Rowing success continues

Further to my post back in May of this year, rowing has continued to grow, not only in numbers of participants, but also in our successes!

We attended Troon Regatta on 2nd June, where we managed to return with 2 Gold Medals! One for our Open Men crew and one for the Mixed 40+ crew. One of our newer members Derek also managed to bag himself 2nd place in the Surprise Sprint.


Next on the calendar was Arran Regatta on 16th June, where we achieved a Silver Medal for our Men’s Open and 2 Bronze Medals for the Mixed Open and Men’s 220+ (that’s a lot of years!!)

Next up……. Largs, 15th July. Our greatest success yet with 3 Gold Medals, 1 Silver Medal and the club’s Treasurer Liz McMahon in the winning crew of the Duncan Winning Challenge Race! This regatta also saw one of our newest members Angela winning her first medal in the Mixed Decades race. We were pipped by one point from winning the overall event.


Training went on all through August and into early September, only interrupted by the Exciseman’s Chase at Maidens on 8th Sept. This is a long distance race from Maidens Harbour to Gashouse Bay under Culzean Castle and back. A strong squad of 11 attended, enough for a full changeover at Gashouse Bay. Comments from other clubs and the event organisers identified Royal West as the clear favourites to claim the trophy, that we won the fist and second years the event was held.

Off the start the first leg crew was flying along. We turned the first mark and were heading West towards the second when disaster struck. Hugh broke his thole pin and, due to prep work for C2C, we were not carrying a spare. The oar was quickly lashed to the gunwhale and the crew continued to Gashouse Bay, but we had lost approx. 3mins. A decision was taken to leave Hugh using the makeshift oar for the return leg, unfortunately meaning Liz (Hon Treasurer) had to sit this out. The first leg team & Liz returned to Maidens to see how the lose of a thole pin had impacted on the overall result. Remarkably we finished 3rd of the 8 clubs entered. Troon (2nd) were 10 seconds faster and Arran (1st) 2mins 35 secs faster. But for the thole pin issue we may have one the event.

In the other racing that day Chippy performed well but unsuccessfully. One of our new members, Derek, was drawn in the winning FoCCRC skiff Saltire for the Patrick O’Rourke Memorial Race. Derek is rightly proud of this as his first competitive rowing win. Derek should also be credited as the photographer of a number of the exceptional images in this article.

With the excitement of our successful regatta season still at the forefront of our minds, we turned our attention to our biggest event of the year. Castle to Crane, 15th September 2018. This the biggest open water rowing race to be held in Scotland. 13 miles of fierce racing from Dumbarton Castle to the Finnieston Crane in the heart of Glasgow. The race is open to any fixed seat, coxed rowing boats of at least four oars. Last year saw 75 boats take part, of which Royal West had entered 2. This year we doubled that!

Former VP Alex Paterson put together a crew for Jollyboat Niaid which consisted of himself, Hugh Jamieson, George McCallum, Ali Wright and coxed by Gary Conner. Jollyboat Sprite was crewed by myself (Karen Graham), Adam Graham, Ronald Graham, Irene Hughes and coxed by Colin Campbell.

Our St Ayles Skiff Chippy McNish was crewed by Marie Paterson, Liz McMahon, Elaine Hunter, Karyn Donnachie, Angela Jones and Helen Hazlett. Henceforth to be known as the Royal West Princesses!
Our other Skiff Birdie Bowers was crewed by former VP Mat Henderson, Ian Clark, Robert Dowell, Lindsay Dowds and Julie Evans.

Conditions on the day were almost perfect, slightly overcast, relatively calm, incoming tide and south westerly wind. Sprite, Niaid and Chippy set off as boats 20, 21 and 23 in the first wave to leave the River Leven. Birdie, due to her category, was boat 66.

Setting off 1 minute 14 seconds behind Sprite, the Niaid crew gave themselves some work to do to catch the more experienced crew. The Niaid crews strength prevailed after 2 miles, when they managed to pass Sprite between Bowling and the Erskine Bridge. Both crews then progressed constantly through the fleet. Niaid crew had set themselves the challenge of beating the course record set last year. The Sprite crew had set the challenge to be sub 2 hours, taking at least 15 minutes off their time from last year. Both crews comfortably achieved their goals with Niaid setting the new course record of 1 Hour 50 minutes 35 seconds! Sprite completing the course in 1 hour 59 minutes 26 seconds. Only 7 boats of the 73 boats competing, finished the course in under 2 hours.

Chippy McNish, rowing in St Ayles Open Ladies category, crewed by our crack ladies (princess) team was 38th. Two of the ladies in this crew are new to rowing this year and for them to commit to an event of this scale was impressive. Their training involved weekend sessions, with one of them having to travel from Roseneath to do so. Your commitment ladies is inspiring and hats/tiaras off to you!

Birdie Bowers, rowing in the St Ayles Open Men’s category, with a squad including two 70+ members, was 42nd. Ian and Mat having been committed to encouraging coastal rowing at the club for so long were adamant that they were going to compete in this event again this year. They press ganged Robert Dowell into the crew again and must have caught Lindsay in a moment of weakness, convincing him it was a good idea too! Having found themselves a crew, they were still short a cox. In steps another new member, Julie Evans, who was only too happy to accept the challenge.

The club had 5 boats on the water that day, if we include the Royal West safety boat, crewed by our very own VP Heather Scott and Ewen Chisholm. They did a fantastic job marking the end of the fleet and escorting the last few boats to the finish. Thanks Heather and Ewen.

Much preparation went in to organising our participation in this event and this really was a team effort to get all 4 boats ready for the event. Many thanks to Hugh Jamieson for his endless hours of work on both the Jollyboats. The club now has 2 functioning Jollyboats which we can now hopefully use on a more regular basis and introduce our other members to the delights of rowing these beautiful boats. They were much admired when they were sitting on the hard at Sandpoint Marina!

Another thing much admired, was the outstanding contribution of other Royal West members to make this event such a great success. Our marshalling of boats on the Friday and Saturday at Sandpoint and the race start team were highly commended by the organisers and participants. Another great example of how the club can pull together to run or be involved in running fantastic events. On behalf of all who were on the water, we offer our sincere thanks to our onshore crew of Rose Sloan, Tom Kater, Willie Bell, George Carson, Derek Keatley, Ann McSeveney, Susie Clark, Joanna Dowell, Ross Dowell, Sarah Graham, Rebecca Graham and Joe Heffernen.

I’d like to say that I am now off to have a rest after all this excitement, but its not to be! The next 3 events in the rowing calendar are: Prestwick Regatta on 29th Sept, the Closing Cruise on the 13th October and the SCRA Freshwater Sprints at Loch Tummel on 27th October. Onwards and upwards!
Here’s to keeping the Royal West flag flying!

Karen Graham
Rowing Convenor