The Deil’s awa wi’ th’ Exciseman!

“We’ll mak our maut, and we’ll brew our drink,

We’ll laugh, sing, and rejoice, man”

Saturday 16th September saw the return of the ever popular “Exciseman’s chase” hosted by Carrick Coastal Rowing Club. The race was first hosted in August 2013 and is now in its 10th year.

Whilst in 1792 Rabbie Burns may have increased his meagre monthly income by becoming an Exciseman, it will undoubtedly have had the opposite effect on his social popularity. I suspect even Burns though would have recognised, and approved of, the site of a bunch of small craft racing down the Ayrshire coast with a bunch of ‘Ayrshire ruffians’ rowing like mad carrying their small cargo of the water of life.

This years Exciseman’s Chase was unfortunately not quite the standard ‘row like the deil, run up the beach and row back’ affair. The unsporting weather had other plans for this event, like a frustrating number of other regattas in 2023. A new course was hastily arranged at the 11th hour and a new plan even more cunning than a fox that has just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford, was developed. All credit to Carrick coastal rowing club for managing to find a way to give competitors a day to remember in a season so impacted by poor weather.

The Exciseman’s Chase event would now be replaced by a course rowing 1k straight out the harbour from the slip, around a large buoy, then another 1k  back for an “emergency stop” at the finishing line before hitting the slip. The whole adventure was then repeated with crews changed and then heading back out around the buoy and back again. The combined time from both legs was then recorded.

The Mini-Chase event was the same course but would be for one leg only.

Thirteen members of Troon Coastal Rowing Club attended the regatta.

Our team had a mixture of Exciseman experienced rowers with many having competed here several times in the past. We also had newbies including Lizzie and Lorna. Despite this, everyone was clearly apprehensive about the day. With pre-event habits, diets and pack/repack in the past it was time to row.

The sea conditions were horrible, hence the last minute change of course, but the crews rose to the challenge and took to their skiffs. Kevin described the conditions as “a tough 50m of corkscrewing then irregular big swells around the buoy”. This was not going to be an easy and leisurely row around Maidens harbour.

The main event of the day was the ‘modified’ Exciseman’s chase with the first leg for Troon consisting of Mike R as Cox, Adrienne in Stroke, Adrian in 3, Mike K in 2  and Kathleen in Bow.

Christine described the “swell coming across the boat when out the harbour and surfing the waves between power 10s”. This was a close run race with Troon finishing first in the heat and only two seconds ahead of Firth Of Clyde Coastal Rowing Club. The second leg was going to be equally as tough as the first in wild west coast conditions. The crew for this leg was Mike R as Cox, Christine C in Stroke, Mike D in 3, Kevin in 2 and Christine R in Bow.

The second heat was another hard fought row with Troon finishing 54 seconds ahead of their nearest competitor. On total times for both legs, Troon win The 2023 Exciseman’s Chase by 56 seconds.

What a great achievement for the team.

Following on from the success of the first event, the Mini-Chase was next. The event was rowed by Mike R in Cox, Lorna is Stroke, Michael B in 3, Neil in 2 and Lizzie in Bow.

As if the wild seas weren’t enough to make this a difficult challenge can you imagine how the guys felt in the boat when Michael’s oar got stuck on top of the buoy at the turn and was not for dislodging! Michael’s superhuman/accountant instincts kicked in and he “bounced it off the pin and took several attempts to get it back on”.  What would Rabbie Burns say to that feat of rowing prowess is anyone’s guess. After their game of “tag the buoy” the team buckled down and got right back in the race and finished 36 seconds ahead of the rest of the pack.

Michael’s rowing acrobatics earned him “hero of the day” although it was a close race between him, Louise’s flapjacks and Adrian’s show of sportsmanship  by also rowing for Carrick.

Another great achievement for Troon.

The Troon regatta team were again supported by the TCRC travelling supporters club and welcomed Steven Bargh, Rodney Collins, David and Christine Bolster and Lorna’s family at the event. This makes regattas even more special for the crews. Rowers again emphasised the welcome tradition of Louise Downey’s flapjacks and appreciated “the baking queen’s extra treat of muffins”.

No doubt, as in the Burns poem above, there would be a bit of a brew with laughing, singing and rejoicing on Saturday evening to celebrate their success. “Too many drinks to count” according to Lizzie.

Writing this in foreign lands thinking of my late Ayrshire born father (Rabbie B) who was also an Exciseman chasing the whisky smugglers, I’ll raise a glass to him as well as our successful team.

Forthcoming Regattas

With a recent win at Rhu and now success at The exciseman’s Chase it’s a great wind down for Regatta season. We can only imagine what our season would have looked like if the weather had been kinder. FOCCRS regatta is the last of the season on the 14th October and we are looking forward to participating with that great club. So come along and join the gang whether you are competing or not. There is something for everyone to do.

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