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A Snapshot of Portsoy 2015

The Club’s results at Portsoy Regatta were as mixed as the weather.  There were penalties, gold medals, and at least one tent collapsed under Saturday’s deluge.  We may have been wet, we may have been cold, we may even have been a teeny, tiny bit disappointed by some of the results, but guys, it was worth it for what surely must be the skiffie shot of the season.
John MacIntyre (cox), Robbie McFedries, John Grant, Ian Macgregor, Michael MacDonald in Cul Mor at Portsoy 2015.  Photograph courtesy of Allan Robertson Photography

Nomination for skiffie shot of the season.  Team: John MacIntyre (cox), Robbie McFedries, John Grant, Ian Macgregor, Michael MacDonald.  In Cul Mor at Portsoy 2015.  Courtesy of Allan Robertson Photography.

There was an excellent snapshot of the Club in the Mixed Decade team of Tom, Jan, Anne and William.  There were highs and lows.  A big learning curve.

John Grant

Brilliant sunshine and pouring rain.  Brilliant row from the young men rowing Cul Mor in the Open Men, sadly lost due to a 40 second penalty for being over the start line.  Great row by the older men in a borrowed boat which actually won the Open Men. Excellent rows from the other crews despite big waves! Ice cream and fish and chips up to the usual high standard.
Topher Dawson
A mixed day.  Good – our over 40 men getting a medal in a borrowed boat.  Got dizzy doing 360 degree turns at the umpires behest!  Not so much a learning curve, more a vertical challenge.  Everyone rowed their socks off.  Congrats to you all.
Ron Smith, cox.
Despite lots of lousy rain and standing around, everyone gave their all rowing and coxing their hearts out, making a long days racing worthwhile whilst showing promising signs of improving form for our own regatta next weekend.
Erica Alexander

Kate Macphail



Kate Macphail, much-loved member of Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club, passed away on the 29th of May 2015.  Her skiffie friends marked their respect and affection for Kate by turning out for her funeral in club shirts.  Social rows with Kate were very social affairs indeed, with laughter being the order of the day.  She was full of joie de vivre, and will be missed by us all.

The following eulogy was written by Sue Agnew and Fiona MacDonald, and read by Sue at Kate’s funeral.

Kate Macphail – our rower and friend.  The first thing that comes to mind about Kate was her unmistakeable and hugely infectious laugh.  You couldn’t help but smile and laugh along with her.  That was, I think, one of her most attractive qualities; always cheery and she made others feel the same, no matter what kind of day you might be having.

And that’s how Kate was with us all when she joined the rowing club.  She immediately became one of our stalwarts.  I remember the first day she turned up to row, looking stylish and elegant as only Kate could in those red neoprene trousers.  She needed them, as she would turn out to fill a boat space in some of our more inclement Ullapool weather. And she brought to that boat, good humour and laughter with every crew she rowed with, which was a great asset to have.

Maybe the competitive racing was not quite to her liking, but the social craic with a crew of ladies or mixed members certainly was.  And she quickly became one of the great “do-ers” within the rowing circle.

She volunteered to help in all our fundraisers, maintaining she couldn’t bake, and that Nigel would make the soup, but nevertheless arrived, hat on, full of enthusiasm, rolled up her sleeves and got on with the job.

And we did a huge amount of this fundraising leading up to the 2013 World Championships.  Kate was involved in all of it.  She stepped in to take on the job of minute secretary for the Worlds organising committee and helped steer and support us through a major event in our community.  She offered many words of wisdom, her sharp mind interested in what was going on.  Her direct manner, which kept us on our toes, was Kate through and through.

The title of Soup Dragon was bestowed upon her with some trepidation when she and Helen gallantly took on the task of providing copious amounts of hot soup at the World Championships and subsequent Regattas.  But she took it with great spirit, hopefully recognising this title was bestowed with our admiration on a lady who was generous and giving, and who was our friend.

Her leaving us has left a big hole in our small rowing community.  It was a pleasure to have known her and to have rowed and laughed with her.  We will lift a glass of Guinness to her at our next rowing Regatta.

In loving memory of Kate Macphail, 7 September 1946 – 29 May 2015

Helmsdale 2015

Summer has finally arrived (for now…) and regatta season is suddenly in full swing.

On Saturday 27 June, twelve members from Ullapool travelled over to the east coast for the Bunillidh Regatta.

The following snapshot of the day’s events comes courtesy of Anne Smith.  Photograph by Erica Alexander.

Helmsdale 2015

Helmsdale 2015

A warm sunny day greeted us at Helmsdale, the prelude to a well organised day of racing. The twelve club members who travelled there managed – with Topher’s guidance- to mix and match enough teams to contest all but two of the day’s races.

We got podium positions in several of the events and everyone rowed their socks off.

This bodes well for the coming weekend weekend at Portsoy.


A Corking Good Time

The following report on the Ocean to City Race at Cork by Topher Dawson appeared in the Ullapool News on 5 June 2015.  Photographs by Jonathan Reid.

Pre-race prep.

Pre-race prep.

On Saturday 30th May, two Ullapool skiffs contested the prestigious Ocean to City Race at Cork in Ireland.  The Pink Fizzers rowing in Ulla were Lisa Urquhart, Kath Foote, Fiona Macdonald, Kathleen Mackay and Bev MacGregor.  In Cul Mor, the High School skiff, were the Corkers: Jan Dawson, Kathryn Bennett, Jonathan Reid, Tim Gauntlett and Topher Dawson.

The 28km race, from Crosshaven to Cork, attracts hundreds of entries from all over Ireland and the UK.  Kayaks, currachs, skiffs, gigs, Celtic Longboats, and even one brave person on a stand-up paddleboard, all converged on Crosshaven to compete.

Our deadly rivals, friends and neighbours, Coigach Community Rowing, had a crew of 6 taking turns to row, as did the well-respected North Berwick team, while the Fizzers had 5 rotating between cox and rowers.  The Corkers had Jan at the helm throughout, Kathryn as stroke, and the men in the other seats.

Topher and Tim caught in Jonathan's classic selfie

Topher and Tim caught in Jonathan’s classic selfie

Despite a wet and windy forecast the day started sunny and fairly calm, but the wind built and the rain came in as the day wore on.  Fortunately the wind and the tide were in our favour and we sped past Cobh, previously known as Queenstown, departure point of both the ill-fated voyages of the Titanic and the Lusitania.  Ulla may have suffered from similar luck because a wine cork serving as a bung gave up and had to be replaced by a twig from a nearby tree about two-thirds up the course.  This lead to a couple of other skiffs passing them, but such are the perils of the sea.

As the course narrowed into an exciting finish under a bridge in the middle of Cork there were several narrow squeaks with kayaks and currachs, but finally we all made it.

The Corkers came in third skiff with a creditable time of 2 hours and 45 minutes, N Berwick second, and in first place with quite a margin, Coigach.

Post-race recovery

Post-race recovery

Honourable mention must go to our support crew of Kathryn and Paul Bennett, who drove all the way towing both skiffs on one trailer, suffered double bearing failure and coped magnificently, and put up with foul driving weather.  Also our flag-maker Sheila Slaughter and her husband, James, who were there at the start and the finish to see us come in.

It was a big trip for us all, and a memorable one; well done all for such a great effort!


Time to relax

Time to relax

Congratulations to The Corkers for finishing in such good time, and to The Fizzers for staying the course in such extenuating circumstances.  Good show all round.

1,230 miles and 28 km

Easy does it.

Easy does it.

Working to a plan masterminded by Topher, Cul Mor and Ulla have been loaded in preparation for the long trip to Cork.

With the help of Ullapool Harbour Trust, the skiffs were lifted onto the trailer and secured by two heavyweight straps, all ready to be towed to Ireland by Kathryn and Paul’s campervan. Cul Mor will be transported on her trolley on the bottom, with Ulla nesting on top, cushioned by a cradle designed and made by Topher.

Cradle designed by Topher

Cradle designed by Topher.

During a trial run around Ullapool a few weeks ago, the boats were deliberately tilted at 45 degree angles to make sure all was safe. The test was successful, with no movement and the boats remaining secure.

Kathryn and Paul will begin their journey on Wednesday morning with a leisurely drive south via Glasgow, before stopping overnight at Cairnryan, near Stranraer. On Thursday morning, they will catch the first ferry to Belfast, then drive south through Ireland for an estimated six hours before arriving in Cork late afternoon.

The boats will be unloaded on Friday ready for the 28km Ocean to City Race on Saturday morning.

The rest of the crew members are flying over, so as well as transporting the boats, Kathryn and Paul will be taking all the extra kit and luggage.

After the race, Ulla and Cul Mor will be craned out of the water at the finish line in Cork, and loaded onto the trailer ready for the return trip home. Kathryn and Paul will be enjoying Sunday sightseeing in Cork before coming back via the same route on Monday. Arrival back in Ullapool is expected late Tuesday afternoon.

The distance for the round trip will be 1,230 miles which does not include the 28km the teams will be rowing in Cork.

Good luck to The Corkers and Pink Fizzers in Cork, both with the race and drinking the bar dry afterwards.

Steady now

Steady now.

Great fit

Great fit.

The Corkers and Fizzers talk Cork

Pink Fizzers training for Cork in Ulla.

Pink Fizzers training for Cork in Ulla.

The Corkers training in Cul Mor.

The Corkers training in Cul Mor.

This week, members of The Corkers and Pink Fizzers appeared on Lochbroom Radio’s Losing The Plot.  Catch up with the programme here.

Cork teams Losing The Plot

The Corkers preparing for a training session in Cul Mor.

The Corkers preparing for a training session in Cul Mor.

Last week an intrepid reporter from Lochbroom Radio ventured down to the wee pier in Ullapool just as the Cork teams were preparing for a training session.  For an enjoyable insight into the minds of long distance skiffers,  tune into Losing The Plot at 6.30pm, Thursday 21 May on Lochbroom Radio.

If you happen to be out training when the programme is broadcast, don’t fret – you will be able to listen via Mixcloud at a later date.  Watch this space for details.

Lochbroom Radio

Pink Fizzers going out for a training session in Ulla.

Pink Fizzers going out for a training session in Ulla.

Taster Session

There was plenty of tasting going on at the Rowing Club today.  Sheila’s venison sausage rolls were a big hit and there was an array of tempting cakes on offer for those with a sweeter tooth.  Some rowing happened as well.

Topher says no to cake...

Topher says no to cake…

...and yes to ice-cream.

…and yes to ice-cream.

Kaz's famous Jaffa Cake

Kaz’s famous Jaffa Cake

Taster session

New rowers having a go alongside some old hands.

True Grit

ullapool coastal rowing

The Pink Fizzers

With just three weeks to go, the Cork teams are training hard. At 28km the course presents a raft of new challenges for teams more akin to 2km races. Stamina, grit, and fierce determination will be key, but a pair of reinforced, friction-absorbing breeks is also highly recommended.

The teams represent a good selection of club members, with experienced skiffers and rowers with only a few months experience all taking part. Kaz, Bev, Kathleen, Fiona and Lisa, otherwise known as The Pink Fizzers, make up the women’s team, while The Corkers mixed team is comprised of Topher, Jonathan, Kathryn, Tim and Jan.

Taking place on 30 May 2015, the Ocean To City Race is in its 11th year, but this will be a first-time appearance for Ullapool.

Cork, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

ullapool coastal rowing

The Corkers

Calling all Littoral Raft Rowers – Thursday is almost here



We flagged up a request  from Julia Barton, artist, earlier in the year for Skiffies to take part in the Littoral Raft Project on World Environment Day – The Day is rapidly approaching, so a gentle reminder to any Ullapool Skiffies available on Thursday, a chance to make your mark by helping power the rafts over from Isle Martin behind the Skiffs.  Visit the booking Calendar and add your name if you can help – Thanks.

julia and cal working on beach

Julia and Cal working on beach