Testing time in North Berwick

An early start and long drive through the rain from Greenock to North Berwick was testing enough on Saturday without the conditions that greeted the squad from the Club. The photo below does not illustrate the sea, wind and tidal conditions the crews had to contend with in one of the largest regattas of the SCRA 2012 season.

Host club North Berwick RC organised and ran a great event. Race programme was well spaced, umpiring and beach control were great, safety cover was very good, food fantastic, weather onshore great, town really friendly. Everything was perfect. The only slight fly in the ointment was the sea and wind states on the course.

The course was from a North-South transit in front of the harbour wall NW to Craiglieth, you then turned East along the North side of Craiglieth before heading South at the East end of the the island back to a line running West from the NBSC tower. Approx. 2 miles.

The first race of the day was the Men’s Open at 10:00. The strongest crews effectively testing the conditions. The tide appeared to be at its lowest and just about to start to come in, wind was from the West (as it was for most of the day), but instead of last year’s large swell we had a serious chop. At times during the race we watched other skiffs with half thier keels exposed one minute and then only the sheerstrake visible above the water the next minute, as they crashed into the next wave. After negotiating our way round the Newburgh skiff which was trying to reconnect its rudder, we rounded the island and had the waves at our stern. These waves were far cleaner than those we had rowed into on the way out to the island and we gained a lot of speed very quickly. As we started surfing we had no rudder in the water at times. This resulted in us partially broaching at one point.

The wind at the East end of Craiglieth was also particularly fierce as it cut round the steep cliffs. Although the sea state was very calm here, in the lee of the island, the wind made it feel as though you were rowing through treacle. The last leg to the finish line was tough as you were rowing South with the wind & waves hitting you from the West. There was not a dry person stepped out of Birdie Bowers on the day.

As we got back into the beach after the first race there was serious doubt about going back out by any member of the team. Following reports of improving conditions by the event organisers and on the previso that we would review our completion of the race during it, the Mixed Open crew went out. We were due to start in the first wave of boats in this event but due to a technical issue with Robert’s wellies as we launched were were allowed to start with the second wave. Seeing a man stand in the water with one welly on and one in his hand, trying to decide whether to take one off or put one on, while his crew screamed at him to get in the boat, brightened up the day for a lot of people on the beach.

The conditions during the second race were far better. The Mixed Open crew took nearly 90 seconds off the Men’s Open crew’s time. Conditions on the course steadily improved during the middle of the day while the Club’s Mixed 60+ crew were competing. When the Men’s 40+ crew went out the conditions were starting to worsen again as the tide was approaching its highest.

As some of the race start times drifted the last race of the day, Women’s Open, was started at approx 16:45, 40mins late. The tide was staring to go out and the tidal rip on the South, East & North of Craiglieth gave rise to extreme conditions. As Birdie Bowers approached the island the Newburgh crew, who were trapped in the tidal rip on the South side of the island resigned from the race. Two of the fourteen crews had decided not to start. The Women’s crew held thier nerve and rounded the island to take advantage of the rip on the North side that was heading East.

As they rounded the East end of the Island the bulk of the race fleet was stuck in the treacle like conditions and Auchiltibuie were under tow from one of the safety boats, after loosing its rudder. The hard slog back to the harbour began and tested the Royal West women to thier limits. Fighting waves, wind & tide the ladies dug deep for what felt like an eternity. As they approached the harbour wall there was a message from race control asking if the crew wanted to be towed back in, this was replied to by a polite radio message indicating that Royal West, in Birdie Bowers, would finish the race.

As the crew rowed back into the beach there was a hero’s welcome from our close friends at Anstruther and the rest of the Royal West squad. If there was a prize for perseverance it went to the ladies of Royal West.

As is one of the overiding principals with the SCRA clubs, everyone mucks in to load up boats and help with trailers. The spirit of adventure bonding people and communities.

The aftermath of the squad being away if getting everything back in the car. Below is Heather Scott & Sarah Graham waiting to load the car.

Alex & Marie Paterson had decided to celebrate thier 20th Wedding Anniversary in North Berwick. Alex still knows how to woo the ladies, see his choice of luxury accommodation below.

North Berwick is the last scheduled regatta on the SCRA calendar, however Royal West have been asked to organise a small sprint regatta on Castle Semple Loch on Saturday 27th October, to co-incide with the SCRA AGM. Anyone interested in taking part should contact the Captain of Boats, Alex Paterson.