Eleven rowers and two coxswains representing the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) recently competed in the world championship regatta for St. Ayle’s skiffs (“Skiffie Worlds”) at Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland. The LCMM team competed with 41 other clubs totaling over 800 participants from Scotland, Northern Ireland, Great Britain, Netherlands, Canada, and Australia.
The regatta, sanctioned by the Scottish Coastal Rowing Association, unfolded over six days July 25-30 and featured age-grouped and open-age heats and finals over a 2000 meter course marked 15 lanes wide in a tidal estuary between the Quoille River and Strangford Lough (pronounced “lock”) near the scenic villages of Killyleagh and Strangford and the small city of Downpatrick, final resting place of St. Patrick.
In order to field a full roster, LCMM drew from two other coastal rowing groups from Massachusetts: four oarswomen from the Gloucester Gig Rowers and five rowers from the Hull Lifesaving Museum. For one race two oarswomen were “borrowed” from clubs in Scotland and Great Britain.
Being the only participants from the U.S., the LCMM team received special attention from the locals, other clubs and the press. Several LCMM rowers were interviewed by TV crews and photos of them appeared in local newspapers. LCMM rowers were quickly “adopted” by two more experienced Scottish clubs: taking shelter in the large tent of the Ullapool Coastal Rowing Club, and utilizing a skiff loaned to them by the Cockenzie & Port Seton Rowing Club.
Through the week of the regatta, LCMM raced in a total of ten races. Their best single race result was a 7th place in the Finals of the 60+ Women’s division. In the points-based club competition, LCMM finished 25th of 42 clubs.
The St. Ayle’s Skiff is a traditionally-styled wooden open-water rowing boat, powered by four oars and steered by a coxswain. Most of the boats are hand-built by community rowing clubs in the United Kingdom who use them both for “social” rowing and weekend racing against their neighboring villages or clubs. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (Ferrisburgh) boasts two of these craft, which are rowed weekly by a variety of rowers, young and old, in the museum’s “Community Rowing” programs.