Overlooked by the castle with the longest recorded history of any stronghold in Scotland, a fleet of fixed seat rowing boats gather last Saturday at Sandpoint Marina, opposite the site of the historic Denny’s Shipyard. A yard famous for the Cutty Sark, SS Sir Walter Scott and TS Queen Mary.
Fitting then that this was the launch site for Castle to Crane 2019. The third year this spectacular fixed seat rowing race has been staged and the third year that the Club has entered as well as been prominent in organising the launch site & start.
Seventy-five boats gathered from as far south as Sidmouth in Cornwall and as far North as Kirkwall on Orkney. We also had a boat over from Strangford in Northern Ireland. The organisers expected a slump in participants due to the high level of commitment put into the Skiffie Worlds in July, however, even with a number of overseas clubs not attending, there were actually more boats this year.
The Club provided the large majority of the “meet & greet” team throughout Friday. This team booked in the arriving boats and issued registration packs. They also assisted in offloading boats and making the arriving crews welcome. It was made more difficult this year by the incredibly good weather. Sun cream and hats on a very warm and sunny September day. The team this year included Mat, Karen G, Karyn D, Rose, Helen, Ronald, Adam, Marie, Alex & Ian. From 10am-9pm the team were always cheery, but in the end weary. They was also a couple of lovely enthusiastic ladies from Burghead.
Saturday morning brought a few more boats but a lot more people. On average each boat had a crew of five, so we were expecting in excess of 375 people at Sandpoint before the start at 11am. As busses had been laid on from The Transport Museum this flood arrived almost at once. Incredible to see the waves of people getting off the busses in the marina and heading to the toilets, breakfast van and then their boats. There were also a lot of supporters and locals, as well as the press. The marina had a very lively and energetic buzz about it ahead of the Coxes Brief.
Having briefed the coxes and crews, Robbie Wightman (SCRA Convenor) wished all the crews well and proceeded to brief the rescue boat crews. As well as having entered four competing boats in the race again this year, the Club and its members also provided two of the safety boats. The Club’s RHIB and a RHIB Phil Jones borrowed from Briggs Marine. The size and power of this boat turned a few heads. The Club members who provided safety cover (Heather (VP), Ewen, Paul & Phil) are to be commended, especially for their patience with some of the slower crews.
As in previous years the Club provided the start line team. This year it consisted of Al (Past VP), Shelagh, Hugh and Karen B. Although very new to the Club Karen B has been very enthusiastic, so we needed to find her a role. As Al, Shelagh & Hugh were concentrating on starting and timing Karen B & her husband George were the buffer between them and the supporters who had gathered to watch the start. The team did a remarkable job and were commended by the organisers for their accuracy and efficiency.
The race itself takes crews from a line across the mouth of the River Leven, below the castle, up to a line across the River Clyde at the Finnieston Crane. On the way up it passes the sites of all the major Upper Clyde Shipyards, some now redeveloped such as John Brown in Clydebank, others still in use such as Yarrows at Scotstoun. It passes under the Erskine Bridge, around the Renfrew Ferry who was cutting through the fleet and over the Clyde Tunnel. It passes from one of the oldest of Scotland’s Castles to the heart of one of Scotland’s most vibrant cities. Finishing beside the broadcasting hub that is Pacific Quay and just East of The Science Centre. One of the ships passed on the course is the TS Queen Mary, now under refurbishment at the quayside adjacent to the Science Centre. This beautiful ship was built at Denny’s and launched in 1933.
Royal West boats started at positions 23 (Chippy, Open women St. Ayles), 36 (Sprite, Mixed four oared other), 27 (Naiad, Men’s four oared other) & 44 (Birdie, Open St. Ayles).
The ladies in Chippy had gone to a good amount of effort again this year to decorate the boat and dress for the race. Having been nicknamed the Princesses they took this to extremes. Karyn, Angela, Liz, Marie (Hon. Treasurer) & Elaine can be seen below ready to launch.
Sprite’s crew had a couple of fresh faces in it this year. Karen G & Adam were joined by Helen & George to form a Mixed crew. Helen had rowed previously at Loch Lomond ARC before joining Royal West a few years ago. George had been replaced in the Men’s jollyboat this year and needed a seat. The fifth member again this year was Colin at cox. His knowledge and understanding being worth another oarsman.
Naiad’s crew also had a new member this year. Ronald replaced George in bow to help channel the crew’s power & enthusiasm. Alex (Past VP), Shug, Ali (who travelled from Chester to train & compete) & Ronald were coxed by Gary again this year. They had been training for some months with a target of improving on the course record they set last year.
Birdies’ crew comprised some of the oldest competitive rowers in the Club as well as some of the newest. Mat(Past VP), Ian, Rose (Subs), Julie & Karen R had also been putting in the hours for months to get ready for this event. Their determination was commented on by the safety boat crews.
The Easterly wind that had been predicted was stronger than expected and no new records were set. Heading from the Leven to Erskine Bridge was a slog that few will want to repeat soon, but once into the relative calm east of the bridge progress was less demanding.
Naiad’s progress through the fleet was quite remarkable. Having set off 37th they were the 5th boat to cross the line and recorded the fastest time on the day at 2hrs 13mins 19secs.
Sprite did not perform quite as well as last year, however still managed to be the 18th boat across the line and finished 11th overall and 3rd in category. Time 2hrs 36mins 9secs
Chippy was 34th across the line, finished 54th overall but 9th in category. Time 3hrs 17mins 5secs
Birdie was 74th over the line but 70th overall and 28th in category. Their time was 3hrs 45mins 41secs
As well as picking up the Four Oared Other trophy again this year we have also received a lot of thanks from participants and event organisers for our support of the event.
Credit for the photos go to Alex Workman and Steve Thomson. Possibly Ewen for the last one