Photo by Mike McDowall

The W50+ were fifth in the start draw, so slipped into water to a full crowd. After some ‘top tips’ from the bank about which is the sharp end and which is the blunt end (hard to row when you’re trying to get your oars on the right side!), and we settled in for the short row to the start.

Ferry Lass at the start of their race. Photo by Daren Borzynski

A hooter indicated we’d crossed the start and after short row down the Leven and a sharp turn to port at the Leven Perch, we were into the Clyde and really off! We could see out first landmark in the distance, or at least I could (did you know rowing is the only sport you do going backwards?), and as we passed along the Lang Dyke, the Erskine Bridge did not seem to be getting much closer. That gentle breeze had developed into a strong headwind. Despite rowing on a flood tide, this was going to be considerably harder than anticipated.

After the bridge, the sight of four graceful swans flying overhead spurred us on towards our next landmark, the Titan crane. Cue calls of ‘are we there yet?’! No, ‘fraid not! This part of the race, although pleasant, is relatively feature free, and with my promises of relief from the headwind would be just round the next corner, coming to nothing, it felt like a bit of a slog.

Broughty Ferry entered a newly restored 1940s skiff, left, while Topher Dawson of Ullapool devised a novel system for his oars, right. Photo by Daren Borzynski

The next section saw us start to enter a more urban landscape that must’ve once echoed to the sounds of world class shipbuilding industry. The lack of boat movements on this world famous shipbuilding river, when compared to our own, felt rather strange and at times we were rowing alone, with no other skiffs around. The slog continued, with Lesley uttering the immortal words ‘I’m bored with this’! Time to start diverting the crew with ‘power 10s’. Then started a series, a long series, of upping the stroke, one power 10 for each of the crew, one power 10 for Ferry Maid, one for each of the men’s crew, one power 10 for Ferry Lass… ‘Are you ready? Let’s go! On my mark…’.  Despite, the headwind, which continued to batter us, Barbara, Donna, Lesley and Tracey responded to each call and got the boat moving.

The Maid’s crew tackling the headwind. Photo by Barbara Agnew

The final section feels like the longest row ever, although a lone seal popped up to wish us on our way. Suddenly round the longest curve ever, the tall ship at the Riverside Museum came into view. But no Finnieston Crane, still hidden from view by yet another curve. The sight of the tall ship again spurred our crew on, and in the knowledge we only had three or so kilometres to go, the boat was moving well again. Now with the finish line in sight, and more importantly the Finnieston Crane, a safely boat frantically waved us to port. Suddenly we were greeted by what must be a traditional Govan welcome, a hail of stones from the bankside! Maybe they were disgruntled slidey seat rowers, but Barbara gave them a good telling-off! Well done to the safety boat who put themselves in real danger to protect us and another skiff – we heard over the radio that their boat was littered with stones.

Two small bridges to go under and suddenly there was the hooter – Castle to Crane completed. Time to break out the jelly babies! As we drifted down river to the slip, we were delighted to see Ferry Lass and the men’s crew, who had started much later in the draw, steaming along in great form towards the finish!

Still smiling after almost four hours of non-stop rowing! Photo by Barbara Agnew

Well done to Barbara, Donna, Lesley, Tracey, Alexander, Alan S, Alan D, Gabe and Douglas for rowing in tougher than expected conditions. The sunny weather made it look benign, though it was anything but! The W50+ came sixth in the Women’s 50+ category, while the Men came fourth in the Men’s Open, pipped to third by only 1 minute 19 seconds, and 14th overall. Many thanks to Mike and Marion, and Alastair and Eleanor, for giving up your time to tow the boats.

GalGael’s flagship Orcuan, a traditional birlinn galley, finishes in style

If we decide to enter next year’s race, should you consider doing Castle to Crane? It’s a tough race with challenge as much mental as physical. I saw that in the faces of my crew while I merely had to sit there, occasionally wiggling the tiller, and trying to come up with motivational chat. However, balance the pain, the blisters and the chafing with the elation and sense of achievement, then YES is the answer! Go for it!


Full results
Photos from QRC members
Photos by Daren Borzynski
SCRA report