The Battle of Largs

The scene was set for battle. Prior unseasonal weather had forced many changes, and the upstart invaders had little opportunity to practice their warrior skills. The last skirmish had borne well for this nomadic warring tribe but again, the weather cut that short too. The scene of this battle was immediately south of Gogo water in the small town of Largs. Two great forces came together to decide who would rule the west coast of Scotland. Weapons of war sharpened,  chariots adorned with tribal colours, and armies both nervous and exhilarated by what lay ahead. Battle commenced.

Okay, so maybe that described an event that happened 761 years ago but to me that’s what it felt like prior to FOCCRS regatta on Saturday 11th May 2024. Like the unfortunate Norwegians, our journey started south of the field of battle, although King Haakon Haakonsson decided the A78 was likely to have roadworks and sailed to Largs instead.

The sun shone on the field of battle from the outset and the younger warriors eagerly showed their fighting skills waiting for their own moments to shine.

Twenty members of Troon Coastal Rowing Club attended the regatta.

Seven clubs participated in the regatta.

The course was 1k. with 2 gradual port turns and one 90 degree turn to the finish . Each race had three timed heats with no finals necessary. Lane draws were allocated on the day.

The first race was the Open Men’s with Christine C as cox, Adrian in stroke, Mike K in 3, Michael B in 2 and Euan in Bow. Troon were paired with Royal West in this and all heats and comfortably finished ahead of them. These mighty Vikings rowed the race of their lives and finished first overall by an impressive 26.24 seconds quicker than their nearest rivals, Arran. This turned out also to be the fastest row of the regatta.

The next race was the Open woman’s with Mike R in the cox’s seat, Christine R in stroke, Christine C in 3, Adrienne in 2 and Kathleen in bow. The ladies fought bravely and finished an impressive second behind our hosts FOCCRs.

The third race of the day was the Open Mixed.

Mike R was the cox for this race. Louise led her small band of fighters in stroke with Brian in 3, Steve in 2 and Lizzie in bow. The guys fought a brave fight and secured vital points managing a fourth place.

The fourth race of the day was the 240+ Men with Christine C as cox.

Kevin took stroke with Paul in 3, Derek in 2 and Neil in bow. The guys stormed home in first place overall with a 15.33 second lead over their nearest rivals.

The day was going well for TCRC. The sun was getting hotter and the competition was heating up between the warring tribes.

The fifth race of the regatta was the 240+ women and at this point every point was vital to the overall regatta outcome. Every competition has its high points and for Troon this was it.

Mike R was the cox for this one with Christine C in stroke. Jackie sat in 3, Issy in 2 and Christine B in bow. The ladies stormed around the course to take overall second place and finish a mere 4.5 seconds behind first place Stranraer.

The final battle for the day was the 240+ Mixed.

For this ultimate battle, Mike R took the cox seat and Kevin was in stroke. Adrian sat in 3 with Adrienne in 2 and Christine R in bow.

This final race would seal overall victory for the regatta and the team didn’t disappoint finishing first overall and 9.58 seconds ahead of the second place team.

Timings for each race are shown below and show how well the teams did on the day.

Reviewing the times for the day its even more impressive to see that Troon finished with three places in the top ten times of the regatta.

The final results for the day were:

As usual TCRC was supported by family and friends although we always suspected Buttons was more interested in her ball than the rowing.

So unlike King Haakon Haakonsson 761 years earlier, this invading band of brothers (and sisters) left the battlefield victorious and headed south eager for the next campaign in southern waters.

Forthcoming Regattas

The next battle regatta is only days away and just down the road at Dunure on the 18th May. Why not come along and fight alongside your comrades or just to yell from the sidelines . You will be made most welcome.


In this latest article we will learn a little more about our fellow members through the topic of skills. In recent months we sadly lost the father of our pastime and man of incredible boat design and build skills, Ian Oughtred. Ian created over 120 designs of traditionally styled amateur built boats whilst also being an accomplished sailor. Publishing his first boat design in 1967, he then went on to an incredible life demonstrating his awesome skills including the Scottish inspired Caledonia Yawl in the late 80s to the St Ayles Skiff in 2009. An inspirational and skilled individual worthy of further reading.

Whilst we would argue that our club actually needs many different types and levels of skills, all of which are greatly appreciated, this article will primarily focus on the big wooden chariots that we create, love and care for.

Just a few years before our teenage crafts came into existence, humans set out on the water for more basic needs. The earliest known craft is the Pesse canoe which is around 10,000 years old and currently residing in a Dutch museum. This primitive craft was carved from a single Scots pine and, when found, experts argued it would never work. Before any of our “skilled boat builders” get an idea, it has already been built, tested and found to work perfectly well.

It would be remiss of this article not to acknowledge the relatively more recent boat building skills in Scotland where the term “Clyde built” became synonymous with quality, innovation and great ships like Queen Mary, QE2, Comet, Lusitania and Glen Sannox. Let’s not go there! Our ship building heritage may have been a bit blunted but it was incredible at one point despite its untimely demise.

The generals skills and trades associated with boat building may be diminishing but with the likes of the late Ian Oughtred and organisations like The Scottish Boat Building School within the Scottish Maritime Museum, they won’t be forgotten. Previous articles have explored tradition, community and leadership and its great to think of the success of coastal rowing and “time in the shed” contributing to this.

We have heard from a number of members in previous articles on their Rowing Dream Team for a slow row around Lady Isle. The purpose of these is simply to learn a little more about our fellow rowers and encourage wider club activities.

The next member we will hear from is Phil Davenport. Phil has been a member for 2 years although has been messing about on the water and “building death-trap rafts on the Cromarty Firth” since he was a schoolboy. He clearly has always had a taste for the water moving from competitive dinghy sailing through to coastal sailing both here and abroad. I suspect his adventures in the Turkish Aegean will have a few more tales than his adventures from Largs.

Phil’s companions on his Lady Isle trip are an eclectic bunch and I suspect, will quickly cause a stir before they even leave the slip. Phil has elected to take the Cox seat and I suspect so he can sit and watch the adventure unfold. In stroke is 50s model Betty Page who, I like to assume is for her later missionary work, just in case they find any inhabitants on Lady Isle. I may be wrong on that one! To support them and ensure they don’t starve, Phil has selected Nigella Lawson for seat 3. I bet the packed lunch will be fabulous! The sensational Alex Harvie is providing the entertainment singing “The Tomahawk kid” as they head for Lady Isle. There wasn’t any space for Captain Dan or Billy Bones though. To complete this “interesting” bunch of rowers we have Dave Courtney “celebrity gangster” in bow to sort out any disputes with the Arran ferry.

Phil’s Dream Team Rowers
StrokeBetty Page
3Nigella Lawson
2Alex Harvie
BowDave Courtney

Phil has spent the past months in the chicken shed re-polishing his “time served joiner” skills which has been fabulous for the club. He has continued to develop his experience into the boatie world and “enjoys working with unskilled volunteers willing to learn”. Just put “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” on the playlist and watch those Sheffield Steel chisels carve their magic. “Even a decent brush is a great piece of kit and a desire to use it” says Phil so get yourself along to one of the boat building and maintenance sessions.

Our next member to hear from is Morag Kemp who has been a member of TCRC since the launching of Marr Voyager in late 2011.

Morag’s crew is another “enlightening” selection which I think constitutes yet another interesting crew. Morag has reserved the Cox’s seat so she can head for choppy waters and experience the “challenge and unpredictability of the sea and the exhilaration and challenges it brings”.  All becomes clearer though when selecting stroke she picks Omar Sharif so she can “stare into the dark pools of his eyes and lose myself”. Perhaps in common with Phil’s stroke selection, the truth will out! Some of our members may wish to utilise Google to understand her choice of this fabulous actor, and his eyes apparently. In position three is Ellen MacArthur, hugely successful solo long-distance record breaking yachtswoman. Sharing the rowing duties with Ellen is Dame Katherine Granger, multi Olympic medal winning rower in seat two. I suspect these two will do all the rowing whilst Omar hypnotises Morag with tales of Lawrence of Arabia and those eyes. In bow Morag has selected Welsh bass-baritone Opera and concert singer, Sir Bryn Terfel “whose rich smooth singing voice would charm even the seals on Lady Isle”.

Morag’s Dream Team Rowers
StrokeOmar Sharif
3Ellen MacArthur
2Katherine Granger
BowBryn Terfel

Morag would argue that she “has no skills of any importance other than the fact that I just love rowing” but I think we all know that’s not true. Morag’s passion quickly led to “taking care of the boats which led in turn, to maintenance work and a gradual initiation from watching the skill and workmanship of those building the boats to hands on, albeit in a general capacity”. Morag is an great ambassador of TCRC through rowing, coxing, building, maintaining and her positive attitude. A multi skilled member.

The last member we will hear from in this article is Ray Dodd. Ray joined the club around 2013. Ray, like many other club members, has been on the water since schooldays where he learned to canoe and sail. “We built our own Enterprise dinghies and canoes in the technical department. We had a boathouse/dinghy park in Balloch Park, so I learned to sail and canoe on Loch Lomond almost 60 years ago.” Ray is at his happiest when “making sawdust”, and using his hands to “contribute something to the club and the community”.

Ray recalls his adventures back into boat building when at the formation of the Scottish Boat Building School, he and Bill Davies were involved in building the “Pride of Prestwick” in conjunction with a Duke of Edinburgh group. Easily convinced by Vince to come along to TCRC he hasn’t looked back with numerous boat builds under his tool belt. These are the guys Ray has selected for his dream team in recognition of this and the welcome by other members like Morag. Hope they all like listening to Neil Young though as that’s Ray’s choice of music for the trip.

Ray’s Dream Team Rowers
StrokeVince McWhirter
3Bill Davies
2Jim Palmer
BowMorag Kemp

Ray is keen for more people to “come along and learn new skills” of boat building work. ”They will be with you for life” and come in handy with all that work around the house.

So if you want to really understand more about our fantastic boats then why not get involved in the boat maintenance work that goes on every year.  Remember as Phil said, even willing use of a broom contributes to the teamwork.

It’s a great way of really getting to know the sometimes oddly named parts of our skiffs. Not that when Adrian asks you to “paint the hog” is in anyway confusing when standing in a chicken shed and their isn’t a piggy in sight!

Port Seton 2024 – Regatta Report

The first regatta for the 2024 season was Port Seton. Port Seton is a small harbour on the east coast and east of the city of Edinburgh. The town shares a similar past to Troon. The harbour was formed in the 1600s by wealthy land owners, the Seton family. The family later lost their lands after backing the losing side in the Jacobite uprising. The York building company, who took over their estates, built the Tranent Wagonway in 1722. This was a horse-drawn railway carrying coal from the pits around Tranent to the harbour at Cockenzie. Our own harbour was built some years later in 1808 by The 3rd Duke of Portland and used for transportation of coal from his Kilmarnock mines.

Winter gym training over and, with only a few Troon harbour training sessions under our belt, the regatta crew were up for our first challenge of the year.

With Storm Kathleen approaching, an eleventh hour decision was made by the Cockenzie & Port Seton Community Coastal Rowing Club to proceed with the regatta. Game on!

The day started with the usual regatta rituals and preparation. We were even extra careful of the fresh paint on Ailsa Lass when getting her off the launch trolley. We were also delighted when one of the other teams came over to tell us how great Ailsa Lass looked.

Fifteen members of Troon Coastal Rowing Club attended the regatta.

The day was set up to be an action packed day with the Troon ladies having to put in a few extra shifts for the day. Well that was the plan anyway. It became clear at the Cox’s briefing that even the locals were doubtful about the weather but we kicked of the regatta with varying degrees of optimism, bravado and fear.

Nine clubs participated in the regatta with the best of the east coast in attendance and Troon Coastal Rowing Club as the sole west coast participants. A rest of the world “Andy” boat was also entered to make up numbers and give others a chance to row.

The course is contained within the harbour and is a Monaco race around two buoys, one located in each section of the harbour. The finishing line was the intersection of the two with a great view of the overall race.

Each race for the day was a timed race in pairs with the two fastest clubs going through to a final race.

The first race was the mixed open with Mike R as cox, Christine R in stroke, Mike K in 3, Ewan in 2 and Lizzie in bow. Troon were paired against Row Porty in the last heat and comfortably finished ahead of them. In the overall ratings Troon were third and missed the final by just over 6 seconds. Great effort by the guys.

Unfortunately Troon were unable to compete in the next race due to the ongoing success of our novices. This is certainly something we need to work on going forward and try to get involved in as many races as possible.

The third race was the mixed decades. In this one Troon were one person short and on the verge of withdrawing until a valiant, age appropriate, member of the Boatie team stepped in to assist us. Mike R was cox with Paul in stroke, Lizzie in 3, our guest in 2 and Neil in bow. Troon were again in the last heat and paired with the “Andy” boat. Unfortunately two traitorous Troon crew had volunteered for this boat and therefore against their own club. They shall remain nameless (Steve and Brian) Troon comfortably finished ahead in their race but again were pipped at the post for the final and finished 4 seconds behind the top two. Great job Troon considering you had a guest in the crew.

By this point in the day storm Kathleen (the weather one) was making her presence known and the harbour looked like a boiling pot of water with waves crashing over the harbour. The 240+ was going to be an interesting race. The Troon crew was Christine C in cox, Kevin in stroke, Christine R in 3, Adrienne in 2 and Mike D in bow. Troon again were placed in the last pairing against Newhaven. Watching the races before Troon was daunting with many boats making the turn against the wind and literally coming to a complete standstill unable to proceed against the raging storm. Just keeping the waiting boats out of the way of other boats and away from the harbour walls was an effort in itself for crews. Again Troon finished comfortably ahead of their paired rival. In this race getting round the course made every participant a winner. Coxing was not for the feint hearted.  Just to make things more interesting, one of the buoys was now dangerously close to one of the berthed fishing boats. That’s okay because the Troon crew came to the rescue and moved the buoy to a safer location. Maybe not the most restful thing to do between back to back races but we are Troon. Most of the club viewed this race from the pier watching the brave contestants on the water at the finishing line. Its rumoured you could hear shouts of “Come on Troon” from Leith.  The race was on and what a row it was. The Troon crew put their heart and soul into this one and comfortably crossed the line over 14 seconds ahead of Eskmuthe.

At this point the race organisers made the sensible decision that conditions in the harbour were too dangerous and terminated the regatta. 

Timings for each race are shown below and show how well the teams did on the day.

The original “Andy Race” was replaced as a stand-in boat in each of the races. Its always a great opportunity to get a wee row in strange boats. Christine Bolster rowed in the Mixed open and finished well up the board for a crew that have never rowed together finishing just over 7 seconds behind the leader. The traitors (Steve and Brian) managed to participate in the Mixed Decades Andy crew but only after a short sortie out of the harbour meant they had to row for their life to get back into the harbour. Exiting the harbour was banned for all after that adventure. They finished mid table but a lengthy 14 seconds behind the leaders. Everyone in TCRC who rows in an Andy race finds a new appreciation for the quality and style of our own boats! I bet though every other club says the same. Although we weren’t sure about the club who boasted they had the second heaviest boat ever, especially since they asked for a hand getting it on the beach and launching it.

The final results for the day were:

It was good again to see friends and family travelling to support TCRC. Thanks to Stephen and Rodney for their support although we think they may prefer their bikes to our boats. Odd people!

The journey home was as spicy as some of the races. Well done Mike D for getting our chariot home in one piece. Two boats closing the M8 in one week may have made the news but not have been welcomed I suspect.

Forthcoming Regattas

The next regatta is FOCCRs regatta at Largs on Saturday 11th May. Feel free to add your name on our members area if you want to participate. If you are unsure then feel free to talk to any regatta regulars and we will fill you with alcohol at nights out, bust any myths and welcome you with open arms. Novice rowers more than welcome.


[Article published in Nov 23]

Our last two member focussed articles covered topics that embody our club; community and tradition. We heard from three of our founding members and two of our more recent members.  Each shared their rowing dream teams which hopefully has given you something to think about and also something to chat about next time you are on the water, in the chicken shed or even at our nights out.

The topic for this article is leadership. As someone who has spent far too many hours studying and teaching the topic, the one thing I quickly realised was not to seek a commonly agreed definition of “leadership”. Irrespective of this, there are many words that would absolutely form part of any leadership description including; direction, goal, vision and teamwork.  

This article is going to concentrate on the three office bearers within the committee:

  • Adrian McCreadie – Chair
  • Mike Krus – Secretary
  • Kevin McQueen – Treasurer

They are currently supported in our committee by Jacqui, Morag, Adrienne, Jamie and Mike R (who I am sure will be keen to volunteer for future rowing articles).

A fabulous and very relevant example of leadership for our club is Ernest Shackleton and his fated trans Antarctic voyage. It’s a story you will all know, when in 1914 the Endurance set sail on its great adventure. A year later with Endurance sunk, Shackleton and his crew head out on three small boats heading to the relative safety of Elephant island. If you don’t know the story to this point then its well worth reading and to hear many great leadership examples. Leaping forward to 1916, Shackleton and five of his crew set out in their lifeboat, the James Caird, destined for South Georgia to find help for his remaining men. So let’s pause and put that last sentence in perspective to Troon Coastal Rowing Club. The James Caird, named after the Dundee philanthropist and voyage funder, is about 20cm longer and wider than Marr Voyager. They travelled 800 miles from Elephant island to South Georgia in the midst of winter, using the stars as their guide, to reach the next stage of their journey. That’s like leaving Troon harbour and finishing in Calais France. Even with the aid of a sail, that’s a long way and an impressive feat of seamanship. Can you imagine spending two weeks in Marr Voyager travelling 800 miles with five club members! Harry McNish was the shipwright (chippy) who modified the boat for the journey and joined them on it. The next time you are at a regatta and spot the Royal West skiff called “Chippy McNish” give a nod to the “boy from the port”. I suspect McNish and Chippy Davenport would have shared a beer and commented on each other’s boat building skills. I’ll not spoil the ending if you decide to watch the movie or read the highly recommended books.

Throughout the adventure Shackleton demonstrated leadership in so many ways. Determination for the mission, looking after the crew who trusted their leader, physical fitness, discipline when required and clarity on achieving their goal.

Have you considered the very nature of our pastime? Sitting looking back in  the direction you have travelled in your journey, putting effort into moving forward whilst relying on your cox (the leader) to take us in the direction of success. Tactics, trust, direction, looking after the crew, considering fitness and discipline are all part of the cox’s leadership role.

The first club member we are going to hear from is Adrian McCreadie. He has been rowing for 6 years and Chairman for nearly 2 years.

Adrian “wishes he had got into rowing at university” and is certainly making up for lost time getting out on the water as much as possible and spending time on the Concept2.

Adrian, just to be different, has gone with a coxed pairs team for his row around Lady Isle. His Cox for the row is Sir Alex Ferguson. Adrian believes he is “without doubt, the most successful manager in the history of football”. Sir Alex is often cited in Leadership books and a fine example of a leader. Adrian’s fellow rower is Bruce Springsteen. After watching him in concert ten times previously, this will be the smallest “rowing gig” Adrian has ever attended.

Adrian’s Dream Team Rowers
CoxSir Alex Ferguson
3Bruce Springsteen

Not sure if the boss is “Born to Row” but Adrian argues that Bruce is “the greatest singer/songwriter/musician/entertainer/performer/band leader there’s ever been.”. Do you agree?. Irrespective of this, can you imagine the two of them signing their way around Lady Isle with Sir Alex giving them the hairdryer treatment about Adrian’s singing skills and Bruce’s rowing skills.

Our next member to hear from is Kevin McQueen, our treasurer, who joined the club around seven years ago after “losing a bet to Jamie Mason in the harbour bar”. Like many members, Kevin found the new challenge, community and friendship of TCRC a welcome alternative to his previous career in the police force.

Kevin has an “interesting” Lady Isles dream team and I suspect they will go around a number of times at a rapid rate.

Kevin’s Dream Team Rowers
CoxNeil Armstrong
3Tia-Claire Toomey
2David Goggins
BowMuhammad Ali

In the Cox seat we have Neil Armstrong who may find our wee island not quite as exciting as orbiting the moon. I’m sure the other four would deal with his constant demands to step ashore so he can “take one small step for rowkind”.  In seat 3 we have Australian Olympian Tia-Claire Toomey who has won six consecutive titles at the CrossFit games and a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth games. They are joined by David Goggins, ex US Navy Seal, ultramarathon runner, ultra-everything-else and a public speaker. As if there wasn’t enough energy in that skiff, Kevin has added Muhammed Ali in bow. Anyone like to guess the stroke rate for this journey?

Mike Krus is the last team member we will hear about in this article. He has been a member of the club for over five years and is our club secretary.  Mike believes our fabulous hobby is “incredibly good for the body and the soul” and clearly enjoys being on the water. When asked for an example of a leader, Mike sides with Plato’s view conflating leadership and power and that “anyone who seeks power are not worthy of it”. To be fair, we never expected to be quoting Greek Philosophy in a TCRC article but there you have it.

Mike took a different approach to selecting his Lady Isles dream team and not that he is competitive, stated that “There’s a lot of people I admire but I’m pretty sure most of them would be rubbish rowers”.  Mike believes “the best experience is when people share the goal to make the boat move nicely” and therefore has selected the multi-medal winning TCRC 50+ team for his trip.

Mike’s Dream Team Rowers
CoxMike Reilly
2Mike K
BowMike D

I think you will agree that the three teams are eclectic and certainly interesting. Who do you think would win if it was a race? Which boat would you like a seat in?

The guys were unanimous in their views on the role and importance of our club committee. “a club needs processes and accountability. The committee is there for that.  It also needs to represent all of the members so it’s important folks get involved, in particular if they feel some of our current practices should evolve”.  Each felt that whilst it was rewarding and a privilege to be on the committee, “it’s important that duties are shared as there’s a huge amount of work behind the scenes”.

Vision is a key element of leadership and moving in a common direction and achieving common goals is a challenge for organisations. Clubs add a different and added dimension to this challenge. When presented with a “magic wand” for the future, all of our team mates selected “that we could have a proper clubhouse where members could meet and socialise, where skiffs could be stored and maintained”.

Teamwork is a vital aspect of our club made up of multiple teams undertaking different aspects of rowing. Teams in the boat and teams outside the boat. Its easy to forget this at times, but each has a symbiotic relationship. Boat Building, boat maintenance, social rowing, regatta rowing and the committee all need to work for our club. To move forward in our own journey, we need leadership to help set our vision and future sustainability. The committee is our way to guide our journey through its numerous iterations.

Our next article on club members is going to focus on skills and specifically on the incredibly dedicated and talented boat building skills we have in our club.

5K for The PSP Association

PSPA is the only UK charity dedicated to improving the lives of people living with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP) and Corticobasal Degeneration (CBD). They provide information and support for people affected by PSP & CBD whilst funding research into the causes, treatment, and eventually a cure. Together we can stop PSP & CBD in their tracks.

With one of our members directly impacted by PSP, we thought the charity was a worthy cause for our fundraising efforts.

My mum was diagnosed with PSP in January. We had never heard of it! It is a rare Parkinson’s type disease with only 4,000 or so sufferers in the UK.

It does not affect one’s mental faculties and there is no tremor. However, it cruelly affects balance, gait, eyesight, manual dexterity and eventually swallowing. My mum (85) was a fit, creative woman until the last 20 months . She is now in a care home as she requires 24hour care.

In the early stages of diagnosis when I was searching in vain for information, a nurse pointed us in the direction of the PSP association. It has been an invaluable source of information, help and advice! They have been so supportive in these challenging times.

Before the end of October, members of Troon CRC are being challenged to do a continuous 5K row at sea or if the weather doesn’t behave itself, to walk, run or cycle 5K instead.

So be curious, learn about the condition and, if you can, please consider making a donation on our Just Giving page.

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.

Rhu Rhu Rhu your boat

The RNYC was established as the Northern Yacht Club in November 1824 and a Royal Charter was granted in 1830, making it one of the first yacht clubs to receive it. The Royal Northern & Clyde Yacht Club (RNCYC) was formed in 1978 by the merger of the Royal Northern Yacht Club (RNYC) and Royal Clyde Yacht Club (RCYC). Building on this historic background, the club had its inaugural season of coastal rowing in 2021. This year was only the second year of its very own St. Ayles skiff coastal rowing regatta and now opened to a wider field. When Commodore Jim Rogers asked crews to avoid the shallows and the “Flying Boat moorings just below the surface” it just emphasised the history of the area and their club further. These magnificent machines only left seventy six years ago so I’m sure the obstacles will be dealt with someday soon. Further encouragement to avoid submarines only made it a more exciting day.

The day started a little misty but the sea state was dead calm. As the day went on we had a typical Scottish day with some rain, some sun and some wind but overall it was a great day to be on the water.

Preparations for the day started in earnest with pre-race regimes clearly evident. Jaqui with her dark chocolate and Brian with his sweets (clearly professional athlete techniques), others with more traditional means and the ladies team with their stretching exercises.

Eleven members of Troon Coastal Rowing Club attended the regatta.

Races 1 to 5 were 500 metre sprints comprising of 2 heats of 3 boats each in which the crews finishing 1st and 2nd in each heat stayed on the water and went straight back to the starting line for the final. The final race was an “Andy race” of 1500m around a triangular course.

As ever, Mike R was the primary Cox for the day, getting a break from the final race by Paul. We all agreed that forcing him to sit in that seat all day, crossed legged and often wet(the rain) was something we need to address.  Being Cox at a race is a tough gig and its vital more learn these skills.

The first victory came in the ‘Open Men’ race. The crew were Mike R in Cox, Kevin in Stroke, Adrian in 3, Mike K in 2 and Paul in bow.

The next first place victory came in the  ‘Open Mixed 220+’ race. The crew for this boat were Mike R in Cox, Christine R in Stroke, Kevin in 3, Mike K in 2 and Louise in Bow. Races stopped for lunch and everyone reflected on how close every race was with all competitors crossing the line within seconds of each other.

Our third victory for the day came in the ‘Open Mixed 240+’ race. The team crossed the line and the lead for the overall regatta position changed yet again for the day. The crew for this race were Mike R in Cox, Adrian in Stroke, Christine R in 3, Jacqui in 2 and Paul in Bow.

The ‘Andy race’ was last and an opportunity to row in strange boats with lovely people. Six boats headed off on their 1500 metre race. Picture Ben-Hur, add in a dash of unarmed combat and add some boats and you get the picture. Brian particularly loved the “lawless race, going from 3rd to 6th at the first turn”. He also laughingly suggested that perhaps some clubs “clearly usually row in a straight line” but we won’t name names. Brian went on to finish fourth but not all boats finished with the same amount of paint on as they started. Lorna grasped victory in the Port Seton boat.

RNCYC ran a great regatta. “Rhu is a beautiful location, the marina is excellent, and they are a very friendly club trying their best on only their second ever regatta” said Jacqui. There was no scoreboards or times for races but that only seemed to add to the relaxed friendly atmosphere of the club and the day.

When asked about highlights of the day from some of the crew, answers showed what a great day it was. Louise simply stated “Winning heats, winning our races, winning the competition” and then went on to explain “she isn’t competitive by nature”. For Jacqui it was “Seeing a tiny 11 person team pull together to give their all and battle onwards to lift the trophy with many doing back to back races”. This was echoed by Brian but clearly the “lawless Andy Race” was his favourite.

Troon performed well on the day and participated in every final heat. This was a great endorsement of our club, the boats and regatta training.

The final results for the day were:

The final points for the regatta were as follows:

It was good again to see friends and family travelling to support TCRC. Thanks to Rosemary, Paul’s wife, and Jim, Louise’s partner, for making the journey to cheer us across the line.

The regatta was a great reminder why we all participate in them. The guys attending Rhu commented they were great social events, great opportunities to chat to TCRC and other clubs members in beautiful locations as well as the opportunity to learn gazebo origami. Whilst “winning medals and outright regattas is euphoric and addictive” its great fun, fills you with positivity and according to Brian “a fair amount of commitment to train and learn but where there is a will there is a way”.  

It was fantastic to see our Chair back on the water after a short absence and he was clearly delighted with the day’s outcome. “It was a tremendous effort today with every single point and place earned by every crew making the difference between winning and losing the overall regatta.” As Adrian was sitting in his car, taking Ailsa Lass back to her home, the Red Arrows appeared in the sky above Troon in front of him and performed their final showstopping manoeuvre. We have told him the club organised it specially for his return to rowing and the boats return from a victorious day. Please don’t tell him it was sheer luck.

Forthcoming Regattas

Rhu reminded us how much we missed these events. The next regatta is The Exciseman’s Chase on the 16th September. That will be a hard fought race and a fun day. Our friends in FOCCRS have now rearranged their regatta for 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.

Castle to Crane – “Rowing, rowing, rowing on the river”

Castle to Crane is billed as “Scotland’s biggest open water rowing race”. With 39 entries in this years event and a mixture of boat types including; St Ayles skiffs, Cornish skiffs, a Shetland Yole amongst others, it was always going to be a great adventure. The 13 mile long course (21 Kilometres) starts at Dumbarton Castle, sitting on the imposing Dumbarton rock, and finishes at The StobCross Crane. Yeah, we all know it as The “Finnieston Crane” and blatantly refuse to use its official name but that’s another story. What an incredible race through Scotland’s history from the 1st century and finishing in the 20th century.

Castle to Crane started as part of the Clydebuilt festival in 2017 to celebrate the maritime history of the Clyde. This is the fourth time Troon Coastal Rowing Club have participated in the race and it’s clearly a favourite for many.

This years crew in Ailsa Lass were Paul (Cox), Adrienne (Stroke), Mike D (3), Michael B (2) and Kathleen in bow.

With such a historic and inspirational starting point, Michael complemented the magnificent sight by demonstrating his prowess for historical facts and  informed the crew that nearby Dumbarton FC are known as “The sons of the Rock”. As Adrienne said “Every day is a school day”.

The event was a first for Michael, Adrienne and Kathleen. Paul and Mike had both competed in the event previously. When asked about impressive sights on their journey, the Erskine Bridge was the top response. How high that must have seen from a St. Ayles skiff!

Disappointingly and very topical, was the amount of floating detritus including plastics floating by. Paul described the amount of timber and logs in the river. He highlighted “steering around all that I saw but occasionally hearing the thump-bump-bump-rumble as larger submerged pieces rolled along the bottom of the hull”.

There were many high points of the day but it was a race after all and for the majority overtaking the local Glasgow team was high on the list.

Its worth highlighting the support from TCRC members and family on the day. Steven Bargh, Kathleen’s husband, followed the crew from start to finish “popping up and shouting encouragement along the way”. The rest of the TCRC supporters (Neil, Kevin, Mike R, Christine R, Louise D and Michael’s cheerleaders) provided active encouragement throughout the race. This support was unanimously highlighted by the entire crew and “gave them an extra oomph” along the way. Well done team TCRC.

The guys rowed an incredible race and finished first in their category winning the Mixed 50+ race with an incredible time of 2:08:36 after overtaking the home team on the finishing straight.

Comparing that time with all St Ayles skiffs and irrespective of category (male/female/age) they recorded the third fastest time overall. What an incredible achievement.

It was clearly a great day out for all involved and another trophy heading back to Troon but when each was asked if they would swap coastal rowing in Troon for rowing the Clyde, the answer was a unanimous and resounding “No way”.

After a couple of celebratory beers, some food and tall stories of “massive floating trees with natives throwing rocks” or “the tree that was definitely a crocodile” according to Kathleen,  the team returned to Troon for another day on the water.

Thanks to Neil and Kevin for being the roving photographers for the day.

Regatta Report – North Berwick 2023

Setting out under a beautiful Troon sunrise was a good omen for a very early departure from our harbour home. Truth be told, preparation for the day started many weeks earlier with planning, training, training and more training.

North Berwick is clearly one of the most competitive regattas of the season with world class competition and a rather big rock to circumnavigate. With nineteen boats competing, it isn’t for the feint hearted.

Fourteen members of the club competed in the regatta.

Races 1 to 7 were across a hastily arranged alternate course, due to poor conditions, which meant contestants wouldn’t be circumnavigating Craigleith (The Rock) in the Firth of Forth. The conditions in the first two races were horrible with strong winds, choppy seas and every kind of sea state you can imagine. Improved conditions later in the day meant this was changed and the last three races did go around the rock.

Troon competed in eight of the ten races at the regatta. We did not compete in Race 3 – Under 18s or Race 6 – novices.

The regatta got off to a quick start with Mike Reilly attending the Cox’s brief at 9am. Mike went on to single handedly guide every crew around the courses providing motivation, guidance and leadership to us all.

The look of exhaustion and horror as the first crews got back to the beach after racing was not the best incentive for subsequent crews but once on the water everyone gave their all for the club.

North Berwick run a great regatta and its popularity is evident with the rows of skiffs lined up on the sands.

It was impressive to see the many crews on the day and the numbers and ages of attendees for each is a strong positive indicator of the sports future. Physical training before and even during the regatta is a clear indicator of how serious clubs are taking this. Having a larger pool of competitors on the day is another clear advantage where clubs can actively select the best crews for the race and provide sufficient rest between races.   

It was also great to meet some of the partners and friends of our own team who came along to give their support.

The table below shows the complete regatta results with all races and times.

Its worth remembering that the day saw very different conditions between the morning and afternoon races when comparing times.

Overall results for performance at the regatta are good. The team from Troon Coastal Rowing Club certainly did us proud and left with their head held high.

Our fastest time for the day was 17 minutes 50 seconds in Race 7 – 240+

Our highest position for the day was third place in Race 7 – 240+

A holistic analysis of the regatta would indicate that our most challenging races are when age is not a factor in the crew criteria. Sitting in the boat looking across at a competing crew mostly born this millennia may be daunting but didn’t faze the Troon crew. “Powering Up! The school boys are out of steam” was certainly a perfectly timed motivation by Mike R, halfway around The Rock. That particular individual battle was won by Troon but was still way behind the overall pack.

The ”age factor” and any other competitive advantages other clubs have in regattas will certainly invoke much debate around the club over coming months. Despite this Troon prevails.

With this background and knowledge of a great day, we will close the regatta report with the photo of our fabulous medal winners in the 240+ race. Well done to Mike R, Christine R, Christine C, Mike D and Kevin.

Forthcoming Regattas

We have seen a number of regattas cancelled this year due to weather which has been a real pity. The forthcoming regattas are Castle to Crane on 2nd September, Royal Northern & Clyde Yacht Club on the 9th followed by The Exciseman’s Chase on the 16th September.


In our last article we heard from two of the newest members of Troon Coastal Rowing Club and about their dream teams. Have you been contemplating who your team would be?

In this article we will hear from some of the founding members of our club.

We all know the story when, back in 2009 under the auspices of The Scottish Fisheries Museum, the St Ayles Skiff and coastal rowing project was born. Perhaps ‘born’ isn’t the most appropriate word as, at its core was the tradition of boat building, seamanship, competition and community. After an inspirational row in the very first Anstruther boat in 2010 by Vincent McWhirter, another founding member,  a call to arms was made, money raised and our club was formed to bring the tradition to Troon. Tradition is an interesting concept as we charge forward in our lives with the increasing pace of change, sometimes unwelcome and uncontrollable, and the dichotomic yearning of “things to be like they used to be”.

Coastal rowing and St Ayles skiffs are steeped in tradition. Whilst a boat kit can be bought, wood sourced and a plan prepared, without traditional skills and experience it will most likely go adrift. We have been fortunate in Troon Coastal Rowing Club that a cohort of members have been sharing these skills from the outset. Add this to creating a new club only months after the birth of the St Ayles concept, it clearly took tenacity and determination to get to where we are today.

The first of our founding members we will hear about is Jim Palmer. Jim has been rowing since he was a wee boy in short trousers and started on “sliding seats”. Hearing this we were slightly sceptical but later found that they were introduced in 1857, so the timing is about right and Jim has clearly always been at the forefront of innovation.  Jim has always been a keen DIY enthusiast and with no prior boat building experience, a healthy dose of teamwork, trial and error, set about constructing our chariots.

When asked about favourite things at TCRC Jim was clear, “The flexibility of rowing at the club and conviviality”. Jim added that “The club and associated activities have become a large part of my life. Between rowing, new builds and maintenance there is always something to do.” We thought that echoed the sentiments of our previous article on community.

Jim clearly enjoys all aspects of the club and “before age decreed he behave himself”, used to attend and very much enjoy regattas. His advice to new members is to experience all aspects of the club and don’t be too focussed on one area. The club, as we know, has many facets and each needs participation and support to evolve.

Jim’s dream team for a row around Lady Isle says a lot about him.

Jim’s Dream Team Rowers
CoxReserved for extra supplies
StrokeJim’s son Colin
3Jim’s grandson Shaw
2Jim’s grandson Campbell

Jim’s crew consists entirely of family and we loved the simplicity of selecting his boy and two grandsons. He left the cox seat empty for additional supplies. Family and a hobby soaked in tradition with a strong sense of community. What more can you ask for?

Our next member to hear from is Harry Risk. Like Jim, Harry is a founding member of TCRC back in 2011. Harry also served as chair of the club for a number of years and I’m sure we all appreciate the effort this post still entails. He rowed as a boy back in the 1950s although never competitively. This experience and boyhood passion served the club well in its formative years. Harry’s favourite part of the club is building the skiffs and he evolved his DIY skills into boat building skills. Its heartening to hear that these traditional skills are alive and well in the club and can be learned by most members.

Harry attended many regattas in the past including three World Championships. He is keen that members try to experience all aspects of rowing and the club and remember to “enjoy it and that winning is not everything”.

Harry is keen to see younger members join and this is something we are all keen to encourage in the club. Harry is pictured here in seat 2 with Allan (our next candidate) sitting in bow. They are joined by another couple of TCRC rascals.

Harry has an interesting rowing dream team that I suspect will go a couple of times around Lady Isle. This is a team that certainly packs a punch!  Can you even imagine the conversation. Not sure if I’d want to be shouting instructions at stroke but sure his rowing companions behind him would take care of that. I’d definitely pay to be in that skiff.

Harry’s Dream Team Rowers
StrokeMuhammad Ali
3Nelson Mandela
2Joanna Lumley
BowJack Nicklaus

The next founding member we will hear about is Alan Farrell. At the outset he attended a workshop in Port Glasgow, supervised by a qualified shipwright who clearly had the skills and knowledge to undertake the project. Undaunted, although perhaps a bit apprehensive, he began his pathfinding journey.

Like a few of us in the club, his rowing skills and experience were firmly founded in the traditional manner of a Glasgow corporation pond with a man yelling “come in number 38 yer time is up”.

TCRC came at an ideal time” for Alan who had just completed a lengthy police career. The camaraderie, community and learning traditional skills provided a welcome second act after thirty years of public service. Alan’s DIY skills came in useful but he soon learned “it wasn’t as like IKEA as he was expecting”. Now for Alan it’s a great way of keeping fit and for meeting different people.

Alan is delighted that “the club has flourished into a thriving group of both men and women enjoying casual and more competitive rowing”. He emphasised that “our lady members form the backbone of the club and are some of the most dedicated members”.

Echoing the other views shared in this article, Alan is keen to see members embrace the history and tradition of the club and support all aspects. He was previously a keen regatta participant but age and health have curtailed this. He is delighted at the “dedicated team of accomplished rowers who have made the club extremely competitive”.   

Alan’s dream team is a great group and as you will see will be a bit cramped when he joins them. As a founding member we will allow him the privilege of an extra crew member.

Alan’s Dream Team Rowers
CoxCaptain Bligh
3Viking Invading Chief
2Captain Edward Smith
BowCaptain Pugwash

Captain Bligh skippered a rowing boat for thousands of miles adrift in the South Pacific so hopefully they should make it around Lady Isle. Let’s hope there isn’t a “Mr Christian” in the boat and we need the RNLI to rescue them.  Captain Pugwash (younger members may need to Google) is an amusing choice and Captain Smith of the Titanic may, like Mr Bligh, require Troon RNLI. Just to make it more interesting and keep everyone motivated Alan has asked for an invading experienced Viking chief. Noah is a clear choice for keeping a rather diverse group in order. An eclectic crew indeed.

Our hobby is a clearly a multi-faceted affair as described by our three members. Build, development and maintenance is an integral part of rowing success. It is for TCRC too. Whilst boat building and boat use has been around for thousands of years, competition quickly followed. To be first to the fish, to claim new territory or simply to win a fat purse of coin, competition will often follow. The Cornish pilot gig would race to be the first to incoming vessels and the winning crew would earn their supper.  We also approach the two hundred year anniversary of The Boat Race. An annual event steeped in tradition between two universities, originating from two friends. Even this is preceded by the Thames watermen who would be the subject of many an 18th century wager.

Whilst our club is relatively new compared to some of the examples above, we preserve traditional skills and embody community. Our own traditions are even starting to form with Regatta flapjacks (Thank you Mrs Downey) and Coffee at Scotts are just the start of a bright future. Let’s grow, adapt, accept change but remember tradition.