On 25 September 2021, 9 rowers from the Royal West of Scotland Amateur Boat Club set off to participate in the Exciseman’s Chase put on by Carrick Coastal Rowing Club.
The participants from the Royal West were Ian Clark, Karyn Donnachie, Gillian Farrell, Hugh Ferns, Adam Graham, Carron McKee, William Osborne, Karen Radford and Stephen Singh. The Royal West were racing in Chippy McNish one of the 2 St. Ayles racing skiffs owned by the Club.
The Exciseman’s Chase is put on by Carrick Coastal Rowing Club. It is a 6-mile race which takes place starting from Maidens and proceeds north along the coast towards Culzean Castle. At around 3 miles up the coast crews, in Gashouse Bay, the crew can be changed. The fresh crew rows back to Maidens to finish. Teams start at 4 minute intervals and the winner is the team with the fastest time for the row.
This race is called the Excisemen’s Chase to reflect that Gashouse Bay was historically linked with the smuggling of Irish Whisky known as “Arran Water”. The Exciseman were always on the chase of the smugglers and their illicit whisky. Robert Burns, Scotland’s National Poet was an exciseman between 1788 until his death in 1796. During his career as an exciseman there is one well documented instance of him being involved in the seizing of a smuggling ship that had run aground.
After the Exciseman’s Chase the Clubs also take part in some sprint races outside Maiden’s harbour. The Royal West was 3rd in the Mixed Sprint and the Men’s Open races.
Nine teams competed in the Exciseman’s Chase. These were Arran, Carrick, Cumbrae, Firth of Clyde, Prestwick, Royal West, Troon, Stranraer, and Wigton Bay. The fastest time was recorded by Carrick with an overall time of 1h2m. The Royal West was 7th with a time of 1h18m. While 7th might not be considered a good result it was noted that 4 of the 9 racers were novices participating in their first long race over this sort of distance.